By MICHAEL BURWELL
ARLINGTON — Arlington and Columbus Grove entered Saturday’s nonleague girls basketball game with plenty of similarities.
The two state-ranked teams showed just how evenly matched they were.
The Red Devils and Bulldogs were tied after each quarter, with neither team having a lead at any time of more than six points. But the Red Devils took the early lead in overtime and 5-foot-11 junior Lauren Willow blocked a shot by Columbus Grove’s Jade Clement in the final seconds to preserve a 50-48 win.
Arlington, ranked second in the latest Associated Press Division IV poll, improved to 20-1 while Columbus Grove, ranked third in the Division III poll, dropped to 18-2.
Saturday’s game had nine lead changes and eight ties. But it also had 45 fouls and 60 free throws, with Arlington converting 25 of 36 shots from the line and Columbus Grove hitting 16 of 24.
“Obviously, with both teams being state ranked coming in, both teams were super excited, you can tell their communities were excited. There was a lot of energy in the gym,” Columbus Grove coach Brian Schroeder said. “I think that led to all the fouls. Typically, Arlington and Grove both play fairly clean basketball, so I think that had as much to do with it as anything.”
Columbus Grove’s two starting post players, 6-1 senior Lynea Diller and 5-11 sophomore Paige Bellman, fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Arlington’s Sierra Nichols, a 6-0 junior post, also fouled out after Diller drew a charge with 2:18 left.
That opened the door for Haley Dillon in overtime.
Arlington’s 5-10 senior post scored four of her 13 points in the extra session, including a bucket in the paint 14 seconds into overtime to give the Red Devils a 44-42 lead.
“That was the first thing we talked about when we sat down — OK, it’s going into overtime. I told Haley, ‘Both their posts are out’ and she got the biggest smile on her face,” Arlington coach Seth Newlove said. “We went right to her the very first possession.”
After Clement’s drive for a bucket tied the game, Jayme Webb drained a long 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to give Arlington a 47-44 lead with 1:46 left.
Columbus Grove’s Hallie Malsam, who entered the game late in the fourth quarter after Diller fouled out, scored off an offensive rebound to narrow the deficit to 47-46. Dillon added her second bucket and Malsam scored off a pass from Kyrah Yinger to make it 49-48 Arlington with 12 seconds left.
Megan Johnson made one of two free throws to give Arlington a 50-48 lead with eight seconds left, and Willow’s block on Clement’s drive to the basket gave the Red Devils the win.
In the fourth quarter, Arlington built a 37-33 lead with 5:48 left, but Clement knocked down two free throws and sliced through the Red Devils’ defense for a bucket in the paint to tie it with 4:13 left.
Macy McCluer drained a 3-pointer in the corner off a pass from Grace Schroeder to give Columbus Grove a 40-37 lead with 3:02 left.
Dillon and Clement exchanged a pair of free throws, and Webb’s drive for a basket cut Arlington’s deficit to 42-41 with 36 seconds left. Dillon split a pair of free throws after a steal to tie it at 42-42 with 14 seconds left, and Yinger’s shot on a drive to the basket was off the mark in the final seconds.
“You have to have the courage to take the last shot. Most girls in those situations are looking to pass it off and I was just really proud of her to take it upon herself and get to the rim,” Brian Schroeder said.
Arlington found success with Nichols in the first half. She scored eight of her 13 points in the first 8:44 of the game, including a bucket off a pass from Dillon to give the Red Devils a 13-11 lead early in the second quarter.
Nichols, along with Whitney Dodds (game-high 14 points) and Webb, sat most of the second quarter due to foul trouble. The Red Devils’ depth, however, kept the game close as the two teams were tied at 21 at halftime.
“They all had two or three fouls in the first half,” Newlove said of Nichols, Dodds and Webb. “I’ve preached (that) our bench has been good all year, and they were good tonight. They carried us through some of those stretches.”
Columbus Grove’s 29-23 lead with 5:02 left in the third quarter was the biggest lead for either team. But the Red Devils closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to tie it at 31-31.
Clement’s 10 points led the Bulldogs, while Diller and Yinger both added eight points.
Bellman grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, but the Red Devils had a 30-23 advantage on the boards.
Arlington committed 22 turnovers, while Columbus Grove had 13.
COLUMBUS GROVE (18-2)
Clement 4-2–10, Diller 2-4–8, Yinger 1-6–8, Bellman 2-2–6, McCluer 2-0–6, Hoffman 2-0–4, Malsam 2-0–4, Bame 0-2–2, Caudill 0-0–0, Schroeder 0-0–0. TOTALS: 15-47 16-24 — 48.
Dodds 1-12–14, Nichols 5-3–13, Dillon 4-5–13, Webb 2-0–5, Jolliff 0-4–4, Johnson 0-1–1, Willow 0-0–0, Russell 0-0–0. TOTALS: 12-33 25-36 — 50.
Columbus Grove 11 10 10 11 6 — 48
Arlington 11 10 10 11 8 — 50
3-POINT GOALS: Columbus Grove 2-15 (McCluer 2); Arlington 1-9 (Webb 1).
REBOUNDS: Columbus Grove 23 (Bellman 7); Arlington 30 (Dillon 6).
TURNOVERS: Columbus Grove 13, Arlington 22.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Columbus Grove, 43-40.
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