NWOAL SHOWDOWN … Ella Voigt drives to the bucket in the first half versus Liberty Center. (PHOTO BY RICH HARDING, STAFF)
By: Nate Calvin
BRYAN – It was a matchup of state ranked and two of the hottest teams in Northwest Ohio on Thursday night in Bryan.
Liberty Center entered the game on a 10-game winning streak while Bryan had ripped off 14 consecutive wins.
The Golden Bears used hot shooting (16-23) in the first half along with the play of senior Blayze Langenderfer to lead 36-25 at the break and then held off the Tigers in the fourth quarter for a 54-45 win in front of a packed house.
The opening quarter saw both teams shoot the ball well (7-10) but struggle with turnovers as the Tigers were guilty of six and Bryan committed seven.
The Tigers asserted themselves early with a triple by Peyton Armey to give the Tigers their first lead a 5-4.
That was followed by an 11-4 run by LC ending with a steal and layup from Elle Mohler to stretch the lead to 16-8.
Bryan struck back as Allie Alspaugh would score down low, Langenderfer connected on a baseline jumper, and Ella Rau closed the quarter with a trey to trim the Tigers lead to 19-15 after one quarter.
Langenderfer continued her big first half by starting the second stanza with a driving layup and a short jumper from the right baseline to tie the game 19-19.
After buckets from Alyssa Giesige and Peyton Armey put the Tigers back on top at 23-19, an offensive rebound basket by Langenderfer started a 17-2 explosion by the Golden Bears.
Reese Grothaus had five points during the run, Kailee Thiel scored twice inside, Langenderfer buried a triple from the right wing to give her 11 points in the half, and Ella Voight had a conventional three-point play for a 36-25 halftime lead.
Bryan continued to expand the lead in the third quarter with two buckets by Thiel, a Grothaus score and four points from Voigt to push the lead to 44-30.
The Tigers would go to a smaller lineup toward the end of the frame, and it began to pay dividends as Gracie Miller hit a corner three and Bea Barrett scored to make it 45-35 heading to the fourth.
Liberty Center opened the quarter by getting the ball inside to Kailey Blanton, their only post player in the lineup, as she converted a three-point play and then was 2/2 at the line to cut the deficit to 45-40.
Thiel stopped the 10-0 Tiger run with a bucket before Blanton was 2/2 at the line again and added a field goal to make it a 49-45 Bryan lead in the final minute as their trapping defense caused six Golden Bear turnovers in the final frame.
Down the stretch though, Bryan was able hit some free throws and grabbed some big offensive rebounds against the smaller LC lineup on those missed foul shots to close out the game.
Bryan was just 7/13 at the foul line the final quarter but had four offensive boards in the quarter as they held a 35-19 advantage for the night on the glass, including a 16-5 edge in offensive rebounding.
Thiel, Grothaus, and Langenderfer led a balanced Bryan effort with 12 points each and Voigt added 11.
Armey topped LC with 10 and Blanton ended up with nine, all in the fourth quarter.
With the win, Bryan (16-1, 4-0 NWOAL) is the lone remaining undefeated squad in the NWOAL with games against Evergreen, Wauseon, and Swanton to close out league play over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Armey topped LC (16-2, 4-1) with 10 and Blanton ended up with nine, all in the fourth quarter.
L. CENTER (45) – Giesige 8; Gray 6; E. Mohler 4; Armey 10; H. Mohler 0; Keller 0; Perry 0; Miller 3; Jones 0; Barrett 5; Blanton 11; Totals: 10-5-10 – 45
BRYAN (54) – Thiel 12; Voigt 11; Grothaus 12; Rau 5; Smith 0; Arnold 0; Langenderfer 12; Alspaugh 2; Totals: 17-3-11 – 54
GAME STATISTICS – LC: FG – 15/40 (37%); FT – 10/13 (76%); Rebounds – 19 (5 offensive); Turnovers – 21; Bryan: FG – 20/43 (46%); FT – 11/23 (47%); Rebounds – 35 (16 offensive); Turnovers – 25
L. CENTER 19 6 10 10 – 45
BRYAN 15 21 9 9 – 54
JUNIOR VARSITY: LC, 52-23
Nate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org