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Bluffton’s Matthew Sturgeon drives past Woodlan’s Justin Williams, left, and Greg White in the ACAC tournament championship game Saturday.
ACAC Tournament

Bluffton wins title again

Builds big lead, holds off Woodlan for 5th crown in 6 years

– Despite the best efforts of Woodlan’s Kadin Gerig, Bluffton continued its recent ownership of the ACAC tournament boys title Saturday.

The Tigers withstood the three-point barrage of Gerig in a 66-58 win over the Warriors at Memorial Coliseum as Bluffton (9-4) has won back-to-back ACAC tourney titles. The Tigers have won five of the last six conference tournaments and nine of the last 17.

“I can’t even keep track of them, and that’s nice because when you can’t even count how many there are that’s a tremendous testimony to the people and players in our program,” Bluffton coach Kevin Leising said.

Woodlan (8-6) and Gerig were silent through three quarters but put on a show in the fourth to get back into the game. The Warriors trailed 47-28 entering the final quarter but outscored the Tigers 30-19 as Gerig made five three-pointers and scored 17 of his 23 points in the fourth.

“Gerig can get kind of hot, and he hit a lot of threes in the fourth quarter,” Bluffton’s Chandler Prible said. “We tried to shut him down, but he got hot.”

Woodlan, though, could only get as close as 60-54 with a minute remaining.

“Kadin got going, but it is a four-quarter game, unfortunately,” Woodlan coach Dave Randall said. “My kids did not quit, and that’s what you want out of kids, to go as hard as they can as long as they can, and they did that.”

Prible, the tournament MVP, and Jackson Lambert led the Tigers with 19 points apiece, while Matthew Sturgeon added 12.

“It means a lot, and it shows how good our program is,” Lambert said of another title. “We never take any winning for granted and automatically think we will make it to the championship.”

The Tigers had beaten the Warriors 51-38 at Woodlan a week earlier.

“The fact we beat them there, … took some wind out of their sails,” Leising said. “If it would have been like it was in the fourth quarter (early on), it would have gone down to the wire. I thought the start was crucial because (the Warriors) doubted themselves for a long time, but when they got a little more confidence you saw what they were capable of.”

Bluffton opened a 32-15 lead early in the third, but that didn’t stop Leising from calling two timeouts within the first two minutes of the half.

“I told them what kind of defense we should run, and they kind of argued with me as a group,” Leising said. “We forced (Woodlan) into a long three, so I was validating that I kind of know what I am doing.

“That’s why we were up 20. The rest of the game is so much more important than the end of the game. So all those things that we did well, got us that 20-point lead. Other people will disagree with me, but I will let our success speak for itself.”

Jaylin Bennett added 10 points for the Warriors.

“We made up a few of the points from last week but not enough,” Randall said.

gjones@jg.net

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