VAN WERT — Experience matters.
Columbus Grove needed all its of its veteran leadership and a little luck to outlast Carey, 48-45, in a Division IV regional semifinal Tuesday night.
With the win, the Bulldogs (24-2) advance to the regional final to face New Bremen (19-8) at 7 p.m. Friday in Van Wert.
“Having Blake (Reynolds) and Tayt (Birnesser), and Gabe (Clement) and Ethan (Halker) all who started this game last year and having that experience was probably the difference in the game,” Sautter said. “I give them a ton of credit. We are very fortunate to pull that one out. We missed some free throws down the stretch and gave up too many offensive rebounds down the stretch. We did a lot of things wrong but still managed to get a win.”
Reynolds, who is quite familiar performing in crunch time, whether its on the gridiron or on the court, poured in 14 of his 17 points in the second half and scored all but three of the Bulldogs’ seven points in the final eight minutes. In the fourth quarter, he was 4 of 7 from the free throw line.
Reynolds had a double-double night as he also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Reynolds admitted it was a pretty ugly game for himself but added that it helped having guys like Clement, Jacksen Schroeder and Trey Sautter, who gained valuable minutes early in the season when Columbus Grove was dealing with injuries, was a key to the Bulldogs advancing.
“It helped having guys like Trey and Jacksen,” Reynolds said. “Early in the year when Gabe and Tayt were hurt you could see it kind of showed tonight when Trey and Jacksen got minutes early in the year. It helped a lot, and they played a great game tonight.”
Even though Reynolds called his game “soft” Tuesday night, he said he tried to make up for it with his defense and rebounding and often found himself battling against a physical Carey team.
“If I can’t make a layup I better guard or get a rebound so that is just what I do,” Reynolds said.
Fellow senior Tayt Birnesser added nine points and had a big 3-pointer in the third quarter, and Trey Sautter finished with nine points and snared five caroms.
In addition to keeping their composure down the stretch, it was defense that helped Columbus Grove to escape with the win.
Early in the game, Carey was slashing to the bucket and scoring inside buckets and led 16-13.
By the second quarter, Columbus Grove began clamping down on the Blue Devils and allowed just eight points in the eight minutes leading up to halftime and Columbus Grove took the lead 26-24 going into the third period.
“They are good,” Sautter said. “They did what we thought they were going to do in that first half. They put their head down and go downhill and they are going to get to the rim. We knew they were going to be physical on the defensive end. Our kids weren’t finishing the contact at all in the first half.
Sautter added that the Bulldogs were not defending the Blue Devils’ offensive strengths and that hurt the Bulldogs early.
“If we tell you they are right-handed and they keep going to their right hand that is bad on our part,” Sautter said. “That is bad coaching. That is bad kids listening and doing what we were telling them what to do. In the second half we did a better job of coaching them, and they weren’t able to get to the rim like they did in the first half.”
Both teams see-sawed back and fourth in the third quarter as the lead exchanged hands seven times in the first six minutes. In the final two minutes, Columbus Grove scored the final five points to go up 38-34, the Bulldogs’ largest lead since they opened the game with a 5-0 run.
In the fourth quarter, Carey came back to tie the game, 41-41, with 3:50 remaining on the clock but back to back buckets by Reynolds helped the Bulldogs regain the lead, 45-41 and from there the Bulldogs held on down the stretch to secure the win.
Carey’s Cade Crawford scored 17 points to pace the Blue Devils. Ian Yeater added 10 points.
The Bulldogs will be heading to the regional final, something that was taken away from them last year and for Reynolds and Co. it is something they have been thinking about since last year.
“I guess you can say I can finally be able to sleep because I haven’t been able to sleep since last year. That was a tough day, and we have been thinking about that so we have a chance now and we want to do something about it.,” Reynolds said.
New Bremen 51, Antwerp 43
VAN WERT — New Bremen outscored Antwerp, 8-0, in overtime to oust the Archers, in the Division IV regional semi final Tuesday.
The Cardinals improve to 19-8. Antwerp ends its year with a 23-2 mark.
Cardinal Reece Bussee scored 16 points and Trevor Bergman added 13. For Antwerp, Jagger Landers pumped in 16 points and Austin Lichty finished with 14 points.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0451.