By PAT MAGERS
FOR THE COURIER
TIFFIN — It was old home night for Kaia Woods. It probably felt that way for two of her teammates as well.
Woods, Hopewell-Loudon’s junior sparkplug of a point guard, was on familiar ground at Tiffin Columbian, where she played varsity ball the previous two seasons.
Teammates MaKayla Elmore and Olivia Zender looked pretty much at home as well as the three combined for 55 points in the Chieftains’ 58-36 win over the Tornadoes on Thursday night.
Hopewell-Loudon ran its record to 12-0 while dropping Columbian to 3-9. But it wasn’t until the second half that the decision became clear.
The Tornadoes made 6 of 13 shots in the opening period, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Serena Ingalls and Hailey Cooper hit long balls early and Mia Ingalls came off the bench and knocked down a pair of 3s in a matter of 21 seconds. When Meredith Obringer beat the buzzer with a putback, it gave Columbian a 16-11 lead.
“That start was exciting,” Columbian coach Amy Cooper said. “Our main goal was to play as a team. That first quarter proved what we can do when we play as a team. We were seeing the open man and no matter who that was, we got them the ball and they were hitting the shot.”
The problem for the Tornadoes was they couldn’t keep it going. Hopewell-Loudon turned up the pressure a little and limited Columbian to just eight points over the next two quarters, working them for 17 of their 28 total turnovers over that span.
Elmore and Zender each scored four as Hopewell-Loudon edged ahead 22-21 at the half. Then the Chieftains in general, and Woods in particular, went to work in the third period.
Elmore opened the scoring with a drive down the lane and Woods turned a steal, one of six she recorded for the night, into a layup. Zender took passes from Woods and Hope Kreais and nailed back-to-back 3-pointers for a 32-21 lead with 6:11 still to play in the quarter.
Obringer scored for Columbian, but Woods took over. She grabbed a rebound and went the distance for a layup, hit two foul shots and finished with a steal for two and another layup as the Chieftain lead ballooned to 40-24 heading into the fourth.
“They hit some nice shots on us early and at the same time, our shot selection for the first half wasn’t as good as it could have been,” H-L coach Bob Gase said. “We made a couple adjustments and the girls executed much better.
“We did a better job in our halfcourt defense and on dead-ball situations, we went to a diamond press and that helped us get the ball a few times without giving up any easy buckets. We did a really nice job that third quarter.”
Woods and Elmore (four 3-pointers) each scored 20 points and both contributed in other ways. Woods had four assists and six rebounds to go with her team-leading steal count while Elmore had eight boards, five steals and a couple blocks.
Zender checked in with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
“It was different, but it was all love here,” said Woods, who posed for pictures with and chatted at length with former teammates afterward. “They gave us a run for our money. They’re a good team, don’t get me wrong, but I also feel like we didn’t play up to our potential.
“At the end of the day, though, it was all love,” she said. “I’m from here.”
“She did a great job,” Gase said. “She was excited about coming here and playing and sometimes, something like that can work against you. Some of the other girls were sharing that excitement. But once we settled in, we were OK.”
Mia Ingalls led Columbian with 10 points and eight rebounds. Obringer had seven points and Serena Ingalls contributed six points and six boards.
“That was a nice game for Mia,” Cooper said. “She’s been struggling a little with her shooting so that was good to see.
“They got the best of us that third quarter, but overall, I’m happy with our effort. We kept a team that’s averaging, what, 70 or 80 points a game and held them to under 60. I’m proud of that and we’re going to take that and use it (as motivation) the rest of the year.”
Elmore 7-2–20, Woods 8-4–20, Zender 4-4–15, Kreais 1-1–3. TOTALS: 20-49 11-16 — 58.
TIFFIN COLUMBIAN (3-9)
M. Ingalls 3-2–10, Obringer 3-1–7, S. Ingalls 1-3–6, Boes 2-1–5, Cooper 1-0–3, Newland 1-0–3, T. Ingalls 1-0–2. TOTALS: 12-41 7-12 — 36.
H-L 11 11 18 18 — 58
Columbian 16 5 3 12 — 36
3-Point GOALS: Hopewell-Loudon 7-20 (Elmore 4, Zender 3); Tiffin Columbian 5-16 (M. Ingalls 2, S. Ingalls, Cooper & Newland).
rebounds: Hopewell-Loudon 23 (Elmore 8); Tiffin Columbian 32 (M. Ingalls 8).
turnovers: Hopewell-Loudon 15, Tiffin Columbian 28.