BOWLING GREEN – Columbus Grove knew it had to slow the pace down.
Maumee Valley Country Day’s high-powered basketball team loves to push the tempo.
The Bulldogs managed to slow the Hawks down. However, junior standout Zeb Jackson ignited his team in the second half as Maumee Valley Country Day pulled away for a hard-fought 58-48 victory over Columbus Grove at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center in a Division IV boys’ regional semifinal game Tuesday night.
Maumee Valley Country Day (19-7) will face Crestview (25-1) in the regional championship game 7 p.m. Friday at the Stroh Center.
Crestview defeated Hicksville in Tuesday’s other regional semifinal, 58-42.
The University of Michigan-bound Jackson led Maumee Valley Country Day and all scorers Tuesday with 25 points. Jackson also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
J.R. Lumsden (11), Dez Jett (10) and Stephen Coleman (10) also scored in double figures for the Hawks.
After Columbus Grove claimed a 36-34 lead by the end of the third quarter, the Hawks managed to get to the free throw line often in the final eight minutes, hitting 11 of 12 shots from line.
“If you would have told me that we would hold them in the 50s, I would have said we had a good chance to win the basketball game,” Columbus Grove coach Chris Sautter said. “We like to score points too. We like to run, too. But we knew we couldn’t run with them and make it a track meet. If we got in the 70s and 80s, we would have been in trouble.”
This is Columbus Grove’s first regional appearance since 2006. That season, the Bulldogs were the D-IV state runners up.
“I told them (the Columbus Grove players) that the season never ends well for anybody, but for four teams,” Sautter said. “We absolutely have nothing to hang our heads about. We’re a young team. Where we came since the three years that I came here – going from nine wins to 11 wins, to winning the sectionals, winning 19 games, runners up in one league (Putnam County League) that we’re in and co-champs in the other league (Northwest Conference) we’re in; and now a district title. I have nothing but good things to say about this group of kids and the season we had.”
Three underclassmen led Columbus Grove (19-6) in scoring Tuesday. Sophomore Blake Reynolds led the Bulldogs with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore Tayt Birnesser scored 12 points and pulled down five boards. Sophomore Gabe Clement, who got the Bulldogs off to a strong start, scored eight points, all in the first quarter. Senior Alex Schneider added eight points for the Bulldogs.
Columbus Grove came out aggressive to start the game.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Clement hit a 3-pointer and a field goal to spark Columbus Grove.
Maumee Valley Country Day did not score its first points of the game until the 3:46 mark of the opening quarter, on a put back by Jackson, making it 6-2 Columbus Grove.
However, the Hawks came storming back, going on an 8-3 run and claiming its first lead, 10-9, with two minutes left to play in the first quarter.
Maumee Valley Country Day led 14-11 by the first stop.
It was a nip-and-tuck second quarter as the Hawks slipped out with a 30-25 halftime advantage. Jackson led the way with 10 first-half points, all coming inside the paint. In the first half, the Hawks scored 22 of their points inside the paint.
Columbus Grove had only six first-half turnovers. However, the Hawks made the Bulldogs pay as they scored eight points off Grove’s miscues.
Maumee Valley Country Day struggled at the offensive end in the third quarter, making just 2 of 13 shots from the field. Columbus Grove knotted the game twice. Birnesser hit a 3-pointer to spark the Bulldogs in the third quarter.
Columbus Grove claimed a 36-34 lead with 1:17 left to play in the third quarter, on an inside move by Schneider. That two-point lead held up for the Bulldogs until the third stop.
But here came Maumee Valley Country Day.
Jackson got busy in the fourth quarter as he led the Hawks on a 7-2 run to open the fourth stanza and help give his team a 41-38 advantage.
The Hawks pushed their lead to 47-41 with 3:13 left to play in the game, on a strong inside move by Jackson.
“He’s a nice player, no doubt about that,” Sautter said about Jackson. “He has a little bit of everything in his arsenal. He can get to the rim. He has that nice mid-range jumper. He has range out from 20, 25 feet. If you try to get up in him, he goes by you. If somebody runs at him, he finds the open guy. He’s not going D-I, Big Ten for nothing.”
For the game, Columbus Grove turned the ball over 10 times. The Hawks turned the ball over seven times.
The Hawks held the edge on the boards, 33-27.
Columbus Grove shot 39 percent from the field. Maumee Valley Country Day shot 40 percent on its field goal attempts.
“I thought our kids battled,” Sautter said. “They did everything they could. We had a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. I said that’s where we
needed to be. We played five guys pretty much the whole second half. The shots we normally hit in the fourth quarter were a little short because of tired legs. It happens.
“We did a better job on the boards in the second half, but they just made more shots than we did. It’s a 10-point game, but most of that are free throws down the stretch.”
For the game, the Hawks were 14 of 16 shooting from the foul line. Columbus Grove was 6 of 8 from the stripe.
“Hats off to Columbus Grove,” Maumee Valley Country Day coach Rob Conover said. “They came in and had a great game plan, defensively. There weren’t too many opportunities to drive the lane, early; which created some sloppy play by us. Defensively, early, we weren’t where we were supposed to be. But I thought our guys settled down as the game progressed and did a better job.”
The Knights led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter, and then 26-22 by the halftime break. Wade Sheets led Crestview in the first half with eight points.
The Knights extended their lead to 11, 46-35, by the end of the third quarter.
Derick Dealey (15), Javin Etzler (13), Sheets (11) and Drew Kline (10) led Crestview.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.