Boys Basketball: Barraza and Hopkins combine for 50; Columbus Grove advances past Bluffton

BLUFFTON — Rivalry games can be tricky, especially in the playoffs.

From an outsider’s perspective, Columbus Grove’s 70-59 win over Bluffton might be viewed as an upset.

But the truth is, it’s just one rival having the other’s number.

Columbus Grove ended Bluffton’s football season in the fall, and on Tuesday night in the sectional semifinals, the same thing happened on the basketball court.

Trenton Barraza and Kyle Hopkins combined for 50 points in the win, ultimately helping the Bulldogs pull away midway through the fourth quarter, and setting up a sectional final matchup on Friday night against Wayne Trace.

“I felt like we had nothing to lose tonight,” Trenton Barraza said. “We sent them home in football and we got a win earlier in the (basketball) season against them, so I felt really confident coming into this game.”

Barraza set the tone, and Hopkins finished the job. Both players finished the night with 25 points.

In the first half, Barraza scored 15 points, 13 in the first quarter. He was a perfect 7 for 7 from the field at halftime with the Bulldogs in front 37-30.

“I was feeding off my teammates’ energy,” Barraza said. “We were going back and forth with them early in the game, but we kept our energy going and we battled through.”

In the second half, Kyle Hopkins picked up where Barraza left off. After making just one of his first seven shots, Hopkins erupted for 20 points in the second half, making a pair of threes and going 7 for 10 from the field.

Hopkins said, “Coach Kohls kept telling me that my shots were going to fall, so I kept shooting and when I saw one go in, I got hot from there. He has all the confidence in the world in me, and he always tells me to shoot, so that’s what I do.”

Earlier this month, Columbus Grove defeated Bluffton 47-35. The regular season victory was something the Bulldogs leaned on in preparation for Tuesday night’s tournament opener.

“We didn’t want to come in overconfident because Bluffton is a really good team,” Columbus Grove coach Connor Kohls said. “They were down a few players, but even without those guys, they’re still really good. We just tried to prepare our guys the right way by preaching confidence and reminding them what we’ve done this year so far. We know we can be a pretty good team.”

Bluffton entered the night short-handed, and by the end of the game, they were down two rotation players. Guard Wade Ginther was out of the lineup with an illness, and Blake Sommers left the game late in the first half and didn’t return.

Despite the two glaring absences in its lineup, Bluffton stayed within striking distance until about halfway through the fourth quarter.

“We were going to fight. There was no question about that,” Bluffton coach Todd Boblitt said. “This group has battled through adversity throughout the entire season and we just weren’t able to survive one more game, which is what we really wanted.

“It’s been a rivalry between these groups since they were in youth basketball. This is always a competitive-spirited game between two communities that are really close. They have skilled guys and they have athletes. I think that combination is tough no matter who it’s against.”

With the score at 53-50 and 5:39 left in the fourth, Kyle Hopkins and Trenton Barraza closed out the game by combining for the final 17 points and outscoring Bluffton by eight.

Landen Worcester paced the Pirates with 16 points. Terron Boblitt added 13, and Marek Donaldson finished with eight.

Columbus Grove made 28 of its 47 field goals, good for 59 percent from the floor, while Bluffton converted 20 of its 44 shot attempts (45%).

The Bulldogs also held the rebounding advantage 19-16 and won the turnover battle 9-7.

Columbus Grove 70, Bluffton 59

Score by quarters:

Columbus Grove 13 24 13 20 —70

Bluffton 13 17 16 13 — 59


Trenton Barraza 25, Kyle Hopkins 25, Bo Birnesser 14, Evan Sautter 2, Kylan Mayes 2, Zach Reynolds 2, Totals: 28-10-70


Landen Worcester 16, Terron Boblitt 13, Marek Donaldson 8, John-Paul Yoder 7, Brody Sommers 7, Luke Ginther 5, Kerry Wright 3, Totals: 20-13-59

Three-point goals: CG — Hopkins 2, Birnesser 1, Barraza 1; BL — Boblitt 3, Donaldson 1, L. Ginther 1, Wright 1.

Records — Columbus Grove 14-9; Bluffton 17-6

Reach Chris Howell at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @Lima_Howell