COLUMBUS GROVE – Delphos Jefferson took a major step towards capturing its first Northwest Conference title, or at least a share of it, since 2012 after the Wildcats held off Columbus Grove, 45-37, in a tight defensive struggle Thursday night.
With the win, Delphos improves to 6-1 in the conference with one game remaining next week when the Wildcats face off against Spencerville next Thursday. Overall, Jefferson is 16-4 and tied with Crestview for the lead in the league at 6-1 and the Knights face Paulding next week
With the loss, Columbus Grove, who fall to 4-3 in the conference, ending its chances for either winning or sharing an NWC title for the sixth straight year. Overall, the Bulldogs fall to 12-7 on the season.
“That is our No. 1 thing, having a high standard for defense and that was the main goal this week to play defense and rebound, rebound, rebound,” Jefferson head coach Denise Lindeman said. “Pretty much everything we talk about is playing defense and today girls were shaky at first but they started talking and I thought our defense was pretty solid throughout the game.”
Spearheading the defensive effort for Jefferson was Lauren French. The freshman post player proved to be a main weapon inside, blocking five shots and grabbing nine rebounds. She also added eight points.
Even though Columbus Grove standout Kenzie King finished with a team-high 14 points she managed only three points in the fourth quarter.
“Lauren has come a long way as a freshman,” Lindeman said. “She just keeps getting better and better for us. I am so proud of her.”
It was in the second half where the Wildcats shined to take control of the game after the two teams battled to a 17-17 tie at halftime.
Grove appeared to find a rhythm offensively in the third quarter when they went up 25-23 at the 4:23 mark but it was Jefferson who quickly turned the tide and went on an 11-0 run to go up 34-25 with 40 seconds left in the period. A 3-pointer by Erin Downing sliced the led to 34-28 going into the final eight minutes.
The Wildcats, feeling confident after the big third quarter surge, continued to pour come up with key buckets to secure the win.
“They are a really good team and well coached,” Columbus Grove head coach Brian Schroeder said. “They came out with great energy. It was kind of a game of runs. They came out four nothing and then we went on a run and they went on a run and it was a tie game at half.
“Their girls just stepped up and made some great plays. Both Lindeman girls hit some big shots and were able to get into the teeth of our defense and get some scoring opportunities.”
Wildcat Lyv Lindeman who finished with a game-high 15 points scored all those in the second half was a clutch 4 of 5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. She also picked up six caroms.
At halftime, coach Lindeman challenge Lyv Lindeman to create a little more offense with French posted in the middle.
“We finally got some great ball moment and found the open shooter,” coach Lindeman said. “It was a great team win and super proud of our effort.”
Sister Aly Lindeman added 14 points and she hit two of her three treys in the second quarter that were big in the 11-0 run.