COLUMBUS GROVE — Make it three in a row.
Columbus Grove put a stamp on its successful regular season Friday night by notching another Northwest Conference title in boys basketball, by rolling past visiting Ada 79-38 in a conference game at Grove.
After Friday’s victory, this marks the third consecutive NWC title for Columbus Grove. Grove has won the NWC crown outright the past two seasons. The 2018-19 campaign, Columbus Grove shared the conference title with Crestview.
In the latest Associated Press state poll, Columbus Grove was ranked fourth in Division IV.
“It’s a good way to cap it off for that senior group,” Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter said. “This one was important for the seniors, with it being Senior Night. We wanted to make sure we got the title outright.”
Columbus Grove had four players score in double figures.
Tayt Birnesser led Columbus Grove (19-2, 8-0 NWC) with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Birnesser also made four steals at the defensive end. Blake Reynolds had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Trey Sautter had 10 points, including two 3-pointers. Bo Birnesser added 10 points and two steals for Grove.
Gabe Clement had nine points and five assists for Grove.
Tristan Conley led Ada (3-17, 1-7 NWC) with 10 points. Teammate Trent Ennis added nine points.
After a brief 3-2 lead for Ada, Columbus Grove responded, and pulled out to a 16-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Columbus Grove took full advantage of seven Ada turnovers.
Ada ended the game with 19 miscues.
Columbus Grove was 7 of 12 shooting from the field in the first eight minutes of action.
Columbus Grove extended its lead to 17, 33-16, by the halftime break. Grove continued to shoot well, as it hit 6 of 10 from the floor in the second quarter. Grove ended the half, 13 of 22 from the field for 59 percent.
Seven players cracked the scoring column for Grove in the first half. Trey Sautter, the coach’s son, led the way with eight points, including two 3-pointers. Teammate Tayt Birnesser had seven points and three steals in the first half.
Tristan Conley led Ada in the first half with seven points.
Tayt Birnesser started the second half with two consecutive 3-pointers to push Columbus Grove’s lead to 39-16, less than a minute into the third quarter.
Moments later, Birnesser canned another bomb to push the lead to 42-18.
Then Grove started to get out into transition.
By the 5:37 mark of the third, Grove led 46-18. At that point, Grove was 5 of 6 from the field in that stretch.
Grove shifted to another gear, and closed out the quarter on a strong note. By the third stop, Grove’s lead had ballooned to 39, 66-27.
Tayt Birnesser scored 11 third-quarter points.
Grove was 14 of 18 from the field in the third for a sizzling 78-percent shooting.
“It was important to come out that third quarter,” Coach Sautter said. “We could either let them hang around, or we could put it away. I thought we did a pretty nice job of putting the game out of reach. We were able to get the seniors out (of the game) and give them the respect that they deserve, because they have done a lot of great things for the school.”
For the game, Columbus Grove shot 59 percent from the field. Ada connected on 41 percent of its field goal attempts.
Coach Sautter likes the balance his team has displayed all season.
“It’s nice to put three guys out there that can all hit shots from 20 feet away,” Coach Sautter said. “Then, you have Blake (Reynolds) and Ethan (Halker, 7 points, 5 boards) inside, doing what they do. Then, when we do get stops, we can get out and go too.”
Columbus Grove held the edge on the boards, 25-20.
Sautter is excited of what is to come when his team starts playing in the postseason tournament next Friday.
“We can do a lot of things pretty well. It’s nice to have everybody back, healthy. This is like the second time this season, that we’ve had everyone on the floor,” he said.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.