ELIDA — A quick start by Liberty-Benton went a long way toward a disappointing finish for Ottawa-Glandorf.
The Titans regularly made charges but never had a lead and fell to the Eagles 72-58 in a Division III district final at Elida on Saturday.
Liberty-Benton (22-2) will take on Archbold in the regional semifinals at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at Ohio Northern University. Ottawa-Glandorf ends its season 22-3.
Saturday’s result was the second time this season Liberty-Benton beat O-G. The Eagles beat the Titans 65-45 on Dec. 17. That was Ottawa-Glandorf’s last loss of the season until Saturday.
And in the early going, the district final showdown seemed destined for a similar easy win for L-B. The Eagles flew out of the gate, grabbing a 13-1 lead midway through the first. Liberty-Benton opened with a 10-0 run, hitting 4-of-5 field goals that included two 3-pointers by Nicolette Devincentis.
During that early run, Ottawa-Glandorf had four turnovers.
“(Devincentis) went off early, and I think that was their comfort margin,” O-G coach Troy Yant said. “We used a lot of strength, a lot of energy to get back in the game.”
Devincentis hit four 3s in the first quarter and finished with 14 points. Senior guard Rachel Myers had another huge performance with 34 points — hitting 10-of-19 field goals, 5-of-11 3-pointers and dishing four assists — while Carrie Reynolds added 14 points.
Those performances were key with 6-foot-2 post player Lauren Kotey sitting most of the second and third quarters with three fouls.
“The biggest key was we got off to a really big start,” Liberty-Benton coach Nate Irwin said. “We got in some foul trouble, we went to our bench but we’re not extremely deep like O-G is. They can just send waves and waves at you and they don’t miss a beat, we don’t have that.
“If we start the game and it’s 10-10 and we get into foul trouble like that, the girls may have panicked. But we had a little bit of a lead, and we kind of carried that all the way through.”
At times, Liberty-Benton seemed to cling to that lead with white knuckles. After the initial run, O-G answered with a 14-3 run of its own to cut the lead to 16-15 with 1:45 left in the first. Ottawa-Glandorf senior guard Kristen Miller keyed the blitz with nine of her team-high 25 points.
But as would be the recurring theme, once the Titans had the momentum, L-B reclaimed it. Devincentis hit one of her 3s and Miller sunk two-free throws to give the Eagles a 21-15 lead after one quarter.
The second and third quarters became a battle between Myers controlling the Eagle’s half-court offense on the perimeter — she scored 22 points in the quarters — and Miller leading O-G’s aggressive style with her slashing moves to the basket. She scored 13 in the second and third.
“I thought it was going to be a fight between Kristin and Rachel,” Yant said. “(Rachel) had a couple more cast of characters to help her out. Kristen played really well. We’re not going to be able to replace her. I’m glad she went out giving 100 percent.”
While O-G regularly pressured and harassed Liberty-Benton to cut the lead down to as much as four points on multiple occasions in the second and third quarters, the Eagles always found a big shot — normally a 3-pointer from Myers — to ward off the attack.
“She’s scored over 30 points in all three of our tournament games,” Olwin said. “She’s having a special tournament run.”
After three quarters, Liberty-Benton held a 55-46 lead and got Kotey back for the rest of the game. That was enough of a difference to give the Eagles a 17-12 edge in the fourth and the victory.
Liberty-Benton shot a sizzling 23-of-45 from the field (51 percent), including 11-of-24 (45.8) from behind the arc. Ottawa-Glandorf was 20-of-50 from the field (40 percent) and made just 5-of-17 3-pointers.
Liberty-Benton also won the rebounding battle 33-27.
“They’re a great shooting team,” Yant said. “They did a good job of keeping us out of our game. I thought there were a couple times we got jump started and were going to get rolling. But they did a nice job of controlling the tempo and not letting us run anything.
“They didn’t miss layups, they made their shots. We missed a lot of layups, we missed a lot of good opportunities especially early when we could have gotten back in it. We just didn’t capitalize.”
Kristen Miller 25, Anna Bellman 9, Elissa Ellerbrock 8, Dani Ellerbrock 8, Stephanie Hempfling 3, Michelle Maag 3, Danielle Schroeder 2. Totals: 20 13-21 58.
Rachel Myers 34, Carrie Reynolds 14, Nicollete Devincentis 14, Kayla Trevino 5, Lauren Kotey 4, Jensen Hiegel 1. Totals: 23 15-19 72.