By ANDY WOLF
The Elseser sisters had quite the offensive connection on Tuesday night.
Liberty-Benton’s Caitlin and Sydney Elseser combined to either score or assist on every bucket through the first three quarters as the Eagles rolled over Columbus Grove 56-27 for a nonleague girls basketball win.
Caitlin Elseser, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, was a matchup nightmare all game long, racking up a game-high 30 points and six rebounds with two assists.
Sydney Elseser, a 5-9 sophomore, hit one 3-pointer in each of the first three quarters for nine points as the Eagles improved to 9-2 overall.
Kenzie King had four 3-pointers and 15 points for the Bulldogs, who fell to 11-3.
“It’s definitely awesome to play with my sister,” Caitlin Elseser said. “We have great chemistry throughout the whole team but having my sister there, we’ve had this kind of connection. So I know where she’s going, she knows where I’m going.
“I feel like we’ve really been able to jell through this year.”
Caitlin Elseser outscored the Bulldogs on her own, making 13 shots from the field and 4 of 5 at the foul line. When she wasn’t looking to score, she searched for an open shooter to create “a blend and balance of inside-out.”
Their efforts were, undoubtedly, a big key, according to L-B coach Nate Irwin.
“They play well together and they’re both scorers in a different way,” Irwin said. “Sydney’s been our best perimeter threat this year as far as made 3s (team-high 30).
“… She’s become a solid defensive player for us and when she does that, it makes her that much better of a player because she can shoot it.”
Liberty-Benton scored the first 12 points on Tuesday and led 14-2, 26-7 and 44-20 through the end of the first three frames.
Caitlin Elseser scored on a post-up to start and kicked out to Sydney for a 3-ball on the next possession.
Soon after, Caitlin converted two more post moves before Sydney assisted a kickout to Taylor Ward for an open 3-pointer to cap the 12-0 spurt.
Caitlin Elseser scored six more points in the second quarter and added 15 more points in the third.
Neither Elseser was on the court to start the fourth quarter as Brooke Deeter’s 3-pointer snapped the streak three possessions in.
By then, L-B led 47-22.
Caitlin Elseser did re-enter to knock in a free throw and hit 30 points on the nose before exiting shortly after.
“Anything I can do to help my teammates, whether that be 30 points or no points and 10 rebounds, whatever I have to do to help my team be in the best situation possible to win a game, that’s what I’ll do,” Caitlin Elseser said.
Meanwhile, Columbus Grove struggled to find its own offensive rhythm.
The Bulldogs committed 12 first-half turnovers with eight in the first quarter — four via traveling calls — and 22 in all.
“Obviously, we talked about playing hard and showing a little bit of toughness and seeing where we stood,” Columbus Grove coach Brian Schroeder said. “(L-B) came out and hit some shots early. We got some decent looks that didn’t fall and it sort of snowballed on us from there.”
Outside of King, no other Columbus Grove player had more than four points.
“L-B plays great defense but I thought a majority of (the turnovers) were unforced in terms of they weren’t pressuring a whole lot on the perimeter. It was more just a driving into spots that maybe we shouldn’t, making bad reads, traveling,” Schroeder said. “(Those) things we’ll hopefully correct. We’ve got two big games coming up (Spencerville on Thursday and Miller City on Saturday).”
Liberty-Benton did it all Tuesday in the absence of two senior starters in Abbey Hatch and Schy Shepherd — each injured since the turn of the calendar.
“Schy is having surgery on Friday, possible torn meniscus,” Irwin said. “We don’t know if it’s totally torn or partially torn.
“Abbey, they felt was a dislocated kneecap. She’s getting an MRI to confirm.”
Both of their statuses are uncertain for upcoming games.
“It’s taking a few games for some girls to learn that new role,” Irwin said. “Tonight, our role players played well.
“… Grove has a very perimeter- oriented team and I thought we did a good job of contesting shots. Kenzie King had 15 points but maybe one of them was an easy shot.”
COLUMBUS GROVE (11-3)
Schneider 2-0–4, Witteborg 1-0–3, Schafer 0-0–0, Downing 0-0–0, Halker 1-0–2, Clement 1-0–3, King 5-1–15, Gladwell 0-0–0, Fortman 0-0–0. TOTALS: 10-31 1-4 –27.
Ward 1-0–3, C. Elseser 13-4–30, Rhodes 1-0–3, S. Elseser 3-0–9, Deeter 1-0–3, Kin 0-0–0, Irwin 0-0–0, Smith 0-0–0, Willow 4-0–8, Hiegel 0-0–0, Recker 0-0–0. TOTALS: 23-44 4-5 — 56.
Columbus Grove 2 5 13 7 — 27
Liberty-Benton 14 12 18 12 — 56
3-Point GOALS: Columbus Grove 6-15 (King 4, Clement & Witteborg); Liberty-Benton 6-18 (S. Elseser 3, Rhodes, Ward & Deeter).
rebounds: Columbus Grove 16 (Schneider, Witteborg, Downing, King, Gladwell & Fortman 2); Liberty-Benton 22 (C. Elseser 6).
turnovers: Columbus Grove 22; Liberty-Benton 10.
junior varsity: Liberty-Benton, 44-16.