COLUMBUS — They dreamed the dream and it became real. And for the Titan at the center of that magic moment, real life was even better than dreaming.
When Ottawa-Glandorf won the Division III boys basketball state championship 67-46 over Versailles on Saturday, it ended a year-long quest by the Titans that began when they lost in the 2012 state semifinals.
It gets no better than that in high school basketball. And it gets no better than what T.J. Metzger did to lead the Titans to that state championship.
Metzger, a 6-foot, 1-inch senior guard, scored a career-best 36 points, hit nine 3-pointers, broke two state tournament records and tied two others. He made 6 of his first 7 3-pointers when O-G jumped out to a 29-11 lead in the game’s first 9 ˝ minutes and Versailles never recovered.
Like millions of other young kids, Metzger used to imagine he was shooting the game-winning shot in a state championship game.
But he was even better when he got the chance to take those shots than he was when he dreamed about it.
“You live for these moments,” Metzger said. “When I was in the back yard when I was 7 years old, I’d go up to my brother like, ‘This is for a state championship right here.’ And then I’d miss it.
“It was a different story today,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Ottawa-Glandorf (26-3) won the school’s third boys basketball state title — all of them in the last 10 years. It won the 2008 Division III trophy and was the Division II champion in 2004.
With all five starters back from a team that lost 74-66 to Portsmouth in the Division III state semifinals last year, the Titans had this destination in mind all season.
“The coach talk is one game at a time and let’s win a sectional title, but from the time we left the Schott last year these guys had that look of disappointment and rightly so. You could see the frustration and we used that as a motivator in the offseason,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Tyson McGlaughlin said.
Michael Rosebrock, who had eight points and eight rebounds against Versailles, said the conversation on the ride home after last season’s loss at state was focused on 2013.
“There was a lot of talk about we’ve got a lot of guys back, the whole starting five. This year, the thing was to get back to the final game and once we did to give everything we had and leave it all out on the floor.”
O-G’s victory was far from one dimensional, though. After Versailles hit three 3-pointers in the game’s first three minutes, the Titans’ defense frustrated the Tigers offensively and held them to 39 percent shooting overall.
Kyle Ahrens led Versailles (23-6) with 12 points, seven points below his average and well below his effort in the semifinals when he scored 21 points and threw down a ferocious dunk that was one of ESPN’s plays of the day.
But in the end it kept coming back to offense. Versailles coach Scott McEldowney thought offense might carry his team to an early run that would give it the upper hand. But that idea quickly disappeared.
“We were hot at the start and thought we were going to get out to a nice run. But they answered everything we did early on,” McEldowney said.
“When the game got up to about 15 points, we had to try to go get a really good team. It’s tough to get down by 15 in the state and expect to come back and win.
“The kid (Metzger) shot tremendous. We knew he was capable of going off and shooting, but that’s something you don’t see every day,” he said.
Metzger broke the Division III record for most 3-point field goals in a state championship game, surpassing the eight J.T. Hoyng of Sparta Highland made in 1998. He also broke the overall two-game state tournament record of 12 threes by Lima Senior’s Demond Lyles in 1992 and Hoyng in 1998.
His nine 3-pointers tied Lyles’ overall record, set in the 1992 Division I state title game against Lakota, and his 36 points tied Hoyng for the Division III championship game record.
O-G was up 35-20 at halftime, but Versailles appeared possibly on the edge of getting back into the game when it scored the first six points of the second half to cut the lead to 35-26.
The Titans answered with six straight points of their own, all from their inside players — four by Rosebrock and two by Noah Bramlage — to push the lead out to 15 points again.
Maybe the point of no return for Versailles was when Metzger made a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the third quarter to send O-G out to a 51-36 lead.
When the lead hit 20 points halfway through the fourth quarter, it was time to start planning another celebration for O-G.
McGlaughlin said he thought the Titans were a state championship-type team all season, even at the low point of the season when they were upset at home by St. Marys.
“But it’s a tough road. To get to Columbus once is a great opportunity, a great achievement. These kids are just simply winners,” he said.