MONROE—Last season's Adams Central defeat of Bellmont was the first in about 13 years and last night's AC defeat of Bluffton seems to have covered about the same duration.
The emotional 59-54 victory by the Flying Jets over the Tigers in the ACAC Tourney came after eight lead changes and six ties and put Central into tonight's second semifinal game around 6:30 p.m. in the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum against Indiana's number one scoring team: Leo.
The unbeaten Lions blasted their way to round two with a 93-87 win last night over Southern Wells. Leo averages in the mid to upper 80s and has topped 100 at least twice.
Wednesday's war was not wrapped up until Bluffton's Jordan Leising (son of head coach Kevin Leising, also a longtime coach at Bellmont) missed a three-point try from a corner as AC led 57-54. In a scramble for the ball, the Jets' Nathan Busse was fouled at 4.5 seconds and his two free throws put the W in the book.
"This feels good," said AC coach Aaron McClure, whose squad is 7-3. "We know we're a good team. Now, we have to bring our track shoes" to play the run-and-gun tempo set by Leo.
He noted that Bluffton had won three straight ACAC Tourney titles, so beating a team that had triumphed 65 times in the past three years (while AC was winning only 13 games), was a big achievement. Bluffton is now 8-3 and the Jets will play the Tigers in Bluffton on January 21.
In the fourth quarter, which saw a tie at 51 and no lead larger than five points, McClure said he had his five best free throwers on the court, a quintet averaging 80% to 90% this year. In that period, the Jets sank 11 of 13 FTs (85%) in contrast to Bluffton's two of five. Busse was five for six, Maverick Baumer was four for four, and Keaton Fiechter was two for two.
For the game, Central made 17 of 21 at the stripe (81%), while Bluffton was just four for seven.
McClure cited not just steady foul shooting, but also two key threes as major factors in the win: Isaac Luginbill's shot at five seconds in the third quarter put AC up 45-42 and, even bigger, Dalton Combs' hesitation-then-release swish at 1:15 of the fourth period gave his side a 54-51 lead. Combs and Luginbill are sophomores.
Those shots, said McClure, "gave us a cushion" to achieve victory. He further said the Jets did a good job denying Bluffton second-chance scoring opportunities.
The coach said he does not recommend hesitating when on the verge of shooting, especially a trey, and added, "I didn't think [Combs] was having that good a night, but he stepped up and made a great shot."
A player who did have a great night, in McClure's eyes, was Kyle Fawcett, whose 15 points and five rebounds (tying Combs) caused Bluffton's big man, 6-10 Keith Cochran, to be pulled away from the basket to guard him. McClure said Fawcett outquicked Cochran and took full advantage by hitting three of six threes and three of four twos.
Busse put up 14 points, including six of eight at the line; Baumer added nine points; Combs scored seven; and Keaton Fiechter had seven points, six assists, and four steals.
Bluffton had four in double figures: Chandler Okey, 13, although he was just three of 13 in threes (23%); Cochran, 12, plus nine rebounds and five blocks; Cameron Gerber, 10; and Mike Vanderkolk, 10, plus four assists.
There was an unusual delay in the game for five or six minutes in the first quarter as the three referees and the head coaches debated whether Busse made a three or a two about three minutes before. Nathan's basket came at 4:06, but the meeting at the scorers' table did not take place until 1:08. It was finally ruled that Busse's goal was a deuce.
Central 2G 3G FT TP
KamFiechter 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
KeatFiechter 2-2 0-1 3-4 7
Busse 1-2 2-3 6-8 14
Luginbill 0-2 1-1 2-2 5
Brooks 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Baumer 0-1 1-3 6-6 9
Combs 2-3 1-5 0-1 7
Snider 1-3 0-0 0-0 2
Fawcett 3-4 3-6 0-0 15
Totals 9-17 8-19 17-21 59
Bluffton 2G 3G FT TP
Gerber 2-4 2-2 0-0 10
Kyle 0-1 0-0 0-0 0
Prible 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Okey 2-8 3-13 0-0 13
Pearson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Landrum 0-2 2-3 0-0 6
Cochran 5-10 0-0 2-4 12
Vanderkolk 4-7 0-0 2-3 10
Leising 0-0 1-4 0-0 3
Totals 13-32 8-22 4-7 54
Fouls: AC 11, B 16 (fouled out: Vanderkolk)
Turnovers: AC 11, B 12
Rebounds: AC 20 (Combs 5, Fawcett 5), B 21 (Cochran 9, Vanderkolk 6)
Steals: AC 7 (Keaton Fiechter 4), B 1
Assists: AC 8 (Keaton Fiechter 6), B 11 (Vanderkolk 4)
Score By Quarters
B 16 15 11 12 54
AC 20 12 13 14 59