LIMA — Once Lima Central Catholic’s engine got warmed up, there wasn’t much Bluffton could do to cool it off.
Three players reached double-digits to keep the LCC girls basketball team unbeaten after a 68-46 victory over visiting Bluffton on Wednesday in a nonleague game.
LCC moves to 6-0 while Bluffton falls to 4-3.
Sydney Mohler, who at 5-foot-8 is LCC’s tallest player, helped outrebound Bluffton’s taller team with a game-high 17 rebounds to go with her 13 points. Kayla Verhoff scored 17 points for the Thunderbirds, and Madison Stolly had 14 points.
LCC made 25-of-52 shots from the field and hit 8-of-16 3-point attempts.
“This year it’s been really great having so many shooters and that has been a great tool for us to get leads in the game,” LCC coach Katie Krieg said. “Last year, we lost so many of these first games by three or less points, so we were really hoping to win those close games this year. We’ve got everyone back and with the addition of Madison Stolly, that’s really jump-started our game.
“Kayla Verhoff really stepped up tonight, and she has really stepped up in other games. Overall, Meredith (Shepherd) is such a great player for us. She’s not the quickest and she’s not the tallest, but she’s so incredibly smart. She’s such a leader for us on the court.”
Bluffton stuck right with LCC for the first quarter, trailing only 14-13 heading into the second. But that’s when LCC started to heat up.
The T-birds opened the second quarter by hitting 6-of-7 field-goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, to go up 30-19 with 4:04 remaining before halftime. Shepherd hit two of her 3-pointers in the stretch, finishing with nine points, and Verhoff had a 3-pointer and a bucket.
LCC cooled off a bit after that but still led 33-23 at half. Following the intermission, Mohler got hot with nine points in an 11-4 run that put her team up 46-30 with 3:37 remaining in the quarter.
“We couldn’t match up with their quickness,” Bluffton coach Eric Garmatter said. “Their quickness and their ability to get out in transitions just killed us. They did a good job of keeping us from getting into our offense.
“For a bunch of girls that are pretty small, they used that quickness to beat us pretty bad on the boards. Meredith (Shepherd) just seemed to be in the right spot all the time.”
Along with her nine points, Shepherd led LCC with five steals while Sydney Santaguida had nine points, three steals and three assists.
Sarah Schriner turned in a nice effort for Bluffton with a team-high 14 points while Abbie Parkins added 12 points.
Bluffton entered the game following three solid victories in a row with wins over Ottoville, Fort Jennings and Delphos Jefferson.
“Tonight was just a hiccup we need to bounce back from,” Garmatter said. “The Ottoville win, I know they’ve lost a lot but they beat us by 40 last year. For us to bounce back and beat them last week was huge.”
The Pirates will get a bit of a break before trying to bounce back when Lincolnview visits Bluffton on Dec. 19.
LCC, meanwhile, doesn’t have much time to celebrate. The T-birds will take on a tough foe when Lima Senior visits at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Spartans, who play host to St. Ursula Academy today, are 4-1.
“That’s going to be a really tough one for us, we’ll see how good we are then,” Krieg said. “(Guard Indiya Benjamin) is such a great player. We’re just going to do what we do, which is play tough, man halfcourt defense, take care of the ball and try to handle their pressure.
“Last year we did not do a good job of handling their pressure. But we’re more mature this year, we have some experience, so we’re hoping that will be a whole different game for us.”