To say that Adams Central got off to a slow start offensively in Saturday’s Class 2A Bluffton Sectional championship game would be an understatement.
After one quarter of action, the Flying Jets had scored just two points and shot 0-of-10 from the field.
But Adams Central coach Doug Curtis wasn’t panicking.
“We wanted to get out to a big lead, but we couldn’t make anything,” Curtis said. “But I wasn’t going to waste timeouts (early) because our defense was so good. We just hung in there.”
Indeed the silver lining for the Flying Jets was that Bluffton wasn’t much better, scoring just three in the first quarter.
While it eventually took Adams Central three-plus quarters to get the offense going, the defense led the way until that happened, adding up to a 32-30 victory over Bluffton to win the program’s first sectional championship since 2001.
“Other than a few threes that Bluffton was able to knock down at the end of the first half and the end of the third quarter, I felt we were really good,” Curtis said.
Th goal for Adams Central (19-7) was to hold the Tigers in the 20s or 30s in points on Saturday. It did, limiting Bluffton to 29 percent shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, the Flying Jets offense chipped away. While still in single digits in points with seven at half, the team trailed by just four points. The deficit reached as many as seven a few times in the third quarter, but Adams Central closed to within four just two minutes into the fourth.
Once the Flying Jets were in range on the scoreboard, Curtis began to think title.
“Alivia (Dalrymple) started to get some confidence there late,” Curtis said. “Once you saw her get a basket or two, that made me feel a bit more comfortable because she struggled earlier.
Dalrymple scored 10 points while Carly Holley added eight. McKenna Dietsch finished with seven points, including some clutch free throws late.
Adams Central never truly got on track from the field, finishing the game 25 percent shooting. But a smothering defense that forced 16 turnovers eventually wore down the Tigers (9-16).
Curtis has won sectional titles before in stops at Northrop, DeKalb and Angola, but adding one with the Flying Jets feels special considering the struggles the program has had. Just two years ago, AC won just five games and just two the season before.
“When we took over, I did my homework before I took the job and watched film and thought we had good enough and tough enough kids to be successful,” Curtis said. “But we hadn’t won anything til now, so this feels nice.”
Bluffton was led by Olivia King and Zoe Barger, both of whom scored 12 points.
Adams Central will take on South Central (19-7) in the second game next Saturday at the Winamac Regional at approximately noon. The winner will face either Andrean (15-12) or Bremen (18-7) in the championship game at 8 p.m.