OTTAWA — After Columbus Grove’s Rylee Sybert popped a trey with 2:47 left in the game to give her team its first lead, 33-32, over Arlington in the Division IV district final, it appeared the Bulldogs had finally grabbed the momentum away and looked poised to make a late run.
And after Arlington missed the front end of the one-and-one the Bulldogs, with the rebound, could extend their lead. However, it was Red Devils’ Hannah Willow who snared the crucial carom and stuck it right back in to give Arlington back the lead that they would not relinquish down the stretch to post a 42-33 win and capture the Division IV District title Saturday night
“To see us finally take the lead I thought alright here we go but we expend so much energy to get to that point and there was a missed throw… and I thought we boxed out well but Willow is six-footer and can jump out of the gym and went over the top of us, it was not a foul, and just finished in a one on one situation and to expend that much energy to get the lead and to give up a put back took a lot out of us.”
With the win, Arlington (22-4) advances to Stryker in the regional semifinals at Elida at 7 p.m. Thursday. Columbus Grove ends its season with a 19-6 record.
Arlington’s defense, which had an outstanding performance against Bluffton, shined once again against Columbus Grove.
The Red Devils’ pressure defense was instrumental in holding the Bulldogs’ Sybert to three points and Kenzie King to zero points.
“We just executed our game plan perfectly,” Arlington head coach Seth Newlove said. “Grove is a great team that kicked our butts a couple of weeks ago and I thought the way we guided Sybert was great. We stuck to the game plan and made just enough free throws in the fourth quarter to get it done.”
Newlove credited Jenna Pepple, who had to cover Bluffton’s Alivia Koenig Thursday night, by doing a great job on Sybert.
“She (Pepple) stepped up tonight but it was team effort,” Newlove said. “It really hurt them and we made sure Hannah Willow was the one switching when they set that ball screen on Sybert and Hannah’s length and athleticism made a good switch for us as well.”
With a smothering defense, Arlington jumped out to a 13-0 lead to open the game. Battling back, Columbus Grove clawed their way back into the game by outscoring Arlington 12-4 over the next seven minutes to close the game to 15-12 with 4:38 remaining the first half.
But Arlington opened up another digit advantage with a quick 8-2 run to close the first half and the Red Devils possessed a 23-13 lead.
A tightly contested third quarter saw Columbus Grove chipping the Arlington lead to six, 32-26, going into the final eight minutes setting up the exciting finish.
When Columbus Grove took the lead, Newlove said that was probably a good thing because it got his team back in “attack mode as opposed to trying to hang on to the lead.
While Arlington’s defense contained Sybert and King, the Bulldogs got some solid bench play by Erin Downing and Sydney Wittenborg to stay close. Downing, who had two big treys, finished with nine point and three rebounds and Wittenborg had six points in the third quarter and two rebounds.
“Erin Downing hit a big three for us and she is just a sophomore and a little green but we had to go with her for some big minutes and she played well for us,” Schroeder said. “I though Sydney Wittenborg gave us some solid minutes as well.”
Angel Schneider led the Bulldogs with 13 points and even though Sybert was not scoring she grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists.
Offensively for Arlington Jenna Pepple, who continually drove the lane for points, finished with 11 points and both Lindsay Dodds and Willow added 9 points, respectively.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.