SPENCERVILLE — With 2.2 seconds left to play in the game, it wasn’t much of a secret who might get the last shot for Spencerville.
Standing near Spencerville’s basket on the baseline was 6-foot-4 Alex Carter.
The Spencerville post player had been kept in check for most of Thursday’s huge Northwest Conference girls’ basketball showdown with Columbus Grove.
However, the Bearcats knew if they could somehow get her the basketball down low, the mismatch could be too much for Columbus Grove to counter.
Kelsey Shaffer inbounded the ball to Carter, who was fighting for position inside. Once Carter received the pass, she went up strong and banked it in for the winning shot, giving Spencerville the thrilling 31-30 victory over Columbus Grove at Spencerville.
With the win, Spencerville remains undefeated in the NWC at 3-0 and is 9-2 overall. Columbus Grove slips to 3-1 in the NWC and 8-4 overall.
Carter led Spencerville with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Abbygayle Satterfield had eight points and three boards. Emma Leis scored just five points for the Bearcats, but the 5-6 sophomore guard pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. Nelaya Burden had four steals to go along with her six points for Spencerville.
“He (Spencerville coach Greg Ekis) said that someone is going to get a game-winner; and it happened to be me,” an elated Carter said. “It’s enormous. We haven’t beaten them for so long. I remember my freshman and sophomore years, losing to them. This is the greatest feeling.”
Ekis felt like Carter was going to step up and make a big play Thursday night.
“We knew, coming in, that Alex had the potential of having a great game tonight,” Ekis said. “She got into a little bit of foul trouble, but she came back and made the biggest play of our season, so far.”
Rylee Sybert led Columbus Grove with eight points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Freshman Kenzie King added seven points, four rebounds and four steals for the Bulldogs.
“You’re not going to win many games scoring 30 points,” Columbus Grove coach Brian Schroeder said. “So, I thought besides having a breakdown at the end (on the inbounds play), we played pretty well, defensively, throughout the night.”
Spencerville jumped out to a 10-2 lead to start the contest. Satterfield scored twice inside the paint to help ignite the Bearcats’ quick start.
Columbus Grove cut it to 3, 10-7 by the end of the first quarter. King led the Bulldogs with five first-quarter points, including a 3-pointer. Columbus Grove tied
the game at 10 apiece at the 6:57 mark of the second quarter, on an inside move by Erin Downing (three points) and a free throw, to complete the old-fashioned 3-point play.
Moments later, Sybert scored off a fast break to give Columbus Grove its first lead of the game, 12-10.
The Bulldogs’ defensive pressure started to shake Spencerville, as the Bearcats turned the ball over seven times in the second stanza.
Columbus Grove slipped into the halftime break with an 18-14 advantage.
The Bulldogs made 7 of 20 shots from the field in the first half, while the Bearcats made 7 of 18 from the floor.
Spencerville did not get to the free throw line in the first half, while Columbus Grove was 3 of 5 from the foul line.
“They did a great job of turning us over,” Ekis said. “They play a very physical style of defense. We knew we were going to have to try to match that.”
For the game, Spencerville turned the ball over 19 times (11 in the first half). Columbus Grove turned it over 15 times on the night.
The Bulldogs slipped out with a 22-21 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Spencerville opened the final quarter with a very aggressive style of defensive pressure.
Just seconds into the fourth quarter, Spencerville reclaimed the lead, 23-22, on a floater by Leis.
But Grove responded.
Sybert came right back with a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Bulldogs a 25-23 advantage.
But that lead was short-lived.
Burden came right back with a fast-break layup to knot the game at 25 apiece.
However, Columbus Grove was not done.
With a minute left to play in the game, Sybert drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to give Grove a 30-29 lead.
Then, less than a minute later, it came down to the huge inbounds play by Spencerville.
“They were supposed to foul on that last possession before they inbounded the ball – to kind of see where they could set up and do the movements,” Schroeder said. “But, hats off to Greg (Ekis) and Alex Carter, to make the bucket at the end.”
For the game, Spencerville shot 43 percent from the field. Columbus Grove shot just 31 percent from the floor.
“Honestly, we haven’t been scoring very well the last two or three weeks,” Schroeder said. “That’s something we focus on a lot in practice. I feel like we’re getting good shots, but they’re just not going through right now.”
Added Ekis, “We did get some good looks that we missed, but we scored one more point than they did; and that’s all that matters.”
Spencerville held the slight edge on the boards, 27-25.
With the win, it sets up a huge NWC showdown next week between Spencerville and Bluffton.
Bluffton also is undefeated in conference play. Bluffton defeated Lincolnview Thursday night, 54-46.
“Our next conference game is against a very good and well-coached Bluffton team at Bluffton,” Ekis said. “After tonight, we’re going to start to get to work for that one.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.