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New Riegel uses scoring bursts to beat Hardin Northern

New Riegel's Jacob Theis is swarmed by Hardin Northern's Ewan Martin and Cole Morris during the first half of a district basketball game at Tiffin Columbian High School on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020. Jonathon Bird

It wasn’t some sort of high school basketball remake of “Night of the Living Dead.” It only seemed that way.

New Riegel put together three big scoring bursts and owned leads of 12 points early in the third period and 16 points early in the fourth, only to watch Hardin Northern keep coming back. And keep coming back.

In the end, however, the Blue Jackets had just enough to gain a 58-52 win in the opening round of the Division IV district tournament at Columbian Tuesday night.

“I think we had to beat them three times,” New Riegel coach David Losey said after his team improved to 10-13. “That’s what it felt like.”

It was New Riegel’s fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games. And while it wasn’t the Blue Jackets’ best shooting night on 3-pointers, the long ball was prevalent in key moments, just as it was in upset wins over Fostoria and Calvert to close the regular season.

New Riegel's Christopher Acree drives to the hoop during the first half of a district basketball game against Hardin Northern at Tiffin Columbian High School on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020. Jonathon Bird

Brandon Gillig, Christopher Acree, Hayden Hohman and Nick Reinhart all hit 3-pointers in a five-minute span of the second quarter, the latter three part of an 11-2 run that helped New Riegel gain a 31-24 halftime advantage.

“Yes, it was a game of runs, but the biggest one was that one in the second quarter — they got us 20-10 that quarter,” Hardin Northern coach Jared Thomas said. “I thought we played with them the other three quarters, but that one hurt.”

There were other runs coming.

Jacob Theis hit a short jumper and Reinhart added a 3-pointer off a pass from Gillig, and then Gillig drove the lane to give New Riegel a 38-26 edge with 6:09 still to go in the third period.

Ewan Martin had a putback and Owen Wetherill had a couple 3-pointers to help the Polar Bears draw to within 40-37 heading into the fourth. But there were missed opportunities also — Hardin Northern (10-13) made just three of eight free throw tries in the quarter.

New Riegel's Christopher Acree and Joe Tiell defend Hardin Northern's Nevin Robson after the trio fell to the floor during the first half of a district basketball game at Tiffin Columbian High School on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020. Jonathon Bird

Joe Tiell had a couple 3s and Acree one as New Riegel scored the first 13 points of the fourth period for a 53-37 lead with 5:09 to play. Reinhart had a couple assists as did Hohman and Theis grabbed an offensive rebound and passed to Reinhart for a jumper that capped the run.

Reinhart led New Riegel with 14 points. Acree added 13 while Tiell and Gillig were each contributing nine in a balanced attack. The latter three also had six rebounds apiece and Reinhart five.

“They are a really good defensive team and we knew that, but the big thing is they probably won the dribble penetration battle tonight,” Thomas said. “That stinks for us because we play a lot similar to them. We like to attack the basket and allow the 3 to complement that so their dribble penetration was a big difference.”

But the Bears weren’t finished just yet.

Nevin Robson, who led HN with 23 points, had a three-point play and scored off a steal while Wetherill (14 points) was nailing two more 3-pointers in an 11-0 response to trim the margin to 53-48 with 2:28 to go.

New Riegel gained some separation with five free throws over the final 1:43.

“We went up by 16 and I’m thinking all we’ve got to do is put them away,” Losey said. “And then, I think it was four straight possessions where we took real quick shots. And they’re hitting 3s at the other end with an offensive rebound and putback and maybe an and-one and they’re right back in it.

“But I don’t really doubt those guys in that situation,” he said. “I think earlier in the year, it might have been uh-oh. But I felt like we were going to calm the ship tonight and we did. They’ve been through it; they know what to do.”

New Riegel meets Sandusky Bay Conference River Division champion Old Fort (21-1) Friday at 6:15 p.m. in a district quarterfinal. Old Fort romped 72-32 at home early and then 53-38 at New Riegel later. But the Blue Jackets are 8-3 since that game.

“We’re just grateful to have a shot,” Losey said. “We’re playing better now. It will be a challenge, but hopefully, our guys will be up for it.”

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