ELIDA — Columbus Grove wasn’t going to be denied.
Back in December, Ottoville defeated Columbus Grove in a regular-season affair, 55-44.
In Friday night’s Division IV boys district final matchup at the Elida Fieldhouse, Columbus Grove outscored Ottoville in the fourth quarter 21-10 to defeat the Big Green, 61-48.
With the victory, Columbus Grove (22-2) will take on Carey in a Division IV regional semifinal Tuesday at Van Wert High School. Tip-off for that regional semifinal is set for 5:30 p.m.
Carey defeated Calvert 52-46 Friday night, to notch a district title.
Friday night, Columbus Grove led 40-38 at the end of three quarters.
Then the Bulldogs picked it up in the final eight minutes to secure the win.
Columbus Grove had three players score in double figures.
Blake Reynolds and Gabe Clement each scored 17 points to lead Columbus Grove. Tayt Birnesser had 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
“At halftime, we kind of talked about the reality – like this could honestly be the last game that we ever play with each other,” Reynolds said. “So, we wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be our last night together.”
Said Clement, “We knew we could beat our guys off the dribble. So, we just went to the hole as hard as we could and we finished, thankfully.”
Josh Thorbahn led Ottoville (21-3) and all scorers with 27 points, including seven 3-pointers. The University of Findlay-bound Thorbahn was 10 of 16 shooting from the field. Ryan Suever added 10 points for the Big Green.
“He (Thorbahn) is a heck of a player,” Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter said. “He hit five threes in that first half, and most of them were contested. They weren’t easy shots. They got us reeling a little bit in that first half. But we just hung in there and kept battling. He (Thorbahn) still ends up with 27, but I thought Trey (Sautter, Coach Sautter’s son) did a nice job on him, when he came in. We were trying to switch to him and keep it out of his hands, but it really wasn’t working for us. So, we put Trey on him. He did a nice job.”
In the first half, Ottoville seemed to grab the upper hand.
The lead changed hands three times in the first quarter before Ottoville started to separate. By the first stop, the Big Green led 16-10.
Thorbahn nailed two 3-pointers in the first eight minutes of action. He scored 10 first-quarter points to lead the way.
Thorbahn continued his hot shooting.
In the second quarter, Thorbahn connected three more times behind the 3-point line. He would end the first half with 19 points, including five treys.
But Columbus Grove stayed close.
With 2:40 left to play in the first half, Bo Birnesser (six points) scored down low to cut the deficit to 3, 24-21.
Ottoville managed to slip into the halftime break with a 29-24 lead.
Both teams shot well in the first half. Ottoville shot 55 percent from the field, while Columbus Grove connected on 50 percent of its shots.
Columbus Grove came out firing in the second half.
At the 5:33 mark, Tayt Birnesser hit a 3-pointer, the second one of the quarter, to give Grove a 32-31 lead – its first lead since the first quarter.
Then, two minutes later, Reynolds scored inside to give the Bulldogs a 36-33 lead.
At the 2:50 mark of the third, Reynolds scored again down low to give the Bulldogs a 38-33 lead.
The Bulldogs slipped out with a 40-38 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Then Columbus Grove shifted into high gear.
At the 6:41 mark of the fourth quarter, Tayt Birnesser scored inside and was fouled. Birnesser converted the 3-point play to give the Bulldogs a 45-42 lead.
Ottoville had an answer.
With 6:10 left in the game, Thorbahn nailed his sixth trey of the night to knot the contest at 45 apiece.
The Bulldogs responded.
At the 4:20 mark, Tayt Birnesser hit his third 3-pointer on the night to give his team a 48-45 advantage.
Then moments later, Clement scored off the dribble to extend the Grove lead to 5, 50-45.
With 1:41 left to play, Clement drove hard to the basket and made the tough layup, and was fouled. Clement converted the old-fashion 3-point play to give Grove a 53-45 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Grove was 10 for 10 at the free throw line. Ottoville was 2 for 2 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes.
“With their versatility and skill level – when they get ahead, it’s really hard to get it back,” Ottoville head coach Keith Utendorf said. “But credit our kids. They didn’t give up. That was a really good basketball team that beat another really good basketball team. It was a fun game to be a part of. It was back and forth for so long. Finally at the end, they (Columbus Grove) made some free throws when it counted. Unfortunately, we came up short.”
For the game, Columbus Grove connected on 60 percent of its shots from the floor, including 4 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. Ottoville shot 50 percent from the field, including 7 of 18 from behind the arc for 39 percent.
Ottoville committed five turnovers. Columbus Grove turned it over 10 times.
Grove dominated the boards, 28-9.
“Our seniors do what seniors do,” Coach Sautter said. “Like I told them, ‘If I didn’t have three guys with like 70 games of experience, then I would be concerned’.
“But I’m not worried, because we’ve been in situations like this before. Seniors make good teams like this. They’ve made us really, really good so far.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.