BOWLING GREEN – It started with a steal and ended with a win.
Going into the fourth quarter, Columbus Grove was down 37-35 to Antwerp which had garnered some momentum going into the final eight minutes.
But Bulldog Evan Hopkins reversed that trend when he came up with a steal against Antwerp’s Luke Krouse in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and went in for the lay-up. The turnover sparked an 8-0 run to put Columbus Grove up 43-27 with 5:37 left on the clock and gave the Bulldogs the momentum they needed to secure the 55-50 win in the Division IV regional semifinal Tuesday night.
“It started with Hop (Evan Hopkins). He got one (a steal) and he is usually good for one a game and he finally got one and got a transition layup and tied the game and we got another couple important stops and maybe pushed the lead up to four or six points,” Bulldog head coach Chris Sautter said. “We always say the first two minutes of the third quarter of the second half of the game is the most important part of the game. They beat us that third quarter and went up two after being down two so for us to come out and win those first couple minutes of the fourth quarter. That was huge.”
In the game neither team led by more than four until Columbus Grove went on its game-changing run in the final stanza.
Another major factor that helped garner the win was Tayt Birnesser’s clutch free throw shooting down the stretch. Cool and calm, the Bulldog junior sank 8 of 8.
Birnesser, who came into the game with 999 points in his high school career, finished with 17 points.
“It was nice to see him step up,” Sautter said. “I don’t know how many he hit in the fourth quarter and getting that 1,000th point early in the second quarter and getting it out of the way got him to relax and little and just play.”
With the win Columbus Grove (26-0) and will play Parkway (20-7) at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center at 7 p.m. Friday. Antwerp finished its season 25-1.
Columbus Grove’s Blake Reynolds, who scored 12 points, battled all night underneath against Jagger and Jayvin Landers and still produced big buckets when the Bulldogs needed them the most. He also provided opportunities for his teammates to score once he penetrated the lane. Reynolds finished with eight assists and also grabbed eight rebounds.
“I knew if I kept driving to the hole they would all started collapsing on me so I knew I could dump it off and get some people some easy buckets,” Reynolds said.
The Bulldogs looked to run any chance they got and it was effective at times but more importantly Reynolds added that it helped wear the Archers down by the end of the game.
“We wanted to play the whole game uptempo and eventually at the end of the game they would wear out and you could see at the end they were wearing down and we went on a little run.”
Sautter called Reynolds a stat stuffer.
“You look at the end of the night and he had probably three steals and a block shot to go along with the assists, points and rebounds that he had,” Sautter said. “He makes it easy for the other guys on the floor because he does handle the ball so much against the pressure. He finds open guys. He finds guys when they leak out and he makes me look smart.”
Columbus Grove shot an efficient 54 percent from the field. Antwerp hit 39 percent.
Antwerp head coach Doug Billman said he they put themselves in position to make buckets as well as crashing the boards but the shots weren’t falling for the Archers.
Antwerp’s Jagger Landers finished with a game high 19 points and Jacob Savina chipped in 11 points.
“I thought it was very well played game on both sides,” Billman said. “They made a few more plays from the perimeter than us and we didn’t shoot it as well as we typically do. I thought we got back in the game there especially the third quarter but in the fourth quarter I thought we got a little stagnant. We got a little stagnant with our offense and they made a run.”
Tiffin Calvert 42
Parkway’s Nick Hawk sank three free throws in the final 30 seconds to give the Panthers a thrilling 44-42 win Tuesday night.
The highly contested game was tied at 33-33 with a little more than five minutes left when the Panthers hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open up a six-point lead.
However, Tiffin Calvert stormed back to take a 424-2 lead with a little less than a minute left in the game.
However, Hawk came up two free throws to go up 43-42 with 29 seconds left. Tiffin Calvert looked to go up on its next possession but fell short and was forced to foul with 10.3 seconds left and Hawk hit one of two free throws.
Tiffin Clavert’s Nick Seifert, who had 13 rebounds, finished with 14 points.
Parkway’s Caleb Kinney also had 14 points and 10 rebounds
Tiffin Calvert ends its year with a 19-8 mark.