By TED RADICK
Lima Bath took a 3-point lead at halftime Monday, stretched the advantage to seven points early in the third quarter and gave Liberty-Benton an opportunity to fold under its defensive pressure.
The Eagles were having none of that.
Katie Simon hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions as the Eagles clawed back into the game, Rachel Myers hit two treys in the fourth quarter and Liberty-Benton rallied from behind for a 50-47 victory in a nonconference girls basketball game.
The Eagles improved to 14-3 with their ninth straight win and 14th in their past 15 games. Bath fell to 12-5.
“This might have been the most complete game we’ve played all year,” Liberty-Benton coach Nate Irwin said. “We hit some big shots, we shot a good percentage and this was good to see.
“We got on a stretch after the Ottoville game (a 53-32 loss on Dec. 29) where we won five or six games handily. But, we’ve been on a streak lately where our wins have been ugly and we’ve just been kind of surviving.
“It was good to see the girls come out tonight with some heart and beat a good, solid basketball team. Bath is not your average four- or five-loss team. They play the who’s-who of girls basketball. They play anybody and everybody; we’re probably the fifth- or sixth-best team they’ve played this year.”
Simon, who finished with 20 points, sparked the Eagles with a 3-pointer with 5:11 left in the third quarter to bring Liberty-Benton within two points of the Wildcats. Bath’s Madison Dackin hit a trey to put the Wildcats ahead 34-29, but Simon’s 3-pointers on L-B next two possessions gave the Eagles a 35-34 lead.
“We got down seven points, and to be honest I didn’t know how our girls were going to respond,” Irwin said. “We really haven’t faced a situation like that this season against a team of this caliber. We responded really well. Simon hit a few 3-pointers to get us back into it, and the momentum kind of built from there.
Taylor Dackin hit a mid-range jumper to give Bath a 40-38 lead after three quarters before Myers, who scored a game-high 21 points, nailed a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back Liberty-Benton possessions. A Myers 10-footer gave the Eagles a 46-41 edge with 5:44 remaining.
Both teams made the state tournament in Columbus last season, Bath in Division II and L-B in Division III. The Wildcats showed their stuff and rallied back to take a 47-46 lead with 1:56 left as Madison Dackin snared an offensive rebound and hit a put-back.
The Eagles got the defensive stops they needed after that, though, and Simon and Carrie Reynolds each knocked down a pair of free throws in the late going to seal the victory.
Liberty-Benton went 6 of 11 from beyond the arc in the second half with Simon and Myers hitting three apiece.
“We had some defensive breakdowns, some mental mistakes,” Bath coach Doug Mauk said. “The players we had on the game plan to stop, we didn’t stop. It was mental mistakes, pure and simple.”
“We practiced really hard for this game, so we knew it was in us,” said Simon, noting that the Eagles kept their cool despite the Bath lead in the second half. “It was just a matter of if we could go out and get this accomplished, and we did.”
Myers, averaging 16.3 points per game coming in, and Simon, at 18.2 points per game, are obviously the focus of every opponent’s defense. While Mauk pointed to his team’s defensive mistakes, Simon and Myers credited some smart passing by the Eagles for their open shots.
Center Lauren Kotey led Liberty-Benton with five assists, some coming on kick-outs from the post and others using her height to see over the Bath defense from the wing.
“We had some great passes that found the open person,” Simon said. “Our teammates found us open, and that’s what we wanted.”
“We played very well as a team this game, and because we had such good passes from our teammates that’s how we got open for our threes, Katie and I,” Myers said.
Kotey, meanwhile, battled on the defensive end as well. Bath’s 6-foot star center Emily Ruhe did score 13 points, but Kotey kept her from dominating on the blocks.
“Lauren did a great job, and that was our biggest key,” Irwin said. “We knew they would run a lot of things through Ruhe, whether it’s her scoring or her kicking it back out. You have to worry so much about her, thankfully we have someone like Lauren who is 6-foot-2.
“We told her, OK, you’re one-on-one with her and we’re not going to be able to give you much double-team help. Lauren did get four fouls, but she spaced them out well enough that we never had to take her off the floor. I thought Lauren really made us better inside, and allowed us to get out on their shooters and not give them too many open 3-pointers.”
Lima bath (12-5)
Smith 0-0—0, Brandon 0-0—0, Hollar 1-0—3, K. Dackin 0-0—0, Manley 5-2—14, M. Dackin 3-0—7, Ruhe 4-5—13, T. Dackin 5-0—10. TOTALS: 18-42 7-8 — 47.
Trevino 0-0—0, Kotey 1-0—2, Myers 6-6—21, Gray 1-0—2, Simon 7-3—20, Lishawa 0-0—0, Reynolds 1-3—5. TOTALS: 16-31 12-15 — 50.
Lima Bath 12 11 17 7 — 47
Liberty-Benton 10 10 18 12 — 50
3-Point GOALS: Lima Bath 4-11 (Manley 2, Hollar, M. Dackin); Liberty-Benton 6-13 (Myers 3, Simon 3).
rebounds: Lima Bath 18 (Ruhe 5); Liberty-Benton 21 (Kotey 6).
turnovers: Lima Bath 8, Libdrty-Benton 13.
junior varsity: Lima Bath, 37-29.