It was only fitting that on the final night of the regular season, the Bunceton Lady Dragons basketball team and the Pilot Grove Tigers would play on the same court.
After all, they both closed out the season unbeaten in the CCAA conference at 6-0.
While the Lady Dragons held off a pesky Pilot Grove squad for a 52-44 victory, the Pilot Grove boys pretty much had their way with Bunceton while leading from start to finish to win by 46, 84-40.
The Lady Dragons, who closed out the season at 21-2 overall and 6-0 in the CCAA, outscored Pilot Grove in three out of the four quarters and led by as much as 16 in the third quarter before a late collapse in which the Tigers cut the lead to six on two different occasions in the final two minutes.
Bunceton coach Mike Arnold said his team played well enough to win. "I am proud of the CCAA championship the girls won," Arnold said.
Of course early on the Lady Dragons looked like a team hitting on all four cylinders while leading Pilot Grove 11-6 after first period's end, 25-15 at the half and 38-25 after three quarters of play. However, in the final period, Bunceton began to miss those close range shots while turning the ball over six times.
That alone allowed Pilot Grove to rally back while outscoring the Lady Dragons 19-14 in the final period. Nonetheless after cutting the lead to six (50-44) after a basket by sophomore McKalie Lorenz with 13 seconds, the Lady Tigers would get no close as Julie Kahle, another sophomore, came back and hit 2 of 2 foul shots to seal the victory.
While the loss dropped Pilot Grove to 9-15 overall and 4-2 in the CCAA, head coach Landon Daniel said a slow start came back to bite his team.
"We struggled on offense in the first half and could not score like we wanted to but played pretty well on offense to keep us in the game," Daniel said. "But when we finally did hit in the end of the third and throughout the fourth, the hole was too big to climb out of. We tried to make their role players beat us by limiting Rachel Emde and pressuring Erica Kahle and give Bunceton credit because their role players did step up. I'm proud of our girls for continuing to fight and I think we are ready to make some noise in districts."
Junior Rachel Emde finished the game with a double-double for Bunceton with 23 points and 15 rebounds. She also had three assists and two steals.
Julia Kahle had 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal while Sam Brandes added nine points, 14 rebounds, two assists and one steal, Erica Kahle with five points, two assists, one rebound and one steal, Deanne Emde with three points and four rebounds and Maddy Berwanger with nine rebounds, four steals and four assists.
For Pilot Grove, Kerigan Wessing had 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one blocked shot. McKalie Lorenz chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and four steals while Melissa Schlotzhauer added 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, Cynthia Brumback with four rebounds, three assists and three steals, McKenzi Schuster with four rebounds, one assist and one steal and Katelyn Renfro with one rebound.
As for the Pilot Grove boys, they dominated from the opening tip-off while scoring the game's first 15 points and leading Bunceton 21-8 after one, 47-23 at the half and 75-33 after three quarters of play. Meanwhile, with a running clock in place in the final period, the Tigers held a 11-7 advantage.
Pilot Grove coach Rick Grunden said it was important to not only win the conference, but to win it outright.
"I'm proud of my kids for bringing the CCAA title home," Grunden said. "Everyone played hard and I love that. Bunceton has the ability to surprise people. We worked in practice on pushing the ball against our opponents and we worked on pressing smarter. We executed both of those in a much better fashion tonight. I wasn't as happy with our half court defense. We will work on that in preparation for districts next week."
Mason Schlotzhauer had 25 points to lead the Tigers, who closed out the regular season at 20-6 overall and 6-0 in the CCAA.
Jake Leverton tossed in 14 points while Kendall Kraus and Regan Meisenheimer added 10 points each, Colton Glenn and Dylan Twenter eight each, Ben Glenn four and Adam Newell three.
Bunceton coach Yancy Cody said the kids played hard. "This was a tough loss to end the regular season," Cody said.
Senior Jacob Clevenger led the Dragons, who dropped to 8-14 overall and 2-4 in the CCAA, with 16 points, three rebounds and one steal.
Kyler Tucker had 10 points, two rebounds and one steal while Will Twenter added five points, five rebounds, two steals and one assist, Ashton Campbell four points, six rebounds, one steal and one assist, Damion Amidon three points and one rebound and Kyle Held two points, five rebounds and three assists.