OTTOVILLE — For this season’s young Ottoville girls basketball team, the focus has been on playing hard, intense basketball in all four quarters.
First-year Ottoville head coach Michelle Leach finally got her wish in Thursday’s key Putnam County League matchup with visiting Kalida.
At the offensive end, Ottoville wasn’t necessarily lighting things up.
However, the Big Green locked down at the defensive end, en route to a hard-fought 42-38 victory over Kalida at L.W. Heckman Gymnasium.
“I told the girls, that this was a really great game – when we can put up 32 minutes of hard, intense basketball,” Leach said. “We’ve done a great job this season of playing 16-minute halves – where we look really, really good, and then in the second half, we aren’t looking so great. But (tonight) we played a full 32 minutes of an intense basketball game against a great team.”
Offensively, Ottoville (7-3, 2-0 PCL) was led by junior guard Nicole Knippen, who poured in a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Knippen also had four rebounds and two steals. Teammate Elise Kramer added eight points, including two 3-pointers.
For the game, the Big Green shot 41 percent from the field. Kalida shot 39 percent from the floor. In the first half, Kalida really struggled, as it connected on just 5 of 21 of its field-goal attempts (24 percent).
McKayla Maag led Kalida (5-5, 1-2 PCL) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Teammate Grace Klausing added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The game started out slow, but Ottoville eventually pulled out to a 10-3 lead with 1:44 left in the first period. Kylee Hoersten (five points) and Kramer each hit a 3-pointer to jump-start the Big Green.
Ottoville led 14-6 by the first stop.
Kalida was 2 of 12 shooting from the field in the first quarter, while Ottoville was 5 of 10 from the floor.
With two minutes left to play in the first half, Kalida cut it to 4, 16-12, on an inside move by Klausing.
However, Ottoville had an answer.
A minute later, Knippen nailed a 3-pointer in the right corner to push the Ottoville lead back out to 6, 19-13.
Knippen closed out the first half with an inside bucket to give the Big Green a 21-14 advantage, which held up to the halftime break. Knippen scored eight first-half points.
“Nicole (Knippen) is very gifted, offensively,” Leach said. “She really rallies our team. She takes us to the next level. She’s one of those players you put on the floor, and she makes everyone else around her better.”
Kalida was 5 of 21 from the field in the first half. Ottoville was 8 of 20 from the floor.
Kalida came out strong, to start the second half.
Two 3-pointers by Maag, just a little more than a minute into the third quarter, cut the Ottoville lead to 1, 21-20.
Knippen hit a 3-pointer with 5:10 left to play in the third quarter to push the lead out to 26-22.
The Wildcats knotted the game at 26, on an inside move by Klausing with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
With a minute left in the third, Maag hit a trey to knot the game at 29.
The score was tied at 31 at the end of the third quarter.
Kalida was 7 of 9 from the floor in the third period.
Maag was a perfect 5 of 5 from the floor in the third quarter for 13 third-quarter points.
It was a hard-fought fourth quarter.
The Wildcats cut it to 1 in the final minute of the contest.
However, the Big Green made free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“These girls are so resilient,” Leach said. “They refuse to give up; and that’s what I love the most about them as a team.
“We switched up a lot of defenses, today. We went from man to zone. In that third quarter they (Kalida) did get hot. But we felt like our girls really kept their composure and knew what they needed to do, in order to pull this victory out.”
For the game, Kalida turned the ball over 16 times. Ottoville turned it over 15 times.
Kalida held a slight edge on the boards, 24-22.
“We don’t typically shoot as well as I would like them to; and that’s a problem for us,” Kalida coach Adam Huber said. “That gets us in trouble in games like this. We had the same issue at (Columbus) Grove (in a loss).”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.