MIDDLE POINT – And then there was one.
Columbus Grove became the lone team without a loss in the Northwest Conference after the Bulldogs downed Lincolnview 70-49 Tuesday night.
Columbus Grove improves 10-1 for the season and goes to 4-0 in the NWC. Lincolnview falls to 10-3 for the season and slips to 3-1 in conference play.
Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter said the victory was big but knows there is still plenty of big games left in the conference.
“It puts us atop alone at 4-0 but we still have Bluffton to play. We still have Jefferson on the road and we have Allen East and Ada left so we are only half way through the conference,” Sautter said. “We have three games left for the next three weeks. We have to make sure we are taking care of business.”
Another stellar defensive outing, coupled with a well-balanced scoring attack, was the key to the Bulldogs garnering the big victory.
For the fourth straight game, the Bulldogs held an opponent to under 50 points. Lincolnview came into the contest averaging 64.9 points a game.
“That was a pretty good defensive effort,” Sautter said. “They are going to score points. They have athletes that can shoot and score. A good team effort on both ends of the court.”
Lincolnview’s Colin Overholt was the lone Lancer to score in double digits with 12 points.
Offensively, the Bulldogs saw five different players break the double digit barrier. Tayt Birnesser led the way with 16 points, 15 of which came in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter. He had five triples on the night.
Gabe Clement added 14 points and Trey Sautter, who was instrumental in giving Columbus Grove the early lead with eight second quarter points, finished with 13 points.
Ethan Halker notched 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Blake Reynolds, who snatched down 11 caroms, finished with 10 points.
Sautter said seeing multiple players in double digits is the goal every game.
“The game where Blake has 25 and Tayt has 23 and everybody else is at three we are not very good,” Sautter said. “I think that everybody is back and healthy and playing together roles are getting established and the older kids are starting to trust the older kids and things are coming together at the right time.”
Sautter added that seeing Birnesser and Halker come alive offensively is a great sign.
“He (Birnesser) kept telling me I need to see one go in,” Sautter said. “Once he saw one go in Katy bar the door because here we go and we have been on Ethan. Where is last year’s Ethan and he hasn’t kind of given us that energy and that rebounding we have been expecting from him and tonight the man. He kept a lot of balls alive. It was a great, great game for him.”
After a tight first quarter that saw the two teams search for their shooting touch, Columbus Grove owned a 15-14 lead. In the first eight minutes, the game was tied three times and the lead changed hands five times.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs began to up their defensive intensity and it allowed Columbus Grove to open up a double-digit lead.
A couple of early Lancer turnovers, coupled with some precision perimeter shooting from Sautter, the Bulldogs opened up a 27-20 lead with 5:11 in the first half. That lead went to as much as 13 points in the next three minutes as the Lancers never found an offensive rhythm and the Bulldogs outscored Lincolnview 8-2 to give Columbus Grove a 37-24 lead going into the second half.
A 9-4 Bulldog run to open the third quarter pushed the lead to 46-28 with 4:32 and the Lancers in desperate need of a big run to get back in the game. Lincolnview did get a quick 6-0 run to cut it down to 12 points. Going into the final stanza, Grove led 54-40.