ELIDA — Ottawa-Glandorf’s Erin Kaufman simply dominated the inside.
The only time Kaufman slowed down was when she went to the bench with her fourth foul late in the third quarter.
Kaufman would return to the floor to power O-G to a 35-31 victory against third-ranked Liberty-Benton to win the Division III girls basketball district championship Saturday at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Kaufman finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. She scored six points in the final quarter, all from the foul line.
“I thought she dominated the game,” O-G coach Troy Yant said of Kaufman. “Early on, she set the tone. They weren’t going to slow her down. The only thing that slowed her down were a couple of fouls. … When she was off the floor, it gave them opportunities.’’
Kaufman said, “I said, ‘This is not going to be my last game.’ L-B is a tough opponent, so I was doing everything in my power so we were going to win.
“It comes down to focus and who wants it more.’’
Kaufman went to the bench with foul No. 4 with 1:17 left in the third quarter. She came back in the game with 5:57 to go.
“It was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do?” Kaufman said of her fourth foul. “But the team stepped up with me out, and I’m so thankful they did.’’
O-G freshman Kaitlyn Kimmet scored five with five rebounds and guarded L-B’s outstanding 3-pointer shooter Riley Irwin.
“She’s a freshman (Kimmet), who didn’t even play in this game the first time we played them,” Yant said. “I thought she did a great job.’’
Lauren Gerken led L-B with 15 points. Irwin scored nine, with two 3-pointers, and fouled out with 28 seconds to go.
O-G (19-7) advances to the regional semifinals against Wauseon at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Lexington High School.
L-B is 24-2.
The teams played this year Dec. 14 at L-B, with L-B posting a 51-41 victory.
O-G led 7-4 after the first quarter and 15-10 at the half.
The Titans still led 25-19 after three.
But with Kaufman on the bench early in the fourth quarter, L-B made its run behind the shooting and driving of Gerken.
Gerken’s four quick points brought the Eagles within 25-23.
L-B took the lead 27-26 on a driving layup by Irwin with 4:17 to go.
That’s when Lily Haselman delivered another huge 3-pointer.
She had hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the district semifinal game against Delphos Jefferson on Thursday.
This time Haselman canned a 3-pointer from the right wing to give O-G the lead to stay 29-27 with 3:46 to play.
“I just thought I was open, we had to get some points on the board,” Haselman said. “I might as well hit it, and luckily enough, it went in. And I had a lot of confidence (after the semifinals).’’
Added Yant, “She’s done it twice. … It looked good as soon as she released it. We needed it at that time. That was the margin, right there.’’
Kaufman’s two foul shots gave O-G a 31-29 lead with 2:37 left.
Gerken answered with a 17-footer for L-B, to bring the Eagles within 31-29 with 1:30 to go.
Again, Kaufman sank two free throws and Haselman hit one from the line and O-G had a 34-29 lead with 28 seconds to go.
O-G won the boards, 31-22.
O-G shot 29 percent from the field and was 2 of 6 on 3-pointers.
L-B shot 30 percent from the field and was 3 of 16 on 3-pointers.
O-G had 14 turnovers, while L-B had 13.
Erin Kaufman had seven points at the half. She would score eight in the third quarter.
It’s been quite a run for the Titans considering they’ve lost three starters for the season with knee injuries. Chloee Glenn and Kaelyn Grothause suffered torn ACLs, while Maggie Verhoff went down with a torn meniscus.
“This is a big moment with all the adversity we faced this year,” Kaufman said. “It almost feels like a state championship.’’
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.