By ANDREW WILLIAMS
for the review times
BLOOMDALE — Some nights it isn’t pretty, and Elmwood coach Dough Reynolds knows that.
The Royals turned the ball over 18 times, went 5 of 12 from the free-throw line, got outrebounded 34-24 and struggled to put Eastwood away after building a 20-point lead less than halfway through the fourth quarter.
All those things are moot, though, if you win the game, and Elmwood did just that by a 53-41 margin Thursday night to earn its second consecutive Northern Buckeye Conference championship.
“Bottom line is you win and some nights are ugly, but we got a win,” Reynolds said. “They play hard. Back-to-back championships, that’s a big feat. Nobody thought we would be the one. We thought we could be right there.
“I thought Eastwood really battled. They played hard. We were not aggressive on the boards. We needed to be more aggressive. We had a 20-point lead and then we stopped. We let them get some drives. I was not happy with our defense. We cannot let them drive the middle. Good teams do not let you get into the middle of the key and we let them do that.”
The Royals’ victory assured them of at least a share of the conference title, but they needed some help to win it outright on Thursday night, and they got it when Rossford edged Genoa 62-61.
Elmwood improved to 14-5 overall and 11-1 in the NBC with two league games left on the schedule. Rossford and Genoa are tied in second place with 8-4 league records.
Both teams got off to a slow start and Elmwood held a slim 7-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter after the teams combined to shoot 20 percent (5 of 25) and turned the ball over 11 times.
The Royals took control in the second quarter on the back of Kristen Curtis, who dropped in 11 of her game-high 20 points in the period. Elmwood outscored the Eagles 19-7 to make it 26-12 at halftime.
“We were cold,” Reynolds said. “First quarter, we missed a lot of shots. We’re struggling getting started the last few games out of the gate. We’re struggling on that. We need to get a quicker start.”
The teams played even through the third quarter and the Royals led 38-24 entering the fourth, but they increased that margin to 48-28 less than three minutes into the final period thanks to baskets by Curtis, Courtney Emmitt and Sam Ervin.
Eastwood (2-16, 1-13) refused to go away, though, and answered with a 7-0 run fueled by Mackenzie Albright and Emily Hayward to cut the deficit to 48-35 with less than three minutes to play.
Aubrey Peters was able to get it to 49-37 on a pair of free throws with 1:56 left, but that was as close as the Eagles would get the rest of the way.
“Our main goal tonight was to play all four quarters,” Eastwood coach Lindsay Ross said. “We’ve been struggling with that. They’ve been giving us the first half or just the second half and tonight we finally put it together with all four quarters. I’m very, very proud of them. They never gave up, so that was our biggest thing tonight. Last game we played Elmwood it was 70-32, so tonight in itself is a victory for us.”
Ervin finished with 17 points, while Curtis and Madison Sears each grabbed six rebounds for the Royals.
Albright and Reagan Boice each scored a team-high 12 points for the Eagles, while Peters snatched 16 boards and Hayward added 13 rebounds.
Despite clinching a league title with the win, Reynolds said his team is not satisfied with that because there are still games left to be played. When the season comes to an end, he said they will be able to look back and reflect on how special the season has been.
“They fight,” he said. “We don’t usually blow anybody out, but we put ourself in a place where we can win. You take a look, you’re 14-5, we are 11-1 in the league, I mean that is fantastic. But we said we’re not going to celebrate until the season is over. Then we can look back because that’s how you’ve got to drive yourself to get yourself ready for tournament. The kids know the things that they didn’t do. It’s still a win.”
Ameling 1-0–3, Albright 4-4–12, Boice 4-4–12, Jennings 2-0–4, Peters 0-2–2, Hayward 3-2–8. TOTALS: 14-55 12-16 — 41.
Sears 0-0–0, Hillard 1-0–2, Curtis 8-1–20, Veryser 1-1–3, Swavel 1-1–3, Harvey 0-0–0, Emmitt 3-1–8, George 0-0–0, Ervin 8-1–17, Kynard 0-0–0. TOTALS: 22-47 5-12 — 53.
Eastwood 5 7 12 17 – 41
Elmwood 7 19 12 15 – 53
3-Point GOALS: Eastwood 1-15 (Ameling); Elmwood 4-15 (Curtis 3, Emmitt).
rebounds: Eastwood 34 (Peters 16); Elmwood 24 (Sears & Curtis 6).
turnovers: Eastwood 20; Elmwood 18.