BLUFFTON — Bluffton never led by more than six points in Thursday’s Northwest Conference girls’ basketball showdown against visiting Crestview.
But that was enough.
Bluffton withstood several runs by Crestview in the second half, and was able to respond to each one, en route to a hard-fought 40-39 victory over the Knights.
With the victory, Bluffton improves to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the NWC. Crestview slips to 2-3, 1-1.
Averey Rumer and Libby Schaadt led Bluffton with 10 points each. Rumer also pulled down seven rebounds and made three steals.
Lexi Gregory led Crestview with 13 points and three steals. Paige Motycka scored 10 points, and ripped down a game-high nine boards. Motycka also made three steals.
“They played hard,” Bluffton coach Eric Garmatter said. “We did a lot of things that kept them in the game. We just couldn’t pull away. I’ll give them (Crestview) credit for their defense. They forced a lot of turnovers, but we didn’t give up. We kept playing hard on defense and we came out on top.”
The Knights turned the ball over 15 times on the night, while the Pirates turned it over 21 times.
Crestview jumped out to an 11-4 lead, midway through the opening quarter. The Pirates, behind the inside play of Schaadt, cut the deficit to 11-8.
Rumer gave the Pirates their first lead, 12-11, on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Moments later, teammate Laykin Garmatter hit a trey from the right wing, giving Bluffton a 15-13 advantage. The game was knotted 15-15 by the end of the first stanza.
However, Crestview answered.
The Knights raced out to a 19-15 lead to start the second quarter.
However, Bluffton made a run of its own, knotting the game at 19, with Schaadt scoring both baskets for the Pirates in that short stretch.
At the 3:50 mark, Alivia Koenig (6 points, 4 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer, making it 22-19, Bluffton. Right before the half, Rumer hit a long-range 3-pointer, right before the buzzer, giving Bluffton a 27-21 lead, heading into the break.
Crestview kept it close in the third quarter.
The Knights went on an 8-2 run to start the second half, knotting the game at 29 apiece. Crestview’s defensive pressure helped force five Bluffton turnovers in the first four minutes of action (eight in third quarter). Bluffton was held to just 2-of-5 shooting from the floor in the third quarter. However, the Pirates managed to slip out with a 33-31 lead by the third stop.
“We survived that (third quarter), and it gave us the opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter,” Garmatter said.
In the final eight minutes of action, Bluffton’s defensive pressure, especially inside the lane, slowed Crestview down. The Knights were just 3-of-11 from the floor.
Crestview cut it to 2, 39-37, with 1:32 left to play, on a layup by Lyvia Black.
With 17 seconds left to play, Crestview’s Ally McCoy hit a turnaround shot down low, knotting the contest at 39-39.
Then, with 3.2 seconds left to play in regulation, Alivia Koenig hit 1 of 2 from the free throw line, giving the Pirates a 40-39 lead.
The Knights needed to travel the length of the floor in a little more than three seconds.
Crestview threw a long inbounds pass, but it skipped out of bounds and time ran out.
“They put a spy on Alivia (Koenig) and we put one on Paige (Motycka),” Garmatter said about Thursday’s game plan. “I just told them, ‘They’re trying to take out our best player, and we’re trying to take out their best player’.
“It was a fun game to coach. I was really concerned on how they would respond from the Ottoville game (69-36 loss) on Saturday.”
Thursday night, Bluffton shot 44 percent from the floor, while Crestview shot 32 percent.
Bluffton held the slight edge on the boards, 33-31.
“We had opportunities in the first half and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Crestview coach Mark Gregory said. “You can’t continue to shoot the ball like we did. I’m just impressed we had an opportunity to make a play at the end of the game – to tie the game, and then have a chance to win the game.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.