Big Green knock out young Chieftains

PHOTO BY REBECCA PADULA Ottoville's Haley Hoersten attempts to block Hopewell-Loudon's MaKayla Elmore in the Division IV regional semifinal Thursday in Elida.

ELIDA — Instead of starting with how his team played Thursday night, Ottoville coach David Kleman was amazed and somewhat anxious at the notion of how young Hopewell-Loudon is and what they can become in the years to come.

However, Thursday in a Division IV regional semifinal, the Big Green handled everything the Chieftains threw at them in a 47-41 victory.

“I was impressed with how well they played with how young they were. They are a talented, scrappy group with one junior, sophomores and freshman. I told coach (Bob Gase) that they are giving notice to all the other teams of what’s coming for you guys,” Kleman said.

The more experienced Big Green looked ready and raced out to a 13-3 advantage to start the game. After an Abbe Beidelschies 3-pointer that gave H-L a 3-2 lead, Ottoville’s Kasey Knippen, Nicole Knippen and Brynlee Hanneman hit consecutive treys. Morgan Searles drained a triple for the Chieftains as they made just two baskets in the opening quarter. They trailed 14-6.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-3 MaKayla Elmore was scoreless in the first quarter and didn’t get her first basket until the 4:50 mark of the second period on a tough layup. She had four points and six rebounds at the half as H-L battled back to within 21-16 at the half.

Elmore split a pair of free throws out of halftime to get H-L within 21-17, but it was the closest they got the rest of the game.

Ottoville responded with a 14-0 run aided by four consecutive triples to build a 35-17 advantage. Elmore had four points and Olivia Zender swished a 3 to get the Chieftains within 36-24 after three.

“That pretty well hurt us and it basically killed us,” H-L coach Bob Gase said about the 3-point barrage from Ottoville in the third quarter. “We had a couple missed assignments there, but it happens.

“They play hard, but just didn’t put a few of those shots in that usually go in. I’m so proud of them. You start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior and you get there, which was an accomplishment, and to battle them guys like we did … I’m just happy.”

Down by 12, H-L started a comeback in the fourth period, including Elmore dropping in 11 of her game-high 20 points in the quarter, but Ottoville didn’t allow H-L to get closer than four points with 40 seconds left.

“We did a pretty good job (defensively),” Kleman said. “The Elmore girl I think is a Big Ten prospect because athletically she does so much and hit a couple of 3s there at the end. When you’re 6-3 and you stroke it like that and handle the ball … they’ll be coming out of the woodwork to try to get her.

“We missed some layups that would have probably made things a little bit easier for us, but at this time of year I always tell the girls, ‘What do we have to do? The answer is always grind it out. Was it pretty? No. What was it?’ I hold up my fingers and it’s a ‘W’ which is the only thing that matters at this time of the year. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be a ‘W.'”

Haley Schlagbaum led the Big Green with 14 points, while Kasey Knipped chipped in 12 and Nicole Knippen ended with seven. Elmore pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for the Chieftains. Zender finished with seven points.

“Until they hit all of those 3s in a row, that definitely hurt us,” Gase said. “I was proud of how well the girls came back. We’ll be around. They better get used to seeing us here.”