VAN WERT – For Van Wert fans, Saturday night’s game against Columbus Grove was fun to watch – for 28 minutes.

The Cougars rolled to a 66-41 lead, which turned out to be a good thing, because the feisty Bulldogs won the last four minutes, 18-2, leaving Van Wert with a 68-59 win.

The Cougars are now 3-3 while Grove falls to 3-6.

“I really like how we started tonight, and I really like how we started the third quarter tonight,” said Cougar coach Mark Bagley. “We got up 25. We just needed to find a way to win. We’ve lost three close games that we didn’t finish.”

Van Wert spurted to an early 15-1 lead, largely due to three Drew Bagley 3-pointers. Columbus Grove closed the gap a bit, and it was 22-12, Cougars, after one. Bagley already had 13 points.

The Cougs led by as many as 17 in the second quarter, after which it was 36-20. Incredibly, Van Wert didn’t have a turnover in the entire first half. Bagley had 17 points in the first 16 minutes. He wouldn’t score again, and in fact would get off only one shot in the second half, but his offense wasn’t needed, thanks largely to the scoring of point guard Jacoby Kelly.

Kelly scored 13 third quarter points, and he got them from all over – a 3-pointer, mid-range baskets from the baseline and the elbow, and three dribble drives right through the teeth of the Grove defense. It was 57-35 going into the fourth quarter.

Three Blake Henry buckets and an old-style 3-point play by Kelly gave Van Wert the aforementioned 66-41 with 4:02 showing on the clock. That’s when the game took a 180-degree turn, albeit way too late for the visitors.

After hitting 9 of 11 free throws up until that point, Van Wert cashed in only 2 of 9 in those last four minutes. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs seemed to be scoring at will, most notably via three trifectas from Tayt Birnesser. Columbus Grove also dominated the boards 7-1 during the run.

“Fortunately we had a 25-point cushion,” said Bagley of the Bulldog rally. “I’m speechless on that. We’re trying to battle the inconsistency of great play and bad play. What happened was we started taking some quick shots, and we missed free throws, and it just snowballed from there. They started hitting everything. They got comfortable because our ball pressure wasn’t very good.”

All of the Columbus Grove stats improved during their fourth quarter run. However, the Cougars still out-shot the Dogs from the field — 53 percent (26 of 49) to 42 percent (22 of 52). The teams were almost equal from long range — Grove 30 percent (6 of 20), Van Wert 29 percent (5 of 17). Neither team was good from the free throw line — Cougars 55 percent (11 of 20), Bulldogs 53 percent (9 of 17). Grove had a 28-27 edge on the boards, but Van Wert had only 3 turnovers, while the Bulldogs also had a decent number, 9.

Kelly, Bagley, Henry, and Nate Place led Van Wert’s scoring with 27, 17, 10, and 9. Birnesser, Blake Reynolds, and Cody Johnson had 16, 12, and 12 for Grove.

Van Wert (6-0) won a fast-paced junior varsity game 74-63. The Cougars were led in scoring by Tanner Barnhart, LeTrey Williams, Jake Hilleary, and Clayton Proffitt with 19, 16, 13, and 11. Columbus Grove was led by Gabe Clement, Isaiah Deluna, and Tanner Smith with 17, 16, and 10.

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COLUMBUS GROVE (59)

Blake Reynolds 12, Logan Schroeder 3, Tayt Birnesser 16, Logan Malsam 7, Dane Selby 7, Caleb Barrientes 0, Dylan Mason 0, Grayson Flores 2, Garrett Nemire 0, Cody Johnson 12.

VAN WERT (68)

Nate Place 9, Jacoby Kelly 27, Jonathan Lee 0, Blake Henry 10, Drew Bagley 17, Owen Treece 5, Joey Schaufelberger 0, Thane Cowan 0.

Columbus Grove 12 8 15 24 - 59

Van Wert 22 14 21 11 - 68

3-point shooting: CG 6/20 (Birnesser 4, Reynolds, Schroeder), VW 5/17 (Bagley 3, Kelly, Treece). Rebounds: CG 28, VW 27. Fouls: CG 14, VW 14. Turnovers: CG 9, VW 3. Jayvee score: VW 74-63.