BLUFFTON — Bluffton’s women’s basketball team had its goal of winning its annual Tip-Off tournament within its grasp, and this time the Beavers weren’t going to let it slip away.
Bluffton gave a dominating performance against Hiram on Saturday afternoon, taking a lead in the first minute of action and rolling all the way to a 55-44 victory.
Hiram turned the game’s first possession into a quick basket, which Bluffton was able to answer on their subsequent possession. Hiram wouldn’t land another field goal for nine minutes, while Bluffton built itself a 12-3 lead that the Terriers could never come back from.
It’s the seventh year the Bluffton women’s team has played host to this tournament, and the first year the Beavers have won the title.
“I’m so proud of our kids right now, and the effort they’ve put in,” Bluffton coach Chad Shutler said. “We had a rough start in practices but I think we’ve grown a lot since day one and have learned to compete every day. We’re nowhere near where we want to be at the end of the season, but I think we’re making great progress. And from my standpoint, and the kids’ standpoint, it’s great to break this building in with a championship.”
Bluffton’s Rachel Debord won the Tip-Off’s MVP award, scoring a team-high 23 points combined in the two games. Debord also had a total of nine rebounds.
“This feels amazing,” Debord said. “You just have to come out and play confidently with your head in it. No one on this team gives up, and we have such great chemistry. It’s great to win start off this season like this.”
Debord scored 12 of her 13 points from Saturday’s game in the first half. Kaitlyn Pennekamp had 10 points and three steals, and Taylor Knight had 10 points and five rebounds.
Knight, a freshman, was the all-tournament point guard.
“It’s so shocking to receive this award,” Knight said. “I’m so honored to get this as a freshman.”
Bluffton rode a 28-18 lead into halftime, but began to watch Hiram cut away the deficit to start the second half, soon bringing the score to 31-26. It was the closest the score would be for the rest of the game.
Bluffton scored on each of its next five possessions, three of them coming off of baskets from Knight. The Beavers’ defense was able to keep the Terriers from any kind of rally from that point forward.
“I think there was a point where the game really slowed down,” Knight said. “When several of us starting hitting our shots, it just pumped everybody up and gave us so much confidence.”
Aurora defeated Pitt-Greensburg 76-71 in the consolation game. Bluffton beat Aurora on Friday night.