By MICHAEL BURWELL
BLUFFTON — It was one extreme or the other for Bluffton’s boys basketball team on Monday.
The Pirates shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and had a season-high scoring output, but 17 turnovers caught the attention of head coach Todd Boblitt.
In the end, Bluffton’s offensive outburst was too much for Monclova Christian as the Pirates rolled past the Thunder 63-42 in a nonleague game at Bluffton High School.
“I thought our guys shot with confidence. We were able to make shots early,” Boblitt said. “It was a little, I guess unsettling, the number of turnovers that we had and that’s kind of uncharacteristic for us.
“We have been, all season long, a team that’s done a good job taking care of the ball and tonight we didn’t do that.”
Bluffton (9-10) shot a blistering 59 percent (23 of 39) from the floor, including 50 percent (8 of 16) from 3-point range. The Pirates also made 64 percent (9 of 14) of their free throws.
Senior wing Kaleb Jefferson scored eight of his game-high 14 points in the third quarter and added eight rebounds for the Pirates. Senior guard Dakota Bricker chipped in 13 points and sophomore guard Mason Soper totaled 12 points, including three 3-pointers, and a game-high nine rebounds.
Overall, six Bluffton players scored in the first half and eight scored overall.
“I think our guys did a good job, especially early, of working the ball inside out and (that’s) something that we work on regularly,” Boblitt said. “I thought we were getting good shots in rhythm and our guys were confident and making those shots, which was pleasant to watch.”
Monclova Christian (14-5) went on a 7-2 run in the second quarter to pull within 26-20, and after Mason Ault’s bucket off Soper’s pass for Bluffton, Nick Kaufman’s baseline jumper got a friendly bounce and went through the hoop to pull the Thunder back within six. Grant Ledyard hit one of two free throws to cut Bluffton’s lead to 28-23 with 2:29 left in the first half.
The 3-point shot, which helped Bluffton score 20 points in the first five minutes, was big for Pirates at the end of the half.
Jefferson found Baylor Garmatter for a corner trey with 2:05 left, and in the final 31 seconds, Bricker found Jared Piercefield and Soper for 3-pointers as the Pirates’ lead swelled to 14.
“We were doing what we wanted to do as far as getting those turnovers,” Monclova Christian coach Chad Walters said. “Our shots were falling and then, unfortunately, we give up two turnovers within the last 30 seconds so we ended up giving up six points. We cut it within (five), I thought we really had a good drive going and unfortunately, I think we just got a little too greedy on what we were trying to do.”
Bluffton opened up the third quarter on an 11-2 run to build a 48-25 lead with 5:15 left, but didn’t score again until Jefferson’s bucket with a second left in the frame.
Monclova Christian went on an 8-0 run between then, with junior guard Luke Metzger knocking down a deep 3-pointer, scoring on a drive to the bucket and converting a steal into a layup.
Bluffton, meanwhile, had six turnovers in the quarter.
“We just had stretches tonight where I don’t know if it’s just the Monday night or what the case is. We certainly are going to have to play cleaner this weekend to give ourselves a chance,” Boblitt said.
Metzger and senior guard Caleb Kynard both had 11 points for the Thunder, while Kaufman added eight points and five rebounds. Matt Meyer grabbed a team-high seven boards.
Monclova Christian shot just 32 percent (16 of 50) from the floor, including 18 percent (4 of 22) from 3-point range. The Thunder only committed nine turnovers, but were outrebounded 34-25.
Ault had six points and six boards, while Jared Piercefield also scored six points for Bluffton.
MONCLOVA CHRISTIAN (14-5)
Kynard 3-3–11, Metzger 5-0–11, Kaufman 4-0–8, Meyer 2-2–6, Mitchell 2-0–5, Ledyard 0-1–1, Patterson 0-0–0, Life 0-0–0. TOTALS: 16-50 6-15 — 42.
Jefferson 5-4–14, Bricker 5-2–13, Soper 4-1–12, Ma. Ault 3-0–6, Ja. Piercefield 2-0–6, Garmatter 1-2–5, Jo. Piercefield 2-0–4, Fruchey 1-0–3, Mc. Ault 0-0–0. TOTALS: 23-39 9-14 — 63.
Monclova Christian 11 12 10 9 — 42
Bluffton 22 15 13 13 — 63
3-Point GOALS: Monclova Christian 4-22 (Kynard 2, Metzger & Mitchell 1); Bluffton 8-16 (Soper 3, Ja. Piercefield 2, Garmatter, Fruchey & Bricker 1).
rebounds: Monclova Christian 25 (Meyer 7); Bluffton 34 (Soper 9).
turnovers: Monclova Christian 9, Bluffton 17.
junior varsity: Bluffton, 52-21.
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