OTTOVILLE — Ottoville girls head basketball coach Michelle Leach was a little concerned at the beginning of the season on how her team would progress, due to the limited amount of preseason preparation that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, after Ottoville’s 62-41 victory against Putnam County League foe Columbus Grove at L.W. Heckman Gymnasium on Saturday, Leach was feeling a little more optimistic.
After a see-saw battle in the first quarter, Ottoville took control of the contest and then pulled away for the key PCL win.
Nicole Knippen led Ottoville (7-3, 2-1 PCL) and all scorers with 22 points. The 5-foot, 7-inch guard also pulled down 11 rebounds, made four steals and dished out two assists Saturday.
Knippen had plenty of help around her.
Alexa Honigford scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Elise Kramer added 13 points and two steals for the Big Green.
“I think they’re starting to identify what each other does well,” Leach said. “Once a team realizes their strengths, they put each other in position to help their team put more points on the board.”
Leach was especially pleased with her team’s defensive effort against the Bulldogs.
“I was very happy about the defensive effort,” Leach said. “Honestly, it was just a game where we came out and played our game, both offensively and defensively. Honestly, we needed a game like this.”
Kenzie King led Columbus Grove (5-6, 2-1 PCL) with 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
After a first quarter in which King nailed two 3-pointers, Ottoville locked down, defensively, and prevented King from scoring again until the fourth quarter. However, in that final eight minutes of action, King hit three shots behind the 3-point line.
“She’s a great player,” Leach said about King. “We know that those types of players can go on their run at any time. We have to be able to weather those runs. She (King) kind of got going for a little bit, but then we locked down at one point after that. So, I was very pleased with the defensive effort after that little run.”
It was a highly contested first quarter.
The score was knotted twice and changed hands twice before Ottoville finally slipped out with a 12-10 lead by the first stop. A 3-pointer by Honigford from nearly half court at the buzzer, gave Ottoville the 2-point advantage. Honigford scored six first-quarter points (two 3-pointers) for the Big Green.
King led Columbus Grove with eight first-quarter points, including two 3-pointers.
It was a see-saw battle in the early moments of the second quarter, with the lead switching hands three times.
However, Ottoville made a run late in the half and managed to pull away for a 31-21 lead by the halftime break.
Columbus Grove turned the ball over 10 times in the first half. For the game, the Bulldogs committed 16 turnovers. The Big Green turned the ball over 13 times on the day.
Honigford led the Big Green in the first half with 13 points. Knippen scored 11 points, pulled down eight rebounds and made three steals in the first 16 minutes of action.
King led the Bulldogs in the first half with eight points and two steals.
Ottoville kept pushing the pace in the second half. The Big Green extended their lead to 48-29 by the end of the third quarter.
Ottoville was 7 of 10 shooting from the field in the third. Knippen poured in eight third-quarter points.
“Our strategy is that we want to play fast, but we want to play functionally fast,” Leach said. “We want to make those good decisions once we’re in transition. Then, if we’re in a half-court game, hopefully we are able to execute and get good looks at the basket.”
In the fourth quarter, King started to find her range again. The junior guard connected three times behind the 3-point line.
However, it proved to be too little, too late for the Bulldogs.
For the game, Columbus Grove shot 43 percent from the field. Ottoville connected on 49 percent of its field goal attempts.
The Big Green won the boards, 30-22.
“I was really pleased with our rebounding effort,” Leach said. “This was probably the first game where we really attacked both the offensive and defensive glass. So, hopefully that trend will continue for us.”
Leach also was pleased about her team’s energy level throughout Saturday’s game.
“I liked the energy we brought,” she said. “I thought we passed the ball really well; and we really put ourselves in a good position.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.