BLUFFTON—In a game reminiscent to the first times Bluffton and South Adams met, the Lady Stars proved that the first time was not a fluke topping the Lady Tigers in Tuesday night's sectional opening round, 41-37.
Where 41 points was the mark for AC in a 27-point loss to Luers in game one, South Adams' 41 points was a winning tally in a game that featured plenty of defense and a grand total of 47 turnovers by both teams.
The Starfires won their first conference game in three years early in the season with a buzzer-beating win over Bluffton but that was with their leading scorer, Dzejna Ahmetovic, in the starting line-up. The 6' junior will be out for the remainder of the year with an undiagnosed knee problem that could have her sidelined for at least six months.
In more pleasant news, South Adams has found another reliable scorer on the inside in the form of sophomore Sharon Balsiger who scored a game-high 20 points on the night and had a game-high seven rebounds.
SA coach Brett Freeman praised his sophomore after the game. "Before tonight her career high was about 12 points but we talked to her before the game that she is capable of being a solid force in the paint for us. She is physically strong and she's athletic. She did a great job tonight of being aggressive and taking the ball up strong."
Through the first five minutes of the game, the score was tied at 2-2 as both teams took turns turning the ball over. The Starfires seemed lost on the outside trying to run their offense without Ahmetovic in the lane disrupting the defense. At the end of the first quarter, Bluffton held an 8-4 lead.
"For the most part our offense has run from the post this season. We got away from that in the first but once we got it inside it opened up some back door looks for us and some outside shots," noted coach Freeman.
The Stars shot just 2-7 from the field in the opening quarter turning the ball over eight times. Bluffton coughed up the orange six times but the Stars converted zero points on turnovers in the frame.
The second quarter was contrary as the Stars shot 4-6 in the frame, while the Lady Tigers went cold shooting 2-10 from the field. Balsiger converted an and-one after nabbing an offensive rebound and putting back the lay-up plus the foul to give SA their first lead of the game at 11-11.
Bluffton scored five straight points to lead 15-11 but junior Alyssa Bluhm scored South Adams' final four points before the half to tie the score up at 15-15.
The teams played even trading baskets in the third quarter before Bluffton took a four-point edge when freshman Ashley Smith scored a basket and a free throw, 24-20. Down 27-22, Bluhm spotted Balsiger open underneath the basket after a mad scramble for the ball with under three seconds to go. Balsiger turned and scored the five-footer as time expired leaving SA down just three at 27-24.
The fourth quarter belonged to Balsiger down the stretch but sophomore Lauren Smith put her fingerprints on the game as she scored the first five points of the quarter on a three-point play, then a steal at mid-court and a lay-up to put SA up 29-27.