BLUFFTON — Ten days ago, Adams Central got field goals and free throws late in the game to seal a long-sought victory over Bluffton, 59-54.
Last night, it was the homestanding Tigers who got late baskets and foul shots to ice a 50-41 win that was also a key conference victory.
"They answered when they had to," said AC head coach Aaron McClure of Bluffton, adding that, on offense, Bluffton made some baseline adjustments from the January 11 ACAC Tourney game that produced four or five scores inside the zone defense, while the Flying Jet offense only had two transition goals versus four or five in the first meeting.
In the league race, McClure noted, Adams Central (3-1) now trails Bluffton and Leo, both 4-0, but AC will play Leo there on February 5 and Bluffton will play Leo at Bluffton on February 10, so there is much yet to be decided.
Overall, AC is 7-5 and Bluffton is 9-3.
For the Tigers of Coach Kevin Leising, Mike Vanderkolk led with 15 points, benefiting from those baseline adjustments, while Chandler Okay and Keith Cochran contributed 13 apiece. The 6-10 Cochran also pulled down 15 rebounds and blocked two fourth-quarter shots: a layup try by Dalton Combs after which Cochran took the ball at 2:50 and a layup attempt by Isaac Luginbill in the final minute.
Central was headed by Combs' 13 points, 10 by Nathan Busse, and nine from Maverick Baumer.
The Tigers held a 33-28 lead entering the fourth period, then Combs knifed a three to make it 33-31 and Busse stole the ball and fed Combs for a tying layup.
Luginbill got a steal and passed to Busse, who dashed under the goal, waited for a defender to fly by, then nailed a layup for a 35-33 Jet lead.
Vanderkolk responded with a free throw and a layup to make it 36-35, Bluffton, then Baumer hit a baseline 10-footer for a 37-36 lead, but Vanderkolk was right there for another layup.
AC's Kyle Fawcett sank a free toss to create the final tie at 38, after which Cochran put in a four-foot shot for a 40-38 Tiger advantage.
Two Luginbill FTs made it 42-40, but Bluffton built a 49-40 lead on two FGs by Okey, one by Vanderkolk, and a foul shot by Cameron Gerber.