BLUFFTON — New team. Another Northwest Conference title.
Columbus Grove, behind a tenacious defensive effort and a well-balanced offensive attack, garnered a 42-26 win over Bluffton to help the Bulldogs secure a share of the conference title Thursday night.
With the win, Columbus Grove remains unbeaten at 6-0 in the NWC and 15-3 overall. Bluffton slips to 4-3 in conference play and 12-5 for the season. The Bulldogs have two games remaining in the NWC and own a two-game advantage and are hoping to win the conference title outright.
This marks the fifth straight year Columbus Grove will have either won the title outright or shared it.
“I tell them the previous NWC championship doesn’t help you this year and it doesn’t matter,” Columbus Grove head coach Brian Schroeder said. “ We have had great senior leadership in our program. Winning five years in a row means we have had a lot of talented players and having a lot of good senior leaders and I am just lucky to be along for the ride.”
Bluffton head coach Eric Garmatter said the better team won tonight and credited the Columbus Grove defense.
“They play about as good as the quick and recover defense as we have seen,” Garmatter said. “We have to just learn to get the shot off quicker and we missed some open people. They are pretty tough. They took away all our sets away. They are good.”
Defense, which has been Columbus Groves’ best attribute this year, limited Bluffton to its lowest scoring output of the season at 26. The Pirates never cracked double digits in any of the four quarters.
Bluffton’s Libby Schaadt proved to be the Pirates lone offensive weapon as she scored 14 but even her points were hard earned as she battled inside throughout the night to score buckets.
“We were really locked in terms of executing our game plan and trying to take away some of their strengths and the shots they did hit were just players hitting shots,”Schroeder said. “Libby Schaadt had double digits but none of them were easy and she just made plays and that why she is the great player that she is.”
Offensively for Columbus Grove, Angel Schneider poured in a team-high 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. What is interesting is that Schneider’s points were all scored in the first half. In the second half Savanah Ridenour, who finished with 12 points, had eight second half points.
“Angel’s buckets in the first quarter were huge,” Schroeder said. “When teams face guard Kenzie (King) we have to find other ways to score and it is seems like a different girl every night and tonight it was Angel. We worked the ball into her and she got some buckets and then we were able to build off that.”
What also helped Columbus Grove down the stretch was its free throw shooting. The Bulldogs hit 8 of 10 in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.