SPENCERVILLE — Coming into the showdown with Bluffton on Thursday, Spencerville, with one loss in the Northwest Conference, needed a win to keep their conference title hopes alive against the Pirates who sported an unblemished record in the NWC.
If Spencerville was going to win it would need to stop first-team all-NWC Alivia Koenig. The Bearcat duo of Kelsey Shaffer, sophomore, and Jayden Smith, senior, were called upon to do the job defensively and they came through by blanketing the talented Pirate and limit her to 10 points and help Spencerville to a 55-50 victory.
“They both did a great job,” Spencerville head coach Greg Ekis said. “I can’t ask for a better effort from both of them. One is a senior and one is a sophomore and they both got after it.”
With the win, Spencerville improves to 7-5 and 3-1 in the NWC. Bluffton falls to 10-4 and 4-1 in the league.
With the pep band on hand, a larger than usual crowd and cheerleaders, Spencerville was pulling out all the stops to enhance its home court advantage and from the onset the Bearcats came game out the locker room like postseason had already begun and opened a 13-3 lead to start the game.
“We knew if we were going to have a shot at the league we were going to have to beat them,” Ekis said. “I think we were very lucky to have the band here and the cheerleaders here and it provided a great atmosphere.”
Bluffton head coach Eric Garmatter said this was a tough loss.
“It was a great atmosphere and they did a great job of getting the fans involved,” Garmatter said. “I told them before the game that we had to win the first three or four minutes to take the crowd out of the game but unfortunately they came out and jumped on us and it energized the crowd. We did a good job of fighting back but hat’s off to them they made the plays and we didn’t.”
Undeterred by Spencerville’s initial offensive spurt, the Pirates would rally and for the next three quarters the two teams engaged in a tight defensive struggle that saw neither team open up a lead bigger than eight points.
Despite Koenig being smothered by the pair of Shaffer and Smith, Bluffton, thanks to its defense and the offense of Avery Rumer and Libby Schaadt, the Pirates held a 43-42 lead with two minutes left in the game.
But down the stretch, it was Spencerville, who outscored Bluffton 11-5 to claim the win. In that last two minutes, it was the Bearcats’ Melanie Koenig who got the hoop and harm to open up a four point lead, 47-43, and the Bearcats never relinquished.
In the second half, Alivia Koenig would be held to four points. Rumer, who scored all her points in the second half, finished with a team-high 12. Kayle White added 10 points.
Garmatter said the Bearcats did a great job but pointed out that the Pirates hurt themselves with turnovers. For the game, Bluffton finished with 15 turnovers including two crucial ones in the last four minutes.
“The second half we did some things that we asked them to do at halftime but you can’t have Avery and Kayla with two points and expect to win,” Garmatter said. “They did better in the second half but we came up short.”
Spencervillle’s Kaiden Grigsby led all scorers with 16 points and recorded a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth Smith, who did the job defensively, chipped in 10 points.
Ekis said his girls have plenty of basketball experience and did not panic in the final minutes of the game.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.