OTTAWA – They call it the “second season” for a reason.
After Ottoville got off to a 7-2 start to the 2016-17 basketball campaign, the Big Green then fell on hard times and won just one of their next 11 regular-season games.
At Wednesday’s Division IV boys sectional tournament at Ottawa-Glandorf’s Robert J. Hermiller Gymnasium, Ottoville shrugged off its subpar regular-season record, came out strong against Putnam County League-foe Pandora-Gilboa, and went on to upset the PCL champions, 63-57, to advance to a sectional title game against Continental on Friday night. Tip-off will be around 8 p.m. at O-G.
Continental defeated Leipsic 50-45, in Wednesday’s second semifinal.
Both Ottoville and P-G came out on fire Wednesday, hitting a combined 11 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. For the game, Ottoville made 12 3-pointers, while P-G connected eight times behind the arc.
Ryan Bendele led Ottoville (9-12) with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Nick Moorman hit four times behind the 3-point line and ended the game with 17 points. Logan Kemper scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Big Green.
Drew Johnson led P-G (16-7) and all scorers, with 19 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds. Jared Breece scored 17 points, including two 3-pointers. Breece also had five boards and five assists.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s very rewarding,” Ottoville coach Todd Turnwald said. “These guys in the locker room never packed it in. They stayed the course. Last week we played Wayne Trace tooth and nail without Moorman, and we had Ryan Bendele go off for 27 (points). His confidence went through the roof.
“What we had told the guys – PCL championships don’t matter. When it comes tournament time, none of that matters. It’s a whole new season. That’s the beauty of this. And we took great advantage of it tonight.”
In the first eight minutes of action, Ottoville’s only field goals were of the 3-point variety. The Big Green connected six times behind the arc. P-G countered with five treys in the opening stanza.
After Ottoville slipped out with a 20-19 lead at the first stop, the Big Green cooled off from the outside and P-G reclaimed the lead by the break, 35-32.
However, in the third quarter, things changed for the Rockets.
P-G struggled, offensively, in the third stanza, making just 2-of-10 shots from the field, while Ottoville kept the pressure on. Kemper got busy inside, scoring three field goals. The Big Green pulled out to a 45-40 lead by the end of the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Moorman at the buzzer gave Ottoville the 5-point advantage.
“That’s not the way we play,” P-G coach Joe Braidic said, in reference to his team’s outside shooting. “We have good shooters, but there’s no question, we want to attack the rim. I just don’t think we were attacking the rim enough. Once those threes stopped falling, it got a little tougher to score. They (Ottoville) shot lights out.”
In the final quarter, P-G managed to knot the game at 48 apiece, on an inside move by Cooper McCullough (five points).
However, in the final stanza, Ottoville made 7-of-8 shots from the free throw line to stave off P-G.
“We went through a little stretch where we got a little hesitant, offensively,” Turnwald said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been in a position like that, with an eight-point lead. We just got a little tentative. But, these guys made some foul shots in the last quarter.”
For the game, Ottoville shot 50 percent from the floor. P-G shot 40 percent, after shooting 50 percent in the first half.
Turnwald was confident in his team’s shooting ability.
“They stuck shots on a big night. I’m super proud of our guys. We were OK with that. We have some guys that can shoot it. Ryan Bendele had six (3-pointers) last week. We can play that game for sure,” Turnwald said.
Continental 50, Leipsic 45
Continental held off several runs by Leipsic to come away with the hard-fought five-point victory.
Continental led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter. Then, the Pirates pulled out to a 31-24 lead by the break. By the end of the third quarter, Continental led 40-31.
Wade Stauffer led Continental (14-9) with 17 points. Teammate Trevor Williamson scored 14.
Grant Schroeder led Leipsic (14-9) and all scorers, with 18 points. Jordan Berger added 16 for the Vikings.
Wednesday’s matchup was a game full of runs.
“Our key going into the game was, we couldn’t turn the ball over, and we couldn’t give up layups,” Continental coach Kurtis Brown said. “That was the key, early on. We made our run at the start, then we turned the ball over three or four times. I think we had seven turnovers in the first quarter. And that’s when they made their run.
“So, we got composed, got rid of the jitters, and we started to take care of the ball, and that was the difference when we stopped their runs.”
Added Leipsic coach Chris Kuhlman, “Our guys definitely played their butts off. We just needed one more shot to fall, or one more rebound or one more hustle play to go our way. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way tonight.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.