WAPAKONETA — For 31 minutes, Bluffton had Coldwater right where it wanted.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Cavaliers had an answer in 6-foot-4 post player Austin Bruns.
Bruns proved to be too difficult of a matchup down the stretch as he poured in 17 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime session combined, to lead Coldwater to a thrilling 55-52 win over Bluffton in a Division III sectional semifinal boys basketball game at Wapakoneta on Wednesday.
With the victory, Coldwater (10-14) will advance to Friday’s sectional final game against Spencerville (14-7) with tip-off set for 8 p.m.
In the first sectional semifinal Wednesday, Spencerville pulled away from Parkway early en route to a 72-44 victory.
Levi Kistler led Bluffton (10-14) with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Michael Donley scored 15 points and pulled down 10 boards for the Pirates.
Bluffton led from early in the first quarter, up until 40 seconds remaining in regulation. The Cavaliers then took the lead, 45-43, on a 12-footer by Bruns.
Bluffton knotted the game at 45-45 on a fast-break basket by Donley, who made a steal and went coast-to-coast for the score.
In the overtime session, Bruns muscled his way inside to help lead the Cavs to the victory.
Bruns found his way to the free throw line often, making 7-of-11 from the stripe in the fourth quarter and overtime session combined.
However, Bluffton battled back toward the end of the four-minute extra session, cutting it to 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Austin Bricker.
Free throws by Brody Hoying and Mitch Heyne gave Coldwater the three-point lead to stay.
Bruns scored his 1,000th-career point in Wednesday’s win.
“Austin (Bruns) has been a constant all four years,” Coldwater coach Mike Bruns said. “He’s always been in the gym. I think once he got it over (1,000th point), I think he relaxed a little bit. I couldn’t be more prouder of what he’s done.”
Coldwater shot just 32 percent from the floor, while Bluffton countered with 43-percent shooting.
Bluffton coach Todd Boblitt said his team played as well as it could for most of the game.
“First of all, I was really proud of our kids’ effort. I thought our kids played extremely hard. Down the stretch, we didn’t make enough plays at either end of the floor.”
Spencerville 72, Parkway 44
Spencerville jumped out early on Parkway and never looked back.
The Bearcats led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter and extended its lead to 41-20 by the halftime break.
Spencerville had three players score in double figures. Ben Bowers led the Bearcats with 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Bowers hit three of those treys in the first quarter to lead Spencerville to the quick start.
Devon Cook scored 16 points, including four shots behind the arc. Cook also dished out five assists and made two steals at the defensive end. Dominick Corso, a 6-4 post player, added 10 points and five boards. Derek Goecke added nine points and six assists for the Bearcats.
Matt Heindel led Parkway (2-21) with 13 points, while Tanner Bates added 12.
For the game, Spencerville shot 52 percent from the field. Parkway shot 57 percent from the floor.
However, Parkway committed 20 turnovers, while Spencerville turned the ball over just seven times on the night.
Spencerville had different players step up at different junctures of the game. In all, eight players cracked the scoring column.
“That’s one of the things we like to hang our hats on. …We like to share the ball,” Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh said. “We got a lot of guys who can put it in the hole.”