ONTARIO -- You would think a new first is unlikely for Hall of Fame basketball coach Joe Balogh in his 36th year at Ontario High School.
You would be wrong.
No. 2-seed Ontario knocked off Bellevue, 49-36, on Tuesday night in the first round of the Division II sectional tournament -- the first home tournament win in the storied coach's career.
OK, so that's a little deceiving.
Thanks to COVID-19 precautions that are placing sectional games on the higher-seeded team's home court, it's also the first home tournament game for Balogh, who earned the first of his 597 career wins when Ronald Reagan was president.
"We talked to our kids about that the other day," Balogh said afterward. "When you have a chance to play your first tournament game on your home floor, you don't want to lose it."
Senior forward Gage Weaver, who had 15 points, a balanced Ontario offense and an opportunistic defense made sure that didn't happen.
The Warriors (16-5) got a push from the Redmen (5-14), leading just 35-30 early in the fourth quarter before outscoring the visitors from the Sandusky Bay Conference, 14-6, the rest of the way.
Junior guard Darian Delbrugge and senior guard Zach McCristall each had eight points. Senior guard Griffin Shaver added seven. The balance was made more critical by the fact senior guard Kolten Kurtz was saddled with four trouble and finished with just two points.
"I think you have to give Bellevue a lot of credit," said Balogh, whose Ontario teams have won 73 percent of the games he has coached. "We had opportunities that we could have thrown the knockout punch and we just were never really able to throw it.
"That's kind of the way sectional tournament games go many times. Both teams were prepped for this game. I thought it was a typical sectional game that you just have to grind it out," he said.
Ontario led at each break -- 9-7 after one quarter, 25-17 at the half and 33-28 going into the fourth period.
"At this point in the year, you're just trying to focus on winning. I don't think we played poorly. I thought we just missed some shots, especially at the beginning of third quarter that could have taken our lead to double digits," Balogh said.
Sophomore guard Tyler Ray led Bellevue, which came into Tuesday after winning two of its last three games, with 11 points. Senior guard Grant Nichols and senior forward Parker Smith each had seven.
The win earned Ontario a second sectional tournament home game on Friday at 7 p.m., a rematch against No. 5-seed Mansfield Senior (8-10). Ontario beat the Tygers in the O-Rena just 10 days ago.
"(The Tygers) are going to come out with a lot of energy. We have got to expect that and we have got to be able to match that energy at the start of the game. It's going to be a great sectional final game."
The winner of Friday's game advances to the district semifinals on March 3 at Ashland High School.