BATH TOWNSHIP — To win the Western Buckeye League title has not only been a goal for this year’s seniors on the Bath girls basketball roster at the beginning of the season, but it’s been something on their minds for a very long time.
Heading into this season, it has been five years of falling short of notching the WBL crown.
Now, Bath can finally celebrate.
In a key Western Buckeye League girls basketball matchup between Bath and visiting St. Marys on Thursday, Bath finally achieved one its main goals.
Bath claimed the lead on St. Marys late in the first quarter, and staved off the Roughriders in the second half for a hard-fought 49-34 victory at Bath.
With the win, Bath (18-2 overall, 8-0 in the WBL) is guaranteed at least a share of the WBL crown. A win next Thursday against Van Wert will give Bath the outright league title. The last time Bath won the WBL title was the 2014-15 campaign.
In the latest Associated Press state poll, Bath was ranked No. 5 in Division II.
Ruby Bolon led Bath on Thursday with 15 points, including two 3-pointers. Chandler Clark scored nine points, and dished out four assists. Esther Bolon, Ruby Bolon’s twin sister, had eight points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks for the Wildkittens.
“I’m so proud of the group of kids that we have,” longtime Bath head coach Greg Mauk said. “People don’t know the adversity that this team has gone through. … They have no idea. We have a senior (Ja ‘Dasia Hardison) that hasn’t played a single game this season. We have a senior (Madelyn Renner) that is our leading scorer and our leading rebounder, who blows her ACL out two weeks ago; and our schedule at that point in time was really stiff. I didn’t know how they were going to respond. I really didn’t. But it’s a credit to the kind of kids we have in this program right now.”
Noelle Ruane led St. Marys (15-5, 6-2 WBL) with 16 points on Thursday, including two shots behind the 3-point line. However, after scoring 12 first-quarter points, Bath held the 5-7 junior to just four points the rest of the game.
The lead changed hands four times and was knotted three times in the first quarter, before Bath finally slipped out with a 17-13 advantage by the first stop.
Ruby Bolon led the Wildkittens with seven first-quarter points.
Ruane scored 12 points in the first eight minutes for the Roughriders.
Bath’s defensive pressure helped cause six St. Marys’ turnovers in the first stanza.
For the game, the Roughriders turned it over 13 times. Bath turned it over 12 times on the night.
However, St. Marys, battled back and cut it to one point in the second quarter.
Bath then shifted to another gear and finished the half on a 10-0 run to pull out to a 31-20 lead by the halftime break.
Esther Bolon connected twice behind the 3-point line in the second quarter. Ruby Bolon led Bath in the first half with 12 points, including two 3-pointers, along with a perfect 4 for 4 shooting performance from the free throw line.
Bath led 44-32 at the end of the third quarter.
“Give a lot of credit to their (St. Marys’) kids, because they played really hard. It was almost like a football game at times,” Mauk said.
For the game, Bath shot 42 percent from the field. St. Marys connected on 35 percent of its field goal attempts.
Bath held the slight edge on the boards, 27-21.
“These kids at the beginning of the year were very vocal on what they wanted to do. … First of all, they wanted to win the Western Buckeye League championship,” Mauk said. “They’ve had a laser focus on doing that. We’ve been playing ‘lights out’ in certain situations – when sometimes I wondered on how we would play. It’s a tribute to the kids.”
Mauk pointed to the progressions of the senior class as the key to this year’s success.
“Their sophomore year (this year’s seniors), we weren’t very good.” Mauk said. “These kids have hung together. The chemistry we have together is just amazing. They’re playing for each other. Those seniors know how to play together.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.