By Cort Reynolds

Ada Herald writer

ADA - In their anticipated battle for sole possession of second place in the Northwest Conference, host Ada staked a decisive claim to the number two spot with a convincing 49-38 win over Bluffton Thursday night.

The Lady Bulldogs broke open a tight four-point game with an 8-0 spurt to begin the second half and were never seriously threatened. Slower-footed Bluffton suffered through two costly scoring droughts against the determined and quicker Ada defense to spell doom.

The win upped the Bulldog record to 10-7 overall and 5-1 in the league, while the Pirates fell to 9-6 and 4-2 in the NWC. The victory kept Ada in contention for a piece of its first league crown in 30 years as they stayed a game behind Crestview (6-0), who beat Spencerville 53-39 Thursday evening.

Sophomore Alexis Amburgey netted a game-high 17 points to pace the Bulldogs to victory.

"She played well," said Ada coach Neal Dumbaugh of the versatile Amburgey. "That was a huge win for us."

Bluffton senior Anna Crisp nailed a triple from the top of the key to open the game, but that turned out to be the only lead of the game for the Pirates.

Amburgey canned a runner and Tori Wyss buried a left wing triple to give Ada a 5-3 edge. Pirate Paige Buroker tied it on two foul shots, and Amburgey answered with a pull-up shot in the lane to give the purple and gold a lead they never relinquished.

Amburgey then netted a putback and fed Morgan Rouch nicely for a power layup to provide an 11-7 margin.

After a Taylor Willeke foul shot, Buroker's layup pulled the visitors within 12-11. But then freshman Rachael Wildman came off the bench to drain a right wing trey and a right side 16-footer to shoot Ada into a 17-11 bulge.

Pirate Bailey Prichard nailed a line-drive foul line southpaw shot to bring the red and white within four after one stanza.

Alexis Gonzaga drilled a left wing 17-footer to open the second period strongly for the hosts. Two Schriner foul shots and a slicing Buroker drive down the lane cut the score 19-17.

Rouch tallied a right side putback at the four-minute mark, and then both teams went cold. Neither squad scored a point the rest of the half and Ada took a 21-17 lead to intermission.

Amburgey bounced in a 13-footer and nailed a three-pointer from the top left side to start the second half on a roll. Three Wyss foul shots extended the lead to 12 and the Bulldog defense held Bluffton point-less for 8:34 dating back to the second period.

Crisp finally ended the drought with a left wing trifecta at the 4:16 mark to cut the margin to 29-20. Yet Willeke responded with a left wing triple of her own moments later to negate it. The senior playmaker then drove in for a left-handed layup and a 34-20 cushion at the 3:11 juncture.

Schriner splashed a trey from the top of the key with 2:52 to go, but Willeke made a clever steal on an ill-advised Pirate pass back under their basket, and the senior cashed in the layup for a 36-23 margin.

A driving layup by Schriner and two foul shots got Bluffton within nine with 1:52 left, but Amburgey came up big again. She capped a 10-point quarter by scoring a layup off a nice in-bounds pass from Willeke, then drilled a left wing triple with eight ticks to go for a 41-27 lead.

A pair of Willeke free throws were answered by a Sierra Amstutz conventional three-point play inside with 6:29 remaining. Yet Bluffton would then go scoreless for almost four minutes as Ada put the game out of reach.

Lindsay Walden canned a power layup off a nice Amburgey pass, and a Wyss free throw stretched the lead to 46-30 as the Bulldogs went into a semi-delay game to eat clock.

By the time Amstutz made two foul shots only 1:48 remained and the Pirates trailed by an insurmountable margin of 14. Buroker hit a trey but Willeke converted a pair of free throws to put Ada back up by 13. The Pirates scored eight points in the final two minutes, capped by two Crisp charity stripers. but it was too little, too late.

Willeke contributed 11 of her 12 points in the second half, and she also doled out three assists. Wyss added seven points, five rebounds and four assists. Willeke is 16 points shy of reaching the 1,000-point mark for her career.

Schriner was the lone Pirate in double digits with 10 points. Buroker added nine and Crisp eight, while Amstutz contributed seven markers.

Bluffton canned 12 of 17 at the charity stripe (71 percent) while Ada converted 10 of 16 free tosses (63 percent). The victors committed just nine turnovers.

The Pirates won the reserve game by 13. Katelyn Guagenti led the Bulldogs with five points.

Ada 49 (10-7, 5-1 NWC)

Rouch 2 0-0 4, Willeke 3 5-6 12, Walden 1 0-0 2, Amburgey 7 1-2 17, Wyss 1 4-7 7, Gonzaga 1 0-1 2, Wildman 2 0-0 5, Faine 0. Totals: 12-5/10-16/49. 3-pointers: Amburgey 3, Willeke 1, Wyss 1.

Bluffton 38 (9-6, 4-2 NWC)

Schriner 3 3-6 10, Buroker 3 2-2 9, Crisp 2 2-4 8, Lugibihl 0 2-2 2, Amstutz 2 3-3 7, Prichard 1 0-0 2. Totals: 7-4/12-17/38. 3-pointers: Crisp 2, Buroker 1, Schriner 1.

1 2 3 4 F

Ada 17 4 20 8 49

Bluf 13 4 10 11 38

JV: Bluffton 30, Ada 17.

Ada hosts Waynesfield and high-scoring 5-8 senior Kaylee Patton in a key non-league game to decide sectional seeding Saturday afternoon. With a win over the 11-5 Tigers and the strength of a brutal non-league slate, the Bulldogs will almost certainly clinch the top seed.

"That's a big game for us to lock down the number one seed," admitted Dumbaugh. "We've played a tough non-league schedule."

Patton has already signed to play next year at Div. II Tiffin University. The JV game tips off at noon Saturday.

Ada is 5-4 at home and 5-3 on the road this season.