BLUFFTON — In a close game, most coaches will tell you that the first two minutes of the third quarter are a big key to victory.
Such was the case Friday night when visiting Spencerville opened the third quarter with back to back 3-pointers to break a half-time tie with Bluffton and go on to a 52-38 Northwest Conference win.
The Pirates (10-3, 1-2 NWC) didn’t want to get into a run and shoot contest with the Bearcats (9-3, 3-1 NWC) and managed to hold Spencerville to a 19-19 tie after two periods of play. Bluffton was able (and content) to eat large of chunks of time off the clock by holding the ball when Spencerville refused to come out of their zone defense in the first two quarters.
Bluffton got a huge first half from Levi Kistler with 13 points but struggled from the field as the Pirates connected on only 7-of-20 from the floor for 35 percent shooting.
Following the halftime break, Spencerville opened the third quarter by hitting back to back treys by Jacob Meyer and Zach Goecke to grab a 25-19 lead only a minute and 20 seconds into the quarter.
The Bearcats rode a 10-point quarter from Goecke to a 17-7 quarter advantage and held a 36-26 lead going to the final period of play.
Although they would get to with-in 42-38 with 2:25 to play, Bluffton never got the key stop or key basket and Spencerville hit 10-of-15 free throws in the final period to hold on for the win.
“This was the best defense we played all year, hands down, flat out.” Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh said. “We were focused and intense; that was a huge win on the road against a really nice team; that was our first signature win of the season.”
The Bearcats were led in scoring by Goecke with 18 points while Meyer and Dakota Prichard both added 10 points to the Bearcats’ total.
“Zach Goecke was outstanding,” Sensabaugh said. “He was the toughest kid on the court tonight.”
Kistler was the only Pirate to reach double digits with his game-high 21-point effort, a fact not lost on Bluffton coach Todd Boblitt.
“We have had success this season based on balance, and we didn’t have that tonight.” Boblitt said.
The Pirates finished the game connecting on 14-of-44 for 31 percent.
“They made those shots in the third quarter, and we just had a difficult time in finding the basket, even in transition we didn’t convert.” Boblitt said. “We just couldn’t get a key play at a key time plus we gave up offensive rebounds we couldn’t afford to. We played hard and competed, our effort was good, we just didn’t make shots.”