SPENCERVILLE — Bluffton came out of the gate, pushing the pace.
However, in the second half, Spencerville’s defensive pressure was the difference, as the Bearcats pulled away for a 58-47 victory over Bluffton in a key Northwest Conference boys basketball game at Spencerville Friday night.
With the win, Spencerville (15-1) remains undefeated in the NWC at 5-0. Bluffton slips to 8-6 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
Spencerville had three players score in double figures.
Carter Sudhoff, a 6-foot-6 junior center led Spencerville with 18 points, 10 rebounds and a block. Josh Henline scored 15 points, including two 3-pointers. Henline also dished out three assists and made two steals. Dylan Smith had 14 points and five boards. Carder Orr came off the bench and had nine points, four rebounds and a block for the Bearcats.
“I thought, defensively, we were really good,” Spencerville head coach Kevin Sensabaugh said. “In the second half, I thought we did a really good job, defensively, especially making big stops late, when it really counted.”
Marek Donaldson led Bluffton with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Donaldson also came away with four rebounds and a block. Carson Soper had 12 points and six rebounds. Landen Worcester had nine points, including a perfect 4 of 4 shooting from the free throw line.
After Spencerville took an early 5-0 lead, Bluffton came roaring back and pulled out to a 13-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Soper led Bluffton with seven first-quarter points.
The Pirates were 6 of 12 shooting from the field in the first eight minutes. The Bearcats made just 3 of 12 from the floor.
Spencerville started to push the tempo.
The Bearcats opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to pull out to a 15-13 lead. Sudhoff had two inside buckets for Spencerville.
Sudhoff scored eight points in the first half, all coming in the second stanza, to help lead Spencerville to a 25-18 lead by the halftime break.
Bluffton was 8 of 20 shooting in the first half for 40 percent. Spencerville was 10 of 24 from the floor for 42-percent shooting.
Soper led the Pirates with nine first-half points.
Bluffton came roaring back and knotted the contest, 35-35 by the end of the third quarter. The Pirates outscored the Bearcats 17-10 in the third, despite turning the ball over seven times.
“They (Bluffton) went on a little bit of a run (in the second half),” Sensabaugh said. “I thought our guys defended pretty well. It was a tough league battle. To give up 47 points, that’s not too bad. … We’ll take it. If we can give up 47, then we’re in good shape.”
For the game, Spencerville shot 48 percent from the field. Bluffton countered with 43-percent shooting.
Bluffton committed 18 turnovers, while Spencerville turned it over just eight times on the night.
Spencerville held a slight 27-26 edge on the boards.
“We felt like we had a little bit of a size mismatch,” Sensabaugh said. “We wanted to try to get the ball inside as much as we could. We got after them on the boards a little bit, too. So, that was big. When your leading scorer is not scoring, someone else has to score. … They did tonight. … They stepped up.
“Our seniors made plays. It’s kind of what it came down to. We have a lot of experienced guys. They (Bluffton) struggled to get good looks. I thought our guys did a really good job, defensively in the second half.”
Bluffton head coach Todd Boblitt said his team needed to take care of the basketball a little better.
“We had some unforced turnovers, which they converted. … That’s their experience. That’s their athleticism on the perimeter. We needed to be a little more secure with the ball at various times,” Boblitt said.
Added Sensabaugh, “I don’t care how (how we win). I’m just glad we got out of here with a win.”
Mark Altstaetter wrote this story for LimaScores.com. Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0457.