HARROD — Each time Columbus Grove made a run, Allen East seemed to have an answer.
Columbus Grove, the No. 1 Division IV team in the state, finally made enough runs down the stretch in Friday’s Northwest Conference boys basketball game against Allen East, to come out with an 85-71 win.
But it wasn’t easy for Columbus Grove.
For the game, Allen East shot a sizzling 60 percent from the field. Columbus Grove countered with 54-percent shooting from the floor.
Columbus Grove was balanced.
Tayt Birnesser led the Bulldogs (20-0, 7-0 NWC), who clinched the conference title outright with Lincolnview’s loss to Ada, with 24 points, including three 3-pointers. Birnesser also had nine rebounds and three assists. Blake Reynolds scored 20 points, pulled down nine boards and dished out four assists. Evan Hopkins had 12 points, including two 3-pointers. Alex Schneider had 11 points with two treys for Columbus Grove.
Logan McCluer led Allen East (5-15, 0-8 NWC) and all scorers with 30 points, including five 3-pointers. McCluer also pulled down nine boards. Bradden Crumrine added 12 points for the Mustangs.
“We scored 85 points, we’re 20-0 and we have at least a share in two conferences (Putnam County League, NWC). … I should be happy,” Columbus Grove coach Chris Sautter said. “But we didn’t guard at all. I told the guys that we have to come out and play better than this. You just can’t show up when you want to. Sometimes I think we show up and just try to outscore people. That’s just not going to be good enough.”
After four lead changes in the first quarter, Columbus Grove finally pulled out to a 22-15 advantage by the first stop.
Both teams shot well in the first eight minutes. The Mustangs were 5 of 10 from the field in the first quarter. The Bulldogs were 8 of 15 from the floor.
Kadin Koontz and McCluer led the Mustangs with six first-quarter points, including two 3-pointers each.
Birnesser led Columbus Grove with seven points, including a trey. Birnesser also came away with four rebounds.
All of Allen East’s first-quarter points came via the 3-pointer (five total).
Columbus Grove’s defensive pressure started to create some quick baskets in the second quarter. The Mustangs turned the ball over seven times in the second stanza.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 14, 40-26, by the halftime break.
Birnesser led Columbus Grove with 12 points and seven boards. McCluer led Allen East with eight points and five rebounds in the first half.
The Mustangs cut the deficit to nine, three times, in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs continued its hot shooting.
Birnesser and Schneider both connected behind the 3-point line in the third quarter to jump start Columbus Grove.
McCluer scored 10 points in the third quarter to lead the Mustangs. Allen East was a sizzling 10 of 13 from the floor. Columbus Grove was 8 of 14 from the floor.
Columbus Grove led 61-49 after three quarters.
In the fourth, Allen East cut it to nine, three times, before Columbus Grove finally pulled away.
Sautter cautioned his squad of avoiding a letdown.
“We’ve been fortunate in a couple games this season when it has been close, to be able to turn the switch on and get a win,” Sautter said. “But you will run into someone in the tournament that has your number. And if you have an off-night shooting and don’t score 85 points, then you’re going home.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.