BERNE – The South Adams boys basketball team added yet another athletic achievement to their recent run of success, beating Bluffton 66-41 on Saturday to win the 98th ACAC tournament championship, the Starfires' first since 1993, and just the third in program history.
In the girls championship, Jay County beat Adams Central 52-48 to win its fifth ACAC title in seven years. For the second time in two years, the Flying Jets (11-8) entered the fourth quarter of the championship with a lead, this time 34-32, but ultimately fell behind.
As they did against the Adams Central boys in the semifinals, the Starfires (7-4) allowed the Tigers (4-6) to stick around beyond the first quarter, but then buckled down and finished the first half on a 15-0 run for a 30-16 halftime lead.
“I think when we switched from our 1-3-1 to our man defense, we did a really good job of recognizing which players could hurt us, what players' strengths were,” South Adams boys coach Josh Hendrixson said. “(Hayden) Nern was the one were worried about going off on us, and I think we did a good job on him, helping off the proper guys. The defense really set the tone in that second quarter.”
Nern, who came into the game averaging 18.4 points, was held to 11 points.
“Through all sports, football and basketball, we've always been a team that once we get clicking, we get clicking. It's hard to stop us,” said South Adams senior James Arnold, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. “We typically go on runs, score a lot of points really fast. That's kind of how we work, and we were able to do it today.”
Arnold was named the Hilliard Gates Most Valuable Player of the boys tournament, the first Starfire to receive the honor since Jeff Zucher in 1993.
South Adams junior Aiden Wanner also scored 18 points, his long-range shooting keeping the game close until the Starfire defense buckled down. Senior Drew Stutzman scored nine points, and junior Trey Schoch had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Starfires have won seven of their last eight.
In the girls championship, Jay County opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run for a 42-34 lead. But instead of folding, Adams Central continued to battle. Jay County sophomore Renna Schwieterman, who would score 30 points and receive the Hilliard Gates award for the girls, went to the free-throw line nine times in the fourth quarter (making all her attempts).
The Jets have now lost to Jay County (14-3) two times by a combined nine points.
“We really expected them to turn their pressure up in the second half, and they really didn't do that; they came out in the triangle 2 they played that against us in the first half,” Adams Central coach Doug Curtis said. “Took us a while to adjust to it, didn't do a real good job early, and then we started driving and getting some things out of it. The girls understand the game plan and they try to execute the game plan. But it's a matter of getting over the hump in a close game against a good team.”
Senior McKenna Dietsch scored all 14 points of her points in the first half, 12 off 3-pointers.