By ANDREW WILLIAMS
for the review times
MOUNT BLANCHARD — Full-court pressure defense can be a great weapon to wear down an opponent and force turnovers that turn into easy baskets on the offensive end.
When both teams utilize it, though, as Elmwood and Bluffton did in a Division III sectional semifinal matchup Tuesday night at Riverdale High School, the results can make for a physically taxing game in which one team simply tries to outlast the other.
Bluffton got the final word, hitting four key free throws in the final minute, and finished the game on a 6-2 burst to drop Elmwood 51-45 and advance to a sectional final Saturday at 8 p.m. against second-seeded Ottawa-Glandorf (20-2) .
Upper Sandusky (14-9) topped Kenton 53-33 in the early game Tuesday night and will battle top-seeded Liberty-Benton (19-2) at 6:15 p.m. Saturday with a sectional crown on the line.
The Pirates seemed more equipped than the Royals to handle the pressure early and ran out to a 29-21 halftime lead thanks to eight points each from Sarah Schriner and Paige Buroker.
Elmwood (16-6) ended the opening half with more turnovers (10) than field goals (6), hitting just 25 percent (6 of 24) from the field.
“I think it had a lot to do with our press,” Bluffton coach Eric Garmatter said. “You like to think that. We tried to at least get a hand in the face and make it tough for the (Kristen) Curtis girl to shoot because she’s a good shooter.
“The key was just to get off to a good start, cover their shooters and stuff like that. For the most part, we wanted to try to limit them to one shot on offense. They’re a good team. We just fought and battled our way through it.”
In a game which the Pirates led wire-to-wire, the Royals got within one point two different times in the fourth quarter but was unable to make enough plays to overtake the Pirates.
Two free throws by Curtis, who finished with a game-high 20 points, cut the lead to 47-45 with 36.1 seconds left, but a pair of free throws each by Schriner and Andie Schmutz put the game away.
“Bottom line, they outplayed us,” Elmwood coach Doug Reynolds said. “You cannot get behind in a tournament game and always play coming behind. More turnovers than field goals, it’s uncalled (for) if I have four seniors out there and a junior.
“It was a physical game. They took some rebounds away from us that you have to have. It’s tournament time and we didn’t rise to that occasion to rebound when we needed to. We kept fighting back. We either didn’t get a rebound, we gave them up an outside shot or we missed a shot inside. We missed foul shots and they hit their foul shots.”
Schriner led Bluffton with 12 points and Buroker added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Sam Ervin scored seven points for Elmwood.
Schriner 5-2–12, Hunt 4-0–9, Buroker 3-2–11, Fruchey 0-0″”0, Schumtz 3-3–9, Parkins 3-0–6, Pritchard 2-0–4. TOTALS: 20-46 7-8 — 51.
Sears 0-0–0, Hillard 2-2–6, Curtis 7-4–20, Brashear 0-0–0, Swavel 2-1–5, Harvey 0-2–2, Emmitt 2-0–5, Ervin 3-1–7. TOTALS: 15-51 10-17 — 45.
Bluffton 12 17 9 13 — 51
Elmwood 9 12 16 8 — 45
3-Point GOALS: Bluffton 4-13 (Buroker 3, Hunt); Elmwood 3-12 (Curtis 2, Emmitt).
rebounds: Bluffton 29 (Buroker 7); Elmwood 25 (Hillard 7).
turnovers: Bluffton 21; Elmwood 16.