ADA — The Ada boys basketball team built a 19-point first half lead, then held off a furious late Fort Jennings rally to post a rugged 61-55 victory in a Saturday night non-league basketball battle.

The Bulldogs built a 36-17 lead midway through the second period with strong defense and transition scoring, and they maintained a 49-36 cushion heading to the fourth quarter.

But FJ rallied within 53-49 at the 3:19 mark. Ada senior Jake Rayl then tallied five consecutive clutch points, and the hosts hung on to register their first win of the young season.

"We made a lot of first half shots; we did a good job of figuring out how to turn defense into offense," said Ada fourth-year head coach Dre White. "Zac (Swaney's) defense was disruptive.

"They started to turn the tables in the second half," he continued. "But Jake Rayl came up big late, and Micah (Cook) made some key free throws."

"We had very balanced scoring with all five starters in double figures," White added. "To win such a physical game is a plus for us."

The Bulldogs improved to 1-1 with the victory, while FJ fell to 0-2 with the defeat.

Ada fell behind 5-2 early before Cook's right wing triple gave them a 7-5 lead just over two minutes into the fray, and the Bulldogs never trailed again.

Rayl scored in transition off a nice snap pass from Cook. Rayl then stole the ball and netted an uncontested breakaway layin to lead by six.

FJ junior post Evan Hoersten scored inside to end the 9-0 Ada flurry. Senior wing Carson Kazee sank a driving layup, and a spinning post move by Hoersten tied it 11-11.

But Swaney sank a mid-range putback, then drained a left corner trifecta to put the Bulldogs on top for good 16-11 at the 2:42 mark. Cook swished a right corner triple 30 seconds later to build the lead to eight.

Senior wing Phillip Coulson splashed a three-pointer to end the high-scoring period with Ada on top, 22-15.

Coulson sank a 17-footer to open the second stanza as Ada continued to play with high energy. Bryce Paul banked home a layup off a steal and assist from junior playmaker Brandon Hull.

Hull then bounced in a driving runner to build the bulge to 13. Moments later, Swaney forced a turnover with tenacious defense. He then snapped off a pretty mid-air pass to Hull for a fast break layup and a 30-15 margin.

Ada stole the ball and Coulson converted the breakaway to lead by 17. Hull came up with another swipe and found backcourt mate Swaney with a lookaway pass for another layin to cap the 15-0 spurt.

The Bulldogs were able to parlay that huge first half flurry into a big lead that the Musketeers were never able to overcome.

"We got some first half steals we turned into points," said White. "We were able to play at a faster pace due to our defensive pressure."

FJ stopped their nearly six-minute drought with two foul shots. Cayden Murphy answered with a layup 3:55 before intermission. Kazee sank a layup and a foul shot to inch within 36-20.

But Coulson stole the ball and sailed in for a layup. He then leaked out and tallied another fast break layin from Hull to double up the Musketeers, 40-20.

FJ tallied the final six points of the half to slice the deficit to 14 by halftime.

A coast-to-coast drive by Hull started the second half strongly for Ada. Hull then posted up and spun his way to an inside hoop for a 44-28 cushion.

Hoersten netted a 17-footer and a foul shot topull within 13. Cook then chased down a Musketeer and prevented his sure breakaway layin with a clean block from behind.

FJ head coach Ryan Schroeder was whistled for a technical foul for excessive arguing, but Ada missed four straight free tosses as the momentum began to shift in the physical contest.

Hoersten and Ty Miller each split two foul shots before the FJ post sank a jump hook with 2:47 left in the third period. Hull converted a free throw, and Swaney buried a right wing trifecta to rebuild the lead to 15 at the 55-second mark.

Hoersten posted up and sank a spinning layup to make it 49-36 going to the final period. Kazee then heated up by hitting a pair of triples in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter.

Rayl negated one trey with a driving, traditional three-point layup. But another trifecta by burly junior guard Zach Schulte sliced the Ada lead to 51-45 with 4:25 remaining to play.

Cook canned two big free throws with 4:17 left to stop the 9-2 spurt. Yet Kazee sank a pull-up shot in the lane at the four-minute mark.

Hoersten then bounced in a foul line jumper to nudge FJ within 53-49 41 ticks later. But Rayl drove hard right to the hoop and canned a clutch layin with 2:44 to go.

After FJ misfired on consecutive costly one-and-one foul shot attempts, Rayl was fouled and made one free toss for a 56-49 lead at the 1:56 mark.

Ada rebounded his second-shot miss, and Rayl again netted a strong driving layup to put the purple and gold ahead by nine.

Hoersten sank a follow shot inside to make it 58-51. After a Bulldog turnover, Nick Trentman kept FJ alive by tallying a driving finger roll.

Coulson split two free throws with 27 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a six-point advantage. Ada guarded the perimeter closely so as not to allow a three-pointer, so Hoersten powered inside for a layup with 15 seconds to go.

Cook was fouled and he drilled two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach. A final FJ triple try went awry in the final seconds.  

"Jake and Micah stepped up at the end," said White. "As Jake relaxes more, he will help out even more offensively."

The Bulldogs shot a solid 48 percent from the field (24-50). They canned five of 20 from beyond the arc (25 percent) and drained a sizzling 19 of 30 from two-point range (63 percent).

Ada converted eight of 17 from the charity stripe (47 percent).

The Musketeers sank 21 of 43 field goal tries (49 percent). They also singed the nets from two-point range, canning 17 of 28 (61 percent). But they made just four of 15 from three-point land (27 percent).

FJ also struggled at the charity stripe, sinking nine of 17 (53 percent).

Ada was out-rebounded by the bigger visitors, 31-20. The Bulldogs committed just 10 turnovers, and forced the Musketeers into 16 errors with pressure defense led by Swaney.

Coulson tallied 13 of his team-high 14 points in the first half to lead the balanced Bulldog attack. Rayl and Hull each netted 11 markers, while Swaney and Cook contributed 10 apiece.

Hoersten topped all players with 28 points. "He is a handful," admitted White. "When he caught it down low he was hard to handle. But I thought we did a decent job on him."

Kazee added 18 points, with eight coming in the fourth period.

"I thought Ty Miller and Cayden Murphy both came in and did well," summed up White. "We did a nice job on Schulte (five points)."

Ada also won the junior varsity game 29-18 to improve to 2-0. Junior Trent Ennis led the Bulldog reserves with 12 points, while freshman Ethan Murphy added seven.

Ada 61 (1-1)
Swaney 4 0-0 10, Murphy 1 0-0 2, Hull 5 1-3 11, Coulson 6 1-4 14, Rayl 5 1-3 11, Cook 2 4-4 10, Miller 0 1-3 1, Paul 1 0-0 2.
Totals: 24-50/8-17/61. 3-pointers (5-20): Swaney 2, Cook 2, Coulson 1.

Fort Jennings 55 (0-2)
Trentman 1 0-1 2, Kazee 7 1-6 18, Hoersten 11 6-8 28, Grote 1 0-0 2, Schulte 1 2-2 5.
Totals: 21-43/9-17/55. 3-pointers (4-15): Kazee 3, Schulte 1.
    1    2    3    4    F
Ada    22    18    9    12    61    
FtJ    15     11    10    19    55
JV: Ada 29, FJ 18.

Ada goes on the road to Putnam County to face Kalida (0-1) and Ottoville (1-0) next Friday and Saturday in a pair of tough non-league games.

Kalida lost at Arlington in its opener Saturday night, 54-36. The Red Devils (2-0) also defeated Ft. Jennings 72-53 November 29.

"We are in a tough stretch of games," White noted. "Playing Kalida and Ottoville over there is not an easy weekend, then we have Bluffton and Perry (Dec. 13-14)."