ELIDA – In a recent Northwest Conference matchup between Bluffton and Allen East, Bluffton had to battle back late in the game to defeat the Mustangs, 61-54.
In last night’s rematch in a Division III sectional semifinal, Bluffton battled back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Allen East 78-67, in the first of two Division III boys sectional semifinal basketball games played at the Elida Fieldhouse Wednesday night.
Bluffton (15-8) will face Lima Central Catholic (11-11) on Friday for a sectional title with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. at the Elida Fieldhouse.
LCC defeated Coldwater in Wednesday’s second semifinal, 57-49.
“It wasn’t exactly a carbon copy (of the regular-season game), because it was a 12-point deficit then, and it was 16 this time. … And it was a tournament atmosphere,” Bluffton head coach Todd Boblitt said. “We just couldn’t get anything going. We weren’t making shots. They (Allen East) were making plays.
“But give our kids a lot of credit for hanging in there and continuing to battle. I couldn’t be prouder of this group for just staying with it.”
Carson Soper led Bluffton (15-8) Wednesday with 20 points, including three 3-pointers. Marek Donaldson scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Wade Ginther had 13 points. Terron Boblitt and Landen Worcester had 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Pirates.
Keaton Miller led Allen East (14-9) with 18 points. Keaton Lehman had 16 points. Deacon Jones (12) and Caleb Hopkins (11) also scored in double figures for the Mustangs.
On Wednesday, Allen East took the lead, early, and slipped out with a 13-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Keaton Miller led the Mustangs with five first-quarter points. Donaldson scored all seven of Bluffton’s points.
The Pirates struggled from the field in the first quarter, connecting on just 2 of 13 field goal attempts. The Mustangs were 4 of 9 from the floor in the first quarter.
Allen East led 25-19 at the halftime break.
In the first half, Bluffton was 6 of 24 shooting from the field for 25 percent. Allen East connected on 9 of 22 from the floor for 41-percent shooting.
Donaldson led Bluffton and all scorers in the first half with 10 points.
Allen East, behind 8 of 13 shooting from the field, extended its lead to 44-28 by the end of the third quarter. Lehman scored nine points in the third for the Mustangs.
Bluffton came storming back in the final eight minutes.
At the 4:32 mark of the fourth quarter, Soper hit a 3-pointer and was fouled in the process. With the successful free throw and rare four-point play from Soper, the deficit was 3, 48-45.
Then with 2:55 left to play, Worcester hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 49-48.
With 20 seconds left to play, Worcester scored down low to knot it, 53-53.
With 16.8 seconds left to play, Soper hit two free throws to give Bluffton its first lead, 55-53.
But Allen East was not done.
At the buzzer at the end of regulation, off an inbounds play, Keaton Miller scored to knot the game, 55-55.
For the game, Allen East shot 44 percent from the field. Bluffton connected on 34 percent of its field goal attempts.
Allen East committed 15 turnovers on the night, while Bluffton turned it over nine times.
“It started to snowball for us,” Boblitt said in reference to his team’s late rally. “We started to make some plays, defensively, which turned into some offense for us. It went from 16 to 10. … And now we’re in it.
“Give Allen East a ton of credit. I thought they played extremely hard. They played the game the right way. These tournament games, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Lima Central Catholic 57, Coldwater 49
LCC held off Coldwater down the stretch for a hard-fought eight-point win. Billy Bourk led LCC with 15 points and eight rebounds. Carson Parker had 14 points and six assists. Michael Taflinger chipped in 10 points, including three 3-pointers for the Thunderbirds.
Luke Schwieterman led Coldwater with 16 points and 10 boards. Evan Harlamert and Mason Welsch each had 11 points for the Cavaliers.
At the end of the first quarter, LCC led 12-9. At the halftime break, LCC led 28-26.
Both teams struggled in the first half.
The Thunderbirds shot 39 percent from the field, while the Cavaliers connected on 37 percent of its shots.
For the game, LCC shot 41 percent from the field. Coldwater shot 32 percent on the night.
“You just want to survive and move on,” LCC head coach Frank Kill said. “Both teams played really hard.”
Kill was especially pleased with the defensive effort by Payne Cutlip (two points, three assists, three steals).
“That’s what we needed. … He never got rattled,” Kill said about Cutlip. “He (Cutlip) has been the difference-maker the last couple games.”