By TED RADICK
ELIDA — Like a savvy investor, Liberty-Benton’s girls basketball team got in on the ground floor early and saw the dividends pile up down the road.
The Eagles built a quick 10-0 lead in Saturday’s Division III district final at the Elida Fieldhouse and overcame a few obstacles, namely foul trouble to several starters, in defeating Ottawa-Glandorf 72-58.
Liberty-Benton (22-2), advances to play Archbold (23-2) at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at Ohio Northern. It’s the third straight year the two teams will meet in a regional semifinal; they’ve split the two previous meetings with Archbold winning last year.
Ottawa-Glandorf finished its season at 22-3.
Liberty-Benton’s Nicolette DeVincentis hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening two minutes and nailed a third to give the Eagles a 13-1 edge. She finished the first quarter with four 3-pointers.
“The DeVincentis girl went off early and that was their comfort margin,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Troy Yant said.
“My teammates got me the ball, and I knew I had to make shots for my team,” DeVincentis said. “I think it was big in the first quarter that I stepped up for my team. It gives us a lot of confidence when we’re making shots and making plays.”
The Eagles needed that strong start once the fouls started piling up. Point guard Rachel Myers had two fouls in the opening four minutes, and 6-foot-2 center Lauren Kotey picked up her third with 6:19 remaining before halftime.
Ottawa-Glandorf trailed 25-17 at that point, and the Titans had a golden opportunity. They couldn’t capitalize.
“We did what we wanted to do, we got (Kotey) and Rachel in early foul trouble,” Yant said. “But when we went inside, we didn’t make the layups.”
Kotey sat the entire third quarter, and still the Titans lost ground.
“She wasn’t in there to alter our shots,” Yant said. “We just missed them. If we convert some of those … the other thing is, we didn’t get the offensive rebound when we did miss. We usually do.”
Myers scored seven points in the third quarter and Carrie Reynolds nine, including a 3-pointer late in the period that pushed a 36-32 halftime lead into a 55-46 L-B cushion entering the fourth quarter.
“That great start by Nicolette to get us out in front early was huge, especially once we started to get into foul trouble,” Liberty-Benton coach Nate Irwin said. “Lauren had to go to the bench, and we kind of used that cushion through the rest of the second quarter and all of the third quarter.
“Nicolette got those four 3-pointers in the first quarter, and they adjusted to make it harder for her. That’s when Carrie stepped up in the third quarter. As long as one of those two is shooting like that, we’re fine. If they’re both shooting like that, we’re pretty hard to defend.”
Myers scored a game-high 34 points, with 17 coming in each half. The hot streaks from DeVincentis and Reynolds put extra pressure on the Titans to catch up.
“We used a lot of strength, a lot of energy to try and get back into the game,” Yant said. “We tried to use our legs and go a little deeper, but it seemed every time we brought a new girl in we wouldn’t cover the corner and they found us.”
As the Titans busied themselves with pressuring on defense and working to come from behind, Yant said they got away from their halfcourt game on the offensive end.
“We didn’t really get to use our assets,” he said. “They did a good job of getting us out of our game. A couple of times we got jump started and it looked like we were going to get rolling, and they did a good job of controlling the tempo and keeping us from really running anything.”
Meanwhile, Liberty-Benton played heads-up basketball to keep the foul issues from compounding.
“A lot of us got in foul trouble early, so we just had to be smart about it,” Myers said.
Myers finished with just those two early fouls, Jensen Hiegel also played foul-free after also picking up two in the first quarter and Kayla Trevino provided valuable minutes in the post while Kotey was out.
“I knew we had to do what we’re capable of doing,” Reynolds said. “We have shooters on the outside and we can take advantage of that. And, we have girls who can step up and play inside when Lauren’s out. Having all those players who can shoot inside and outside and defend is an advantage for us.”
Liberty-Benton outscored the Titans 19-14 in the third quarter and never let Ottawa-Glandorf get closer than seven points in the fourth. The Eagles hit 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“That third quarter was huge for us,” Irwin said. “We were able to get through it without using Lauren; we kind of saved her for the end. Winning that third quarter was the biggest key to the game for us.”
Reynolds and DeVincentis each scored 14 points. Hiegel had eight rebounds, with Kotey and Reynolds both grabbing six.
Kristen Miller had a team-high 25 points for O-G, which shot 20 of 50 from the floor and 13 of 21 from the line. Anna Bellman had nine points and seven rebounds, and Elissa Ellerbrock eight points and eight rebounds. Dani Ellerbrock scored eight points.
Miller 8-15 8-10 25, Bellman 4-7 1-3 9, E. Ellerbrock 3-11 2-6 8, D. Ellerbrock 3-7 0-0 8, Hempfling 1-5 0-0 3, Maag 1-1 0-0 3, Schroeder 0-1 2-2 2, Basinger 0-3 0-0 0, White 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20-50 13-21 58.
Myers 10-19 9-10 34, Reynolds 6-12 0-1 14, DeVincentis 4-6 2-2 14, Trevino 1-1 3-4 5, Kotey 2-5 0-0 4, Hiegel 0-2 1-2 1. TOTALS: 23-45 15-19 72.
Ottawa-Glandorf 15 17 14 12 — 58
Liberty-Benton 21 15 19 17 — 72
3-Point GOALS: Ottawa-Glandorf 5-17 (D. Ellerbrock 2, Miller, Maag, Hempfling); Liberty-Benton 11-24 (Myers 5, DeVincentis 4, Reynolds 2).
rebounds: Ottawa-Glandorf 27 (E. Ellerbrock 8); Liberty-Benton 33 (Hiegel 8).
turnovers: Ottawa-Glandorf 14, Liberty-Benton 15.
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