With some help from rival Fayette who defeated Stryker by a single point a week earlier, Pettisville won the Buckeye Border Conference boys basketball title outright Friday night with a 57-38 home win over North Central.
It was the Blackbirds’ first league title since 2015, and first outright title since the 2011-12 season.
The two squads went back-and-forth in the first quarter with seven lead changes. North Central last held the lead, 10-9, on a floater from Keean Livensparger at the 1:38 mark.
Pettisville’s Sam Rychener put them back up with a bucket 18 seconds later, Landon Patten of North Central then split a pair of free throws, but a Logan Rufenacht three-pointer gave the Blackbirds a 14-11 edge with 49 seconds left in the quarter.
Livensparger also split a pair from the foul line for the Eagles, then Detric Yoder’s floater for the Birds made it 16-12 after one.
“It was kind of an emotional night,” said Pettisville coach Brian Leppelmeier of the slow start. “I think we were a little amped up. We weren’t real focused defensively there I thought early on (in the game). I think we can be a little bit better defensively keeping them outside the lane. But, hey give North Central credit. They play hard. I know they’ve been struggling here of late. But (they) are a very dangerous team.”
At one point in the second period, Pettisville scored on three straight possessions to help bump their lead to double digits.
First Canidate Vickery got a pair of buckets, followed by a Yoder triple to make it 27-16 with 4:31 left in the half. However, North Central responded as Jack Bailey banged home a triple, Cody Tomblin knocked down a jumper, and Bailey added 1 of 2 from the line to get them within five.
The Birds then got the margin back to 11 on two hoops from Rychener, one being a dunk, and Vickery’s basket off a fast break opportunity. Tomblin’s basket inside for the Eagles cut it to 33-24 at the half.
Pettisville got out to a fast start in the third with a Dillon King bucket inside and two more Blackbird hoops, putting the margin at 39-24 around two minutes in. The Birds maintained a double-digit lead throughout the rest of the contest.
When Leppelmeier took over the program ahead of last season, he knew a league championship was possible sooner rather than later.
“I knew there was a lot of talent,” he said. “And with Justin (Rupp), Landon (Roth) and Dillon (King), kind of leading the way. I mean, they were still leaders even with our group last year (when they were juniors).
“It is one of our goals. We talked about it in the preseason back in the spring. About playing championship level basketball.”
Yoder led the Blackbird offense with 19 points while Rufenacht chipped in with nine. Bailey had 14 points and Tomblin 12 to lead the Eagles (6-16, 3-9 BBC).
Pettisville (19-3, 11-1) has a bye to start the tournament and will take on either Hilltop or Edgerton this Friday at Bryan for a Division IV sectional championship.
“Everybody is 0-0,” Leppelmeier said on his team’s mentality heading into the tournament. “We just talked about it, I said ‘enjoy it now, but when it comes Monday, the slate’s clean for everybody. So I think that is the attitude that you have to take. We got knocked out in the first game of sectionals last year, so I think we need to be a little bit more of the hunter, then being the hunted.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU