COLUMBUS GROVE – With the return of senior Gabe Clement this past weekend, Columbus Grove is looking like the team most expected to see as the Bulldogs bumped off Putnam County rival and No. 2 ranked Kalida, 52-30, Saturday night.
Columbus Grove improves to 7-1 on the season and evens its Putnam County League record to 1-1. Kalida slips to 11-2 on the season and 2-1 in loop action.
Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter this team has being playing catch-up in terms of gelling as a team this whole season due to the pandemic and injuries and with the return of Clement the team is starting to come together like the team that went unbeaten last season.
“I thought it was a great effort by us,” Sautter said. “We needed to have a good effort like that on that end of the floor because we we haven’t been great defensively but having everybody back and that is kind of getting everybody settled and establishing the roles that we thought we were going to have at the beginning of the year so it is kind nice to have Gabe back.”
Sautter added that Clement brings with a lot of versatility that allows his to free up the rest of the players to do their thing. The Bulldog head coach pointed out that this is a veteran group that quickly can get back in a groove.
After a defensive struggle in the first half that saw Columbus Grove own a 20-17 lead, the Bulldogs took over the contest in the third period. Led by a couple of key buckets by Clement, along with a pair of treys from Tayt Birnesser, the Bulldogs opened up a double digit lead 32-21 with 3:13 left in the third quarter and never looked back.
It was the Bulldog defense that got the job done for a second straight night. After limiting Spencerville to 35 points Friday night, the Bulldogs held Kalida to its lowest offensive output of the year.
Kalida managed 13 second half points.
“When you shot like that you are not going to beat anybody,” Kalida head coach Ryan Stechschulte said. “We came out in the third quarter and had five or six possessions and really great looks and didn’t make a single one and that team with a healthy Clement are going to get a few run outs and they got in a flow and it snowballed on us.”
Bulldog Trey Sautter, who led the team with 16 points, continues to provide an offensive spark off the bench and had five points in the pivotal third stanza. Birnesser scored all of his 12 points in the second half and Clement added 11 points on the night.
“Tayt struggled that first half but give him a lot of credit,” Sautter said. “He hit a couple of big shots and guarded and did what seniors are supposed to do.”
The Bulldogs did a good job of containing Kalida’s Luke Erhart to 14 points. The Wildcat senior scored no points in the second and fourth quarters and only five in the second half. No other Kalida player broke the double-digit barrier.
“We guarded real well in the second half,” Sautter said. “I don’t how many they had at halftime but I thought our second half defense was pretty, pretty good. I thought Ethan (Halker) did a pretty good job on Erhart. I think collectively we did. We tried to take away his strengths and limit his touches as much as possible and make somebody else try to beat us.”
Coach Sautter noted that because they have not had the full complement of players, they have not played the defense and get easy transition buckets like they have in the past but as this game proved that is something that should be coming for the remainder of the season.
“Since Gabe has been back we have been preaching that run, run and play fast if we can,” Sautter said. “We were able to get some long rebounds and we were able to get some turnovers and that was good to see. It reminded me a little bit of last year’s team of getting out and running a little bit.”