ELIDA — Columbus Grove girls head basketball coach Brian Schroeder was a little concerned when freshman standout Lauryn Auchmuty got called for her fourth foul of the game, early in the second half of Thursday’s Division IV regional semifinal game against Toledo Christian.
The Bulldogs still put up a tough fight to end.
However, Toledo Christian finally slipped out with a hard-fought 39-36 victory over Columbus Grove at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Toledo Christian (22-4) will face New Knoxville (25-2) Saturday for a regional championship at the Elida Fieldhouse with tip-off set for 7 p.m.
New Knoxville held off Crestview (21-5) in Thursday’s second semifinal at Elida, 35-26.
Despite sitting out most of the third quarter, Auchmuty led Columbus Grove (18-7) with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the floor. She also made four steals at the defensive end.
“Lauryn (Auchmuty) was big in our district games; and to have her in foul trouble the whole game and still be able to fight foot-to-foot with that type of team, was kind of a special thing to see,” Schroeder said. “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I was really impressed with their effort and intensity they brought tonight.”
Along with Auchmuty’s 15 points, teammate Savanah Ridenour had 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor.
Toledo Christian had two players score in double figures Thursday night.
Kendall Braden led the Eagles with 15 points and seven rebounds. Teammate Mackenzie Royal-Davis had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Both teams got off to a slow start on Thursday.
The Bulldogs did not crack the scoring column until the 4:49 mark of the first quarter when Auchmuty broke the ice by scoring on an inside move, that knotted the contest at 2 each.
Toledo Christian made it tough for the Bulldogs to get inside the paint.
Royal-Davis, a 6-foot post player, was the main obstacle inside the lane for the Eagles. Royal-Davis led the way in the first quarter with four points, four rebounds and a block.
The Eagles led 11-5 by the first stop.
Columbus Grove struggled early on, hitting just 2 of 10 shots from the field in the first eight minutes of action.
However, the Bulldogs battled back.
Columbus Grove opened the second quarter with a 4-0 spurt. Ridenour hit two field goals to cut it to 2, 11-9, just a minute into the second.
Then at the 6:41 mark, Columbus Grove senior Kenzie King (five points, five assists) took it to the rack and scored, knotting the game at 11 apiece.
Auchmuty and Ridenour kept the Bulldogs in the hunt.
Auchmuty made two steals and scored seven points in the second stanza. Auchmuty ended the half with 10 points. Ridenour had eight first-half points.
By the halftime break, Columbus Grove was clinging to a 20-19 lead.
Braden led the Eagles in the first half with 10 points, including 6 of 6 shooting from the free throw line.
In the first half, Columbus Grove was 9 of 21 shooting from the field for 43 percent. Toledo Christian was 5 of 18 from the floor for 28-percent shooting.
Then it happened.
Auchmuty got whistled for her fourth foul, early into the second half and was forced to sit on the bench for a good portion of the third quarter.
Toledo Christian took full advantage of the situation.
The Eagles quickly pulled out to a 26-20 lead.
However, Auchmuty was reinserted into the game in the finals seconds of the third. Her teammates found her open, and Auchmuty promptly hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 1, 26-25, right at the third-quarter buzzer.
“She’s a special athlete,” Schroeder said about Auchmuty. “She’s a freshman. So, she was making some freshman mistakes earlier in the year. She works really hard each and every day in practice. She loves basketball; and she really grew as a player throughout the year. She played her best basketball in the end (of the season). In our two district games, she averaged 21 points per game. So, she was huge for us. But her getting into foul trouble (Thursday night) handcuffed us a little bit.”
Columbus Grove kept clawing back.
With 1:45 left to play, Auchmuty made a steal and took it the distance for a layup to knot the game at 33.
With 48 seconds left to play, Braden made a shot inside to give the Eagles a 35-33 lead.
Moments later, Kaylona Butler hit 1 of 2 free throws for the Eagles to make it 36-33.
Then, with 22.6 seconds left to play, Butler made two more free throws to stretch the lead to 38-33.
The Eagles were able to hold off the Bulldogs down the stretch.
For the game, Columbus Grove shot 37 percent from the field. Toledo Christian connected on 31 percent of its field goal attempts.
Both teams turned the ball over 12 times on the night.
Toledo Christian held a slight 29-27 edge on the boards.
“I told them in the locker room that I’m proud of them,” Schroeder said. “They did everything they could to put themselves in position to compete with a really, really talented team. They (Toledo Christian) have size, they have athleticism and they have a point guard (Braden) that’s probably going to play Division I college basketball. So, I can’t say enough about each and every girl that was able to step up.”
New Knoxville 35,
New Knoxville got off to a slow start.
However, in the second half, the Rangers claimed the lead and then held off Crestview for the 9-point victory.
Avery Henschen led New Knoxville with 13 points and nine rebounds. Teammate Ellie Gabel had 12 points.
Kali Gregory led Crestview (21-5) with nine points. Teammates Ellie Kline and Myia Etzler each had eight points for the Knights.
Crestview started the game on a 6-0 spurt, and pulled out to a 10-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
New Knoxville kept it close. By the halftime break, Crestview’s lead was cut to 1, 14-13.
In the first half, New Knoxville struggled at the offensive end. The Rangers shot just 28 percent. Crestview connected on 50 percent of its shots in the first two quarters.
New Knoxville came out strong in the second half. By the end of the third quarter, the Rangers led 25-17.
For the game, New Knoxville shot 36 percent from the field. Crestview shot 32 percent from the floor.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.