MANSFIELD — The Clear Fork Colts learned firsthand the meaning of “bigger, faster, stronger” on Thursday night.
Facing the undefeated Tiffin Columbian Tornadoes in the Division III Northwest District semifinal, the Colts were swept away in a flurry of baskets. Columbian put together several significant runs through the game and overpowered Clear Fork, 65-42, at Mansfield Senior High School.
The Tornadoes (22-0) outscored the Colts (10-12) with 44 points in the first and third quarters combined, a pace Clear Fork could simply not match. Columbian shot 46 percent from the field (24-of-52) for the game compared to just 29 percent (14-of-48) for the Colts.
“The third quarter was our downfall,” said Clear Fork coach Les Hauenstein. “They went to a zone, and we didn’t hit our shots. That allowed them to pull away, and it was pretty much over then.”
Columbian jumped ahead early, scoring four points in the first minute. Clear Fork took advantage of a Tornado turnover to post back-to-back buckets and tie the score a minute and a half later. Columbian, however, responded by scoring the next 14 points and took a commanding lead, 18-4, with less than a minute to go. The teams then traded 3-pointers before Becca Mottayaw trimmed the lead to 12 with a jumper as the quarter ended.
The five points Clear Fork scored to end the first quarter seemed to ignite something in the Colts, who ripped off the first nine points of the second quarter and made it a three-point game, 21-18. The Tornadoes went on another run again, however, and pushed the lead back to 10, 32-22, with one minute to go. Mottayaw, who finished the game with 26 points, hit a pull-up 3-pointer to made it a seven-point advantage 14 seconds later, but Megan Miller responded with one of her own with 18 seconds left, and put Columbian ahead, 35-25, at the half.
Playing with some confidence in the first half, the Colts were able to weather Columbian’s momentum. That changed in the third quarter, however. The Tornadoes made some halftime adjustments, and Clear Fork struggled to keep up.
“We needed to get a stop, and we finally got one. Then, we hit a couple of baskets and got back into the game,” Hauenstein said. “We pretty much stayed with them for the first half, but their speed, size and athleticism started to wear on us.”
Chris Tiell, who had just four free throws in the first half, erupted in the third quarter, scoring six of Columbian’s first seven points. Her buckets started the Tornadoes off on a 17-2 run and put the game out of Clear Fork’s reach. Broegan Sautter hit a jumper midway through the spurt for Clear Fork, but with 1:16 to go in the quarter, the Colts found themselves down, 52-27. Nichole Layne and Mottayaw each scored two points in the final minute of play for Clear Fork, but two three-point plays by Columbian post Lexi Rohrbach made it a 27-point lead, 58-31, after three quarters.
The Tornadoes continued to keep up the pressure in the fourth quarter, and scored the first six points as a result. It wasn’t until the Columbian bench entered the game that Clear Fork made a dent. The Colts closed the game by scoring 11 of the final 12 points, including three 3-pointers.
“Their size gave us a lot of problems,” Hauenstein said. “They had a lot of offensive rebounds, and we knew that would be a problem coming in. Our kids battled, though. I give them credit for that.”
With the win, Columbian advances to play Bucyrus in the district final on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Mansfield Senior. Jill Stein led the Tornadoes with 14 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two assists. Miller added 13 points, four steals and five assists; Rohrbach had 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks; Tiell finished with 12 points and eight rebounds; and Cassie Shuff had four points and eight assists.
Mottayaw, in her final game as a Colt, went 8-of-18 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and she had three assists. Mottayaw was also 6-of-6 at the free-throw line. Layne added six points and 10 boards in the loss.
“We had to keep Becca in the game the whole night and she started to wear down,” said Hauenstein. “She is a great player. She battled hard and competed. She never backed down. She has made so much improvement from the beginning of the year until now. It is unbelievable.
“(As a team) we’ve improved a lot. Becca is the only one that had any playing experience coming in. As we kept them playing together, they kept improving and improving as the year went on. I’m really proud of them.”