Columbus Grove is headed back to the Division IV boys basketball regional at Bowling Green for a second year in a row after beating Kalida 58-49 to win the Elida Division IV district championship on Friday night.
Repetition is something the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs have been very good at so far in tournament games this season.
All three of Columbus Grove’s tournament wins have come against teams it had already beaten during the regular season.
“It’s not easy,” Columbus Grove coach Chris Sautter said. “We had to beat Ada twice, we had to beat Crestview twice, we had to beat Kalida twice. They know us, we know them.”
Columbus Grove (25-0) will play Antwerp at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday in a regional semifinal game at Bowling Green State University.
The Bulldogs took control of the game by holding Kalida scoreless for almost nine minutes and going on a 12-0 run from the middle of the third quarter until 1:38 was left in the game.
The Wildcats led 40-38 when Evan Roebke hit a 3-pointer from the right corner late in the third quarter. By the time they scored again, on a 3-pointer by Ayden Warnecke, Columbus Grove had gone ahead 50-40 in this rematch of Putnam County League teams.
“We went toe to toe for three quarters and held the lead for quite a bit of the third quarter,” Kalida coach Ryan Stechschulte said. “We turned it over too many times. When you’re playing the No. 1 team in the state the margin for error is pretty slim. We knew that going in but our kids just went right at them.”
Sautter said, “The end of the third quarter probably was key. We went from three down (when Kalida led 37-34) to four up at the start of the fourth quarter. We got a bucket and got it to six, then to eight. The defensive end kind of did it for us down the stretch.”
Blake Reynolds led Columbus Grove with 18 points and seven rebounds and Gabe Clement had 14 points. Luke Erhart scored 16 points and Roebke got 13 points for Kalida (18-8), who was district runner-up for a second year in a row.
Reynolds also pointed to defensive pressure as a key for the Bulldogs.
“We knew we had to pick up the defensive pressure. We knew if we pressured them the whole game eventually they would start getting tired. That showed when their shots started to get a little short. Pressuring them from the start is why I feel we went on a little run.
“We knew they’d give us a fight and they did. They’re a real good team,” he said.
Columbus Grove’s game against Antwerp will be a match-up of the two top-ranked teams in Division IV in the state. No. 2 Antwerp is also 25-0 this season.
Columbus Grove was a regional semifinalist last season when it lost 58-48 to Maumee Valley Country Day.
“It means a lot,” Clement said about a return trip to the regional. “We’ve got unfinished business from last year. Hopefully we can get some more medals.”
Reynolds said, “It means a lot, especially being there last year. We knew what it took to get there but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”