COLUMBUS GROVE – Columbus Grove boys basketball coach Chris Sautter wants his young squad to work its way through difficult situations.
Sautter’s squad did exactly what he asked in Friday’s Putnam County League opener against Ottoville.
Columbus Grove jumped out to an early lead, and then later held off a very talented Ottoville squad down the stretch to record a hard-fought 54-49 victory over the visiting Big Green.
With the win, Columbus Grove improves to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the PCL. Ottoville slips to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in league play.
After Columbus Grove pulled out to a 21-13 lead by the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs had an answer for every comeback attempt by Ottoville.
Columbus Grove never trailed in the game.
In the third quarter, Ottoville cut the deficit to three points. But the Bulldogs responded and pulled out to a 43-36 lead by the third stop.
In the fourth quarter, Ottoville cut it to four points, twice. But once again, Columbus Grove responded and eventually closed it out for the victory.
“I don’t call timeouts,” Sautter said with a grin. “I tell them, ‘It’s not my job to fix your problem. You can fix it’. I’ve always been that way. If a team goes on a run, I want my kids to figure out how to get a bucket, and how to get a stop. They shouldn’t have to rely on me to call a timeout to get them out of a sticky situation. When teams go on runs, we have to find ways to get stops.”
Ottoville sophomore standout Josh Thorbahn, a 6-foot-5 guard, led all scorers with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Thorbahn also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
However, Columbus Grove was able to neutralize the rest of the Ottoville squad.
Joseph Miller, Ryan Suever and Drew Fisher each scored eight points for the Big Green.
For Columbus Grove, sophomore Blake Reynolds led the way with 14 points, nine boards and two steals. Evan Hopkins scored 10 points, all coming in the first quarter. Tayt Birnesser and Gabe Clement each added eight points for the Bulldogs.
Columbus Grove jumped out to a 9-3 lead to start the contest. Hopkins had two field goals, while Birnesser hit a 3-pointer to ignite the Bulldogs’ quick start.
Columbus Grove pulled out to an eight-point lead by the first stop.
In the first eight minutes of action, Columbus Grove connected five times behind the 3-point line.
Thorbahn led Ottoville in the first quarter with six points on two 3-pointers.
Columbus Grove extended its lead to 34-23 by the halftime break. The Bulldogs were 12 of 23 shooting from the field in the first half. Ottoville connected on 9 of 23 from the field.
“They had us 6 of 11 (shooting) on threes in the first half,” Sautter said. “So, you’ll have some success when you shoot the ball like that behind the arc. Plus, it opens up lanes to drive and some things inside.”
Added Ottoville coach Keith Utendorf, “They came out and their guys were hitting shots. We knew they were capable of that, but it kind of came in a big wave. It set us back a little bit.”
Ottoville responded in the second half.
The Big Green cut it to 36-32 with 4:29 left to play in the third quarter on a free throw by Thorbahn.
Then with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter, an inside move by Suever cut it to 38-34.
At the 2:30 mark of the third quarter, Fisher took it strong inside to cut it to 39-36.
In the third quarter, the Big Green outscored the Bulldogs 13-9. However, Columbus Grove slipped out with the seven-point advantage, heading into the final period of play.
In the fourth quarter, the Big Green cut the deficit to four points, twice.
However, the Bulldogs staved off the Big Green down the stretch to notch the victory.
”We did not shoot near as well in the second half, but we made enough plays around the basket and we got enough stops on the Thorbahn kid, ” Sautter said. “Man, he can shoot the ball. You just have to make him work.”
Ottoville held the edge on the boards, 29-20.
For the game, both teams turned the ball over nine times.
On the night, Columbus Grove shot 48 percent from the field. Ottoville shot 45 percent from the floor.
“We’re a young team and we’re still learning and growing,” Sautter said.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.