LIBERTY CENTER — The Golden Bears raced to their locker room and erupted into raucous cheering that showed no sign of slowing down, even after coach Todd Grosjean retreated to the hallway after addressing his team.
After all, they’d accomplished something the program had missed since the 1990s: winning a piece of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
Shallyn Miley recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, leading Bryan to a 39-32 win over Liberty Center on Thursday in The Jungle, tying the Bears with Archbold and Wauseon atop the league standings.
“Everybody in this league has great coaching; everybody’s got good teams and players; everybody’s got young kids, and this is a great example of that,” Bryan coach Todd Grosjean said. “This LC team hasn’t won a league game all year, but they’ve been in everything. They lost to (Patrick Henry) at the buzzer. They were right there against Wauseon, so I’m proud of the way our team fought tonight.
“I give a lot of credit to our kids, because all we’ve talked about this week is being resilient,” Grosjean added. “All we could do was take care of our business and hope PH did us a favor, and that happened to take place.”
McKendry Semer added eight points for the Bears, who also got seven from Addie Arnold and four from Reese Grothaus. Brooke Lamberson scored three points, all from the free-throw line, while Kloee Antigo, Delilah Taylor and Allie Zimmerman rounded out the Bryan scoring with two points each.
Liberty Center was led by Cassidy Chapa’s 10 points, while Harmony Young added six and Kate Mohler five. Samantha Graber, Aubree Hollenbaugh and Samantha Engler each chipped in three points for the Tigers, while Sophie Long contributed two to round out the Liberty Center scoresheet.
“It’s kind of been the story of our league season to have a game come down right to the end,” Liberty Center coach Tim Davis said. “Pretty much all of our league games have come down to the last couple of minutes, and we talked about this in the locker room, but we need to learn how to win. That’s what it comes down to at this point.”
Bryan (16-5, 5-2 NWOAL) jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, forcing Davis to call a timeout with 5:27 to go in the first quarter. Bryan scored the next bucket before Hollenbaugh put the Tigers on the scoreboard with a layup.
Liberty Center (10-12, 0-7 NWOAL) finished the frame on a 7-3 run after the slow start to go into the second trailing 12-7.
The Tigers outscored Bryan 7-4 in the second to pull within 16-14 at halftime before the Bears stretched their lead to 31-21 with a 15-7 run in the third.
Liberty Center made a late push in the fourth, with Graber and Young hitting 3-pointers in the final two minutes, but the Bears made enough free throws to ice the game and seal the win, sparking a celebration after word of Patrick Henry’s 38-37 win over Wauseon spread through the crowd.
“We did a good job on the defensive side in the first half,” Grosjean said. “Our problem was on the offensive side and getting space. Then in the second half, we started missing some shots at the rim again, and then a 12-point lead turned into a three-point lead. Maybe we pulled back a little too early, but I’m just so proud of how resilient we were out there tonight.”
After the game, Grosjean talked about a meaningful league title for the Bears, who last won the NWOAL in 1993.
“It’s been forever,” Grosjean said. “I’ve been at Bryan for a number of years, and we had some teams that played for it but unfortunately came up short. Our 2004-05 team, we lost to Swanton at home by eight, and a couple of years we had an opportunity and that didn’t happen either.
“This is a testament to our seniors,” Grosjean added. “Kelly Miller has been hurt, but her leadership has been invaluable, and then Riley Burdge had the flu all week, but their leadership instilled a resolve in these younger kids that helped them fight to get this league title.”
Liberty Center travels to Holland to take on Montpelier in the first round of the Division III state tournament Wednesday at Springfield High School, while Bryan travels to Millbury to take on Lake on Saturday in a rescheduled contest.
Bryan 39, LC 32
Bryan 12 4 15 8 — 39
LC 7 7 7 11 — 32
Bryan: Miley 4 0 3-7 11, Semer 4 0 0-0 8, Arnold 0 2 1-3 7, Grothaus 0 1 1-2 4, Lamberson 0 0 3-3 3, Taylor 0 0 2-2 2, Zimmerman 0 0 2-2 2, Antigo 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 9 3 12-19 39.
LC: Chapa 4 0 2-4 10, Young 1 1 1-2 6, Mohler 1 1 0-0 5, Hollenbaugh 1 0 1-2 3, Graber 0 1 0-0 3, Engler 0 1 0-0 3, Long 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 8 4 4-8 32.