ELIDA — Neither team blinked. But there were tears at the end.
Ottawa-Glandorf and Liberty-Benton battled through four quarters and three overtimes before the Eagles pulled away for a 55-50 win in the Division III girls basketball district championship game at the Elida Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
With a match-up of two one-loss teams playing for a district championship, the season was going to end too soon for one of them.
As it played out, O-G and Liberty-Benton were so closely matched that it took 12 extra minutes to determine which team was moving on to the regional and which one would see its season end.
The biggest lead for either team was five points – once early in the second quarter and again at the end of the game for L-B and twice late in the third quarter for the Titans.
Ottawa-Glandorf led in each of the first two overtimes but Liberty-Benton refused to go away. And after getting a huge game-tying 3-pointer from Alissa Rhodes just before the buzzer in the second O.T., the Eagles dominated the last overtime.
O-G’s season ended somewhere other than the state tournament for the first time since 2014 when this year’s seniors were seventh graders. The Titans played in the state tournament four consecutive years from 2015-2018. Their only losses this season were to Liberty-Benton, by two points in the regular season and in triple overtime on Saturday.
“It was a great game from a fan’s standpoint. As a losing coach it kind of sucks. But what I told the girls who played is that we left everything on the floor,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Troy Yant said.
“I don’t have any regrets for our girls. There were maybe some things we could have done differently as a coaching staff but the girls gave everything they had. We had them (Liberty-Benton) down the first and second overtime but they weren’t willing to go away.
“It’s more a testament to how great they played than how bad we played. They were there at the end and threw one more punch and it landed and knocked us out, I guess,” Yant said.
Senior guard Erin Kaufman led Ottawa-Glandorf (22-2) with 14 points and Brianna Schimmoeller scored 11 points. Savanah Richards led Liberty-Benton (22-1) with 20 points, Sammy Shardo scored 17 points and Caitlin Elseser had 11 points.
O-G, ranked No. 5 in the state AP poll, had a four-point lead, 43-39, early in the first overtime after freshman post player Erin Kaufman hit a 10-footer and Ashley Schroeder scored after a steal by Kelsey Erford. But Liberty-Benton, ranked No. 2, sent the game to a second overtime when Elseser connected on a 10-footer and Richards drove for the tying score.
The Titans took the lead first in the second overtime and went up 48-45 with three seconds to play on a pair of free throws by Schimmoeller.
After a timeout, Liberty-Benton got the ball in bounds to Richards who dribbled up the sideline and got the ball to Rhodes in the right corner, where she launched the game-tying 3-pointer.
It was the first shot the junior guard had attempted in the game.
Ottawa-Glandorf, which had fouls to give before putting Liberty-Benton into the one-and-one tried to foul Richards, but didn’t get a hand on her before she threw the ball to Rhodes.
“We were trying to get a foul. Our thing was to keep them in front of us and foul them on the catch,” Yant said. “We were trying to get a foul but Savanah just took it from us and made a great play.”
Rhodes leads the Blanchard Valley Conference in 3-point percentage (47 percent) and had hit 30 of 63 shots from behind the 3-point line going into Saturday’s game.
“Alissa made a heck of a shot. I don’t know how many shot attempts she had today, she didn’t shoot a lot in regulation but she picked a good time to hit a big one,” Liberty-Benton coach Nate Irwin said.
Rhodes said, “Triple overtime, that’s crazy. I’ve played in some great games but this is probably the most intense.”
Rhodes’ shot added even more energy to a game that already was about as close to fully energized as possible.
“They’re a big rival even though we don’t play in the same league. We play each other a lot. If you can’t get amped up for this game, you’re not going to. But after hitting that shot there was a lot of emotion and our girls did a good job of settling back in and made a little run early in the third overtime,” Irwin said.
Liberty-Benton will play Delta on Tuesday in a regional semifinal game at Ohio Northern University.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.