By BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Sports Writer

A huge second half helped Paulding knock Bluffton out of first place in the Northwest Conference with a 62-46 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night.

“We needed to make a run early in the third quarter to attempt and seize control of the game and break Bluffton’s rhythm,” noted Paulding coach Matt Arellano, whose squad trailed 27-21 at halftime. “The coaching staff and the girls did a fantastic job of making some tweaks that accomplished that goal. We were able to go on a run and put ourselves in a great position.”

Chelsi Giesige scored eight points in the third, lifting the Panthers to a 35-32 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of action.

Jalynn Parrett then ignited a 27-point fourth-quarter outburst for Paulding with nine points while Giesige added eight as the Panthers improved to 10-3 on the season.

Paulding, which knocked down 20-of-26 free-throw attempts in the victory, missed just two of 16 foul shots in the fourth to ice the contest with six different players coming through at the line. It had Arellano pleased with the contributions throughout his squad, which evened its NWC mark at 2-2.

“Janae (Pease) was spectacular defensively tonight,” Arellano noted. “She can change a game without ever scoring a point.

“Chelsi was special tonight,” continued the first-year Paulding head coach about the team’s leading scorer who finished with 20 points. “We know she can score, it’s the little things she does throughout a game that makes such a difference.”

Parrett added 15 points and Leigha Egnor 10 for the Panthers with Pease and Audrey Giesige chipping in with seven points apiece.

“Jalynn and Audrey found a bit of rhythm offensively as well tonight,” added Arellano, with the younger Giesige hitting a 3-pointer in both the second and fourth quarters while Pease had five of her seven points in the second half.

Laykin Garmatter made six 3-balls and tallied a game-high 22 points to lead Bluffton, last year's NWC co-champions, but finished with just three points after half. Kylie Stackhouse was next in line with eight points for the Pirates, losers of two straight in falling to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference. It left Columbus Grove as the only unbeaten squad in the league at 4-0.

“Bluffton came in off only their second loss of the season (falling to Elida on Monday), so we knew they would be amped up and ready to redeem themselves,” explained Arellano, whose squad was outscored 12-9 in the first quarter and 15-12 in the second with Garmatter connecting on five first-half triples.

But the Panthers dominated the second half to the tune of 41-19 in winning their third consecutive contest.

“What a great week of basketball for our girls with two quality wins,” concluded Arellano after the Panthers topped Delphos St. John’s 54-51 on Monday prior to Thursday’s NWC victory. “I can find something (good) to say about every player this week. What a great team win heading into a long week of three games in four nights.”

Bluffton    12 15 5 14  - 46

Paulding    9 12 14 27  - 62

BLUFFTON (46) B. Garmatter 2-0-5; L. Garmatter 7-2-22; Stackhouse 3-2-8; Monday 1-2-4; Schaadt 2-1-5. White 1-0-2. Totals 16-7-46

PAULDING (62) Parrett 5-4-15; McCullough 1-2-4; Pease 2-3-7; C. Giesige 7-5-19; Estle 0-1-1; Egnor 3-4-10; A. Giesige 2-1-7. Totals 20-20-62.

Three-Pointers: Bluffton - L. Garmatter 6, B. Garmatter. Paulding - A. Giesige 2, Parrett. Free Throws: Bluffton 7-19, Paulding 20-26

Junior Varsity

Bluffton     7 6 9 10 -  32

Paulding   8 5 2 9  - 24