When asked after the game for his team's Northern Ohio League record, Ontario coach Joe Balogh, in his school's first year in their new league, had to name off a list of schools to count the wins.
Counting the losses was a much easier task. Zero.
Nobody, in-league or out, has been able to knock off the Warriors this year. Friday, Columbian became the latest victim as a second-half rally fell short, and Ontario claimed a 66-55 win.
Columbian’s Josh Flint shoots over Ontario’s Brandon?Wagner in the first half of Friday’s game in Tiffin.
Columbian lost starting forward Cody Daniel to an injury in the first half and Ontario led by as many 19 in the third quarter. The Tornadoes got within eight to start the fourth quarter and as close as six with under two minutes to play. Ontario, though, got key stops down the stretch to preserve the win.
"It's a good win for us coming on the road. We've never played here. I've been here to scout games and know it's a tough place to play," Balogh said. "I know Bill does a great job of preparing his kids and I thought, you give Tiffin a lot of credit. They had one of their big guys go down and we kind of had them by the throat a little bit, especially to start the second half and they just didn't quit. They had some kids come off the bench and step up. But also, I was pleased with our kids that we didn't, I mean we panicked a little bit, but we just didn't have the major panic. We were able to make some plays down the stretch to put the game away."
Ontario came out of the halftime break with a 41-27 lead and quickly stretched things out to a 48-29 advantage. From there, Donovan Walker and Derek Dryfuse keyed a 13-2 Tornado run to get their team
back in the game. Josh Flint finished off the quarter with a driving reverse layup that cut the score to 50-42 heading into the fourth.
"We wanted to set the tone beginning of the third quarter and actually it went the other way," Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. "They got three really easy baskets and we got a timeout. We were just out of position defensively. We got that fixed, then it was just grinding it out from there. We got some stops and we got some scores. I think we chipped it down to six. It was a nice effort from our kids, but we got to fix that lack of scoring in that second quarter to get over that hump."
Earlier this season, Columbian had a come-from-behind win against Shelby. Friday, it was Shelby preventing a Columbian comeback - Lenell Shelby.
On the first possession of the quarter, a missed Columbian shot was hauled in by Shelby who raced coast-to-coast for a layup at the other end. Shelby and Tyler Boatright added baskets as Ontario scored the first six of the period to stretch the lead back out.
"We got the 19-point lead, and we try to attack a lot offensively, but we also need to understand when you get a lead like that, you got to make the defense come and get you," Balogh said. "A disappointing part for us I think was we had five straight possessions where we never got the ball reversed from one side of the floor to the other. And that's where we had success early in the game, and then we had success again late when we got the ball from one side of the floor to the other, and was able to stretch their defense. And now guys like Lenell and Tyler are able to penetrate gaps and make some plays."
Columbian got back within eight after a 3-pointer from Matt Zirger with five minutes to play. But it was Shelby again turning things around, this time converting an and-1 play to stop the Tornado momentum.
Zirger, playing extended minutes with Daniel out and Walker in foul trouble, hit another trifecta with 1:41 to play to get Columbian within six.
"I'm glad he hit a couple, because he's a very capable shooter for us," Beaston said. "He doesn't get the most looks, but he's a guy that can help us, and he's a guy that can stretch defenses going forward."
Columbian, though, couldn't get another shot to fall. Shelby picked up four big defensive rebounds in the final minutes to seal the win.
"One of the things we said was, we got to rebound the ball better at the defensive end of the floor," Balogh said. "One of the things we told our post kids is, you don't have to rebound so much, but you got to try to keep their post kids off the glass and our guards have to be better rebounders. Down the stretch Lenell was really a good rebounder for us at the defensive end of the floor."
Columbian was led by Dryfuse with 19 points and nine rebounds.?Flint added 11 points. Ontario had four score in double figured led by Brandon Wagner with 17. Shelby had 13, Boatwright 12 and Josh Plieninger 11.
Ontario moves to 10-0, 4-0 in the league while Columbian slips to 3-4, 1-3.
"The issue with us right now, there's two and both of them go together," Beaston said. "Offensively we get in these modes where we just stand and it's a lot of one man with the dribble, or a two-man game and it stays on one side of the floor. We just don't get that ball reversed where we can use all five guys together. And when we do that, our offense is really good.
"And No. 2, we got to get over this little block we have mentally. We're doing great things in practice both in the 5-on-5 situations and the individual situations. We start doing those things in the game, I think we're going to see big progress."