Ottawa-Glandorf's girls basketball celebrate with the Division II regional championship trophy after defeating Norton 51-34 Friday night. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
Ottawa-Glandorf's girls basketball celebrate with the Division II regional championship trophy after defeating Norton 51-34 Friday night. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
MANSFIELD — Norton's defense gave Ottawa-Glandorf some trouble early.

The Panthers fullcourt man defense forced the Titans into an uncharacteristic 13 first half turnovers. But once O-G started to take better care of the basketball they were able to build a lead. And with O-G's defense starting to take its toll on the Panthers, the Titans were able to use a couple of runs to get a lead Norton was unable to overcome.

O-G used an 11-0 run in the second quarter for an eight point halftime lead, then used scoring spurts throughout the second half to hold off Norton challenges for a 51-34 win in the Division II regional finals at Mansfield Senior High School.

The win sends the top ranked and undefeated Titans (27-0) back to the Division II state semi-finals Thursday against second ranked Kettering Alter at 1 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. O-G and Alter played for the Division II state championship in 2016, won by Kettering. This will be the third straight season an O-G girls basketball team has qualified to play at state.

“We've been there before, so we were hoping we would get back,” O-G coach Troy Yant said after the regional win. “I don't know if anything is ever the same, you are always coming in with a different team. We are just going to cherish this for what it is. This is unique, something we are really going to appreciate.”

Ottawa-Glandorf jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead as it took the Panthers three and a half minutes to score their first point of the game. The Titans were unable to hold their early momentum as Norton's defense kept them in the game. When Jordan Bird converted a steal into two points the game was suddenly tied at 9-9. A Kadie Hempfling basket gave the Titans an 11-9 lead after one quarter.

Another Bird steal and layup tied the contest at 11-11 early in the second quarter before the Titans used an 11-0 run to take a 22-11 lead. The run came after a 30 second timeout by O-G to address the teams turnover issues against the Panthers fullcourt defense.

“I think it was a combination of things,” Yant said. “We were lazy on some of our passes, they obviously gave us as much pressure as we have seen all year and it took us a little while to get acclimated I thought. We had some poor judgement. I don't think we were playing bad, we just made poor judgements and they capitalized on them.

“We were able to get a couple of run outs in the first quarter and a couple more in the second quarter when they jumped us and we were able to pass through it, maneuver through it. I think the girls realized we could beat this.”

Ashley Schroeder started the run with a basket, then after a Norton miss, Carrie Johnson gave the Titans a big lift with a three-pointer from the corner. Lexi Schroeder then took a feed from Hempfling to score, then after two free throws by Ashley Schroeder, Hempfling scored down low after a feed from Erin Kaufman.

O-G made their second quarter run with senior Kylie White on the bench with two fouls.

After scoring early in the second quarter, the Panthers did not score again until the 3:00 mark when Abbey Murawski scored. The Panthers finished the first half with a 5-2 run as they trailed 24-16 at the break.

Norton's defense forced two quick O-G turnovers to start the second half, but they were only able to knock two points off the O-G lead. The Titans had a 30-24 lead after a Bryanna Housley basket before O-G went on a quick 5-0 run that bumped the lead back to 35-24 after two Kaufman free throws. O-G settled for a 38-31 lead after three quarters.

“I thought they did a great job in the third quarter of controlling the pace,” Yant said. “We were hoping we could push it (the lead) to 17 or 18 points, but they hit a three and were able to get it down to seven points. I thought the girls were doing what we needed to do. The coaches wanted to sub out more, because we looked tired, but we had already subbed a lot deeper than we normally do. I thought the girls that came off the bench gave us great rotations.”

Ottawa-Glandorf's defense took charge in the fourth quarter to seal the win. The Panthers scored only three points in the quarter, a three-pointer by Bird with five minutes left. Meanwhile the Titans had built a 46-31 lead as they were connecting on 6-of-10 free throws. The only basket early in the final quarter for O-G was scored by White on a drive to the basket.

After Bird's basket, the Titans used another basket by White and two free throws for the final score as the Panthers were forced to foul to try and get back into the game. For the game O-G was 17-of-28 at the free throw line, compared to a 2-of-10 effort for Norton.

“It's surreal,” White said. “I can't put it into words, it hasn't hit me yet. This was a goal, I'm just thankful to be here right now, in this moment.”

Hempfling led the Titans with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, seven steals and three blocked shots. White added 12 points, while Ashley Schroeder and Lexi Schroeder both had nine points. Kaufman grabbed five rebounds for the Titans.

Bird and Housley both had 11 points for the Panthers. Kelsey Hosey and Jimi Howell both pulled down six rebounds. Norton was hurt by 23 turnovers in the game.