OTTOVILLE — The Ottoville girls basketball team has built up quite a reputation with its defense under long-time head coach David Kleman.
He has won more than 500 games in his tenure thanks to that ability.
The Big Green lived up to that reputation in spades Saturday afternoon as their defense held down Bluffton 43-27.
“We hang our hats on our defense. We held down a very potent Bluffton offense to 27 points and when you do that, you give yourself a chance to win every game,” Kleman said. “You need to be able to count on your defense. We just need to get completely healthy as well. We expect to get (sophomore) Lexi (Honigford) back within a week or two. We shut her down because she had a stress fracture and decided to let her heal. She was playing very well when we did that about three weeks ago and we expect her back within a week.”
Bluffton head coach Eric Garmatter credited Ottoville for its defensive play.
“They had a lot to do with the way we shot today. At the same time, we didn’t hit our shots,” Garmatter said. “We were getting good looks running our offense but we weren’t hitting them inside or outside. That just makes it so much tougher to get a consistent attack going against a defensive team like Ottoville. Our shooting allowed them to collapse on our offense and we struggled to get anything going. It was some of both; their defense and our shooting combined to hurt us.”
The Big Green (6-0) defense used its man-to-man with some 1-2-2 full-court zone mixed in to get the best of the Pirates (3-2).
They were solid from start to finish, building up a 12-6 lead after eight minutes of basketball. Both teams showed patience against the other’s defense trying to get that good shot but Ottoville found the going more to its liking, doubling up its foe by the horn.
The Big Green continued to play good defense in the second period but Bluffton did as well. Neither team could get much going at the offensive end as the defenses ruled the play and made things tough on their opponent. When Quinley Schlagbaum scored a basket with almost no time left on the clock, the Ottoville lead stood at 20-8 by intermission.
“Our offense is about patience. I felt we ran our offense much better today than we have so far this year as far as understanding what we want to do,” Kleman said. “It takes time to figure that all out but you hope that by mid-season, you are starting to get there on offense. We share the basketball well — that is what we want to do in our offense – but that takes time to really get going.”
Garmatter figured his team can now set about trying to improve on the weaknesses Ottoville exposed.
“That is one thing you know you will learn when you play opponents like Ottoville; they will expose your weaknesses. That’s what you need to find out as you go on in your seasons,” Garmatter said. “I thought our defense played well but you cannot fall behind a team like Ottoville; they are too good to think you will rally against them. We gave up too many second-chance points today and that is something we know know we have to work on as we go.”
Bluffton scored the first basket of the third period to reduce its deficit to 10 but could get no closer the rest of the way. Ottoville downed six of their 12 shots in the quarter to add to their lead – hitting three from long range in the process – and their defense continued to stymie the Pirates, not letting them get on a run. Schlagbaum’s trey gave the Big Green a 36-19 edge entering the fourth period.
Bluffton needed to get hot in a hurry and even switched in to a man-to-man defense full-time but Ottoville replied by running a patient offense to counteract that. Ottoville’s lead was 20 early on and the closest the Pirates could get in the final period was the final score.
Ottoville’s Haley Hoersten was the lone player in double digits with 13 points.
Alivia Koenig led Bluffton with eight points.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.