By ANDREW WILLIAMS
BLUFFTON — It wasn’t pretty for Bluffton Tuesday night.
The Pirates shot just 13 percent (3 of 23) from the field in the first half, turned the ball over eight times and trailed Pandora-Gilboa 20-12 at halftime.
But on a night when they weren’t at their best on either end of the floor, Bluffton found a way to get the job done, outscoring the Rockets 33-18 in the second half and rallying for a 45-38 nonconference victory to improve to 6-7 on the season.
“Our kids kept fighting,” Bluffton coach Todd Boblitt said. “I thought we competed and that didn’t really change from the tip to the end of the game. We just struggled on the offensive end finding ways to score.”
Despite leading 8-5 at the end of the first quarter, the Pirates shot 8.3 percent (1 of 12) from the field in the period and endured two stretches of 4-plus minutes without a basket in the first half.
Seth Schmenk finished with 7 of his team-high 12 points in the second frame as the Rockets outscored the Pirates 15-4 over that stretch to go into the half with an 8-point advantage.
“I thought we played pretty well in our zone,” Pandora-Gilboa coach Logan Smith said. “We kept them out of the lane, forced them into things that they didn’t want to do.
The shots that weren’t falling for Bluffton in the first half began finding net in the third quarter.
Levi Kistler started the Pirates’ scoring in the period with a 3-pointer and Austin Bricker ended it with one to cut the deficit to 27-26 after doubling up the Rockets 14-7 in the quarter.
“We wanted to be able to penetrate, at least get in the lane and be more aggressive getting into the paint I thought we did a little bit better job the second half,” Boblitt said. “We knocked down some shots and that’s really the difference. I don’t think our looks were bad in the first half, we just weren’t knocking down shots.”
After the dismal opening half, Bluffton was able to hit 47.6 percent (10 of 21) from the floor in the second half, including 41.7 percent (5 of 12) from 3-point range. They also knocked down 82.4 percent (14 of 17) of their free-throw attempts for the game.
Mitchell Ault, who finished with 10 of his 12 points in the second half, said the team regrouped at halftime and was able to gather itself enough to make some better decisions in the final two quarters.
“We needed to calm down and we needed to work on getting to the hole and creating open shots because we were taking some bad shots in the first half,” Ault said. “We needed to get some better looks and that’s what happened in the second half.”
Bret Rumer hit a 3-pointer on Bluffton’s first possession to give the Pirates their first lead since 6:23 of the second quarter.
Pandora-Gilboa answered with a basket by Alex Osborn and Jared Tousley hit 1 of 2 free throws with 6:47 remaining to put the Rockets back ahead 30-29.
From that point on, though, Ault took over.
His basket with six minutes to play gave Bluffton a 31-30 lead they would never relinquish.
Ault made another shot from the low post to push the margin to 39-35 after Brian Schneck’s 3-ball had brought the Rockets within two with less than three to play.
Two free throws from Ault with 1:36 remaining made it 41-35 and his offensive rebound off Levi Kistler’s miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:16 to go ultimately sealed it for the Pirates.
Pandora-Gilboa finished 37.1 percent (13 of 35) from the field and 66.7 percent (8 of 12) from the foul line, while committing 25 turnovers. The Rockets also outrebounded the Pirates 29-21.
“He was huge,” Boblitt said of Ault. “He’s done a terrific job for us all season long just being really aggressive around the basket. He’s a great rebounder, especially for his size, and I thought tonight he came up with some big rebounds at critical times that gave us some second-chance opportunities and he was aggressive in the post in scoring. Really looked like he was trying to take it over on the offensive end and his effort was just tremendous.”
“I just work hard and whatever happens, happens,” Ault said. “I just happened to be in the right place, right time and it all worked out. Everybody wants to be that guy, but whatever look they give us you’ve just got to make the right play whether that’s to score it, pass it, make the rebound. Whatever it is to help the team win.”
Rieman 2-0–4, Schmenk 4-2–12, Schneck 1-1–4, Hovest 0-2–2, Osborn 2-0–4, Tousley 3-1–8, Fenstermaker 1-2–4. TOTALS: 13-35 8-12–38.
Bricker 3-0–7, Stratton 1-4–7, Phillips 0-0–0, Kistler 3-5–12, Ault 4-4–12, Rumer 1-0–3, J. Skilliter 1-1–4, Siefker 0-0–0, Parkins 0-0–0. TOTALS: 13-44 14-17–45.
Pandora-Gilboa 5 15 7 11 — 38
Bluffton 8 4 14 19 — 45
3-Point GOALS: Pandora-Gilboa 4-10 (Schmenk 2, Schneck & Tousley); Bluffton 5-19 (Bricker, Stratton, Kistler, Rumer & J. Skilliter).
rebounds: Pandora-Gilboa 29 (Schmenk 8); Bluffton 21 (Kistler 6).
turnovers: Pandora-Gilboa 25, Bluffton 13.
junior varsity: Bluffton, 46-33.
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