ELIDA — With only two seniors and a slew of underclassmen on the roster, the Ottoville boys’ basketball team is searching for consistency.
However, the one constant so far for the Big Green has been the strong play of sophomores Josh Thorbahn and Ryan Suever.
In Friday’s non-league game against Elida, the two sophomore standouts were on full display as Ottoville jumped out quickly on the Bulldogs, en route to a 55-45 victory at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Thorbahn, a 6-foot-5 guard, led Ottoville and all scorers with 20 points. Thorbahn also came away with eight rebounds and had two blocks. Suever, a 6-7 wing, scored 13 points, including two thunderous dunks. Suever also had 10 boards, four steals and two blocks. Joseph Miller added 11 points, including three first-quarter 3-pointers that got Ottoville off to a quick start.
Matt Fish led Elida with 11 points, and had a game-high 11 rebounds. Freshman Evan Unruh added 10 points, including two 3-pointers for the Bulldogs.
With the win, Ottoville improves to 6-2. Elida slips to 4-3.
Ottoville got it done at the defensive end, forcing 22 Elida turnovers (20 after the first quarter).
“I think that has to be one of our trademarks,” Ottoville coach Keith Utendorf said. “We’ve talked about it all year – about trying to establish that identity of putting pressure on the basketball, putting pressure in the passing lanes, and just trying to make teams uncomfortable.”
Ottoville got off to a quick start Friday, pulling out to a 13-7 lead, midway through the first quarter, thanks to Miller’s three bombs behind the 3-point line.
The Big Green led 17-13 by the end of the first quarter.
However, Elida made a run to begin the second quarter.
The Bulldogs claimed their first and only lead of the game, 22-21, at the 5:33 mark of the second quarter, on a break-away lay-up by Fish.
But Ottoville responded.
The Big Green pushed out to a 33-24 lead by the halftime break. Thorbahn scored seven of his nine first-half points in the second stanza. Ottoville controlled the boards in the first half, 19-15. Elida turned the ball over eight times in the second quarter.
Fish led Elida in the first half with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“The guys (Thorbahn and Suever) they run most of their stuff through stepped up at the times they needed them the most,” Elida coach Denny Thompson said. “There were times I thought we did a good job (defensively), but we did not rebound a miss and they rebounded it and stuck it in.”
Elida cut it to 6, 37-31, midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Unruh, his second of the contest.
But once again, Ottoville had an answer.
The Big Green pulled out to a 46-36 lead by the third stop. Thorbahn led the way, scoring six third-quarter points. Ottoville forced six Elida turnovers in that eight-minute span.
“They took turnovers and turned them into points and also momentum for them,” Thompson said.
The Bulldogs cut it to 8, 53-45 with 2:26 left to play in the game on a 3-pointer by Max Parker (eight points, four rebounds).
However, six fourth-quarter turnovers, along with 4 of 12 shooting from the field, hampered the Bulldogs.
“I thought (sophomore) Kyle Manns (six points, two steals) did a great job on the basketball (defensively), in the passing lanes,” Utendorf said. “With Joe Miller, we basically said, ‘Hey, who is their best guard? … You’re taking him away as much as you can.’ Even (freshman) Will Miller came in and gave great pressure on the basketball. We like to throw those little guys at people. They’re little, but they have a little bit of toughness to them.”
For the game, Ottoville shot 42 percent from the field. Elida countered with 37-percent shooting from the floor.
Ottoville turned the ball over 15 times, seven coming in the fourth quarter.
“I thought several times our initial defense was OK, but we didn’t finish it off,” Thompson said.
Elida held the slight edge on the boards, 34-31.
For the game, Ottoville was 7 of 13 shooting from the free throw line. Elida was 3 of 6 shooting from the charity stripe.
“Offensively, we have to get the basketball inside,” Utendorf said. “We have to challenge the rim, vertically, whether that’s on the pass or on the drive. Right now, we’re still trying to figure ourselves out, offensively, and how we can get guys in the right spots. That’s a process, but we’re starting to get there. That’s the encouraging thing.”
Added Thompson, “We have things we can do with that type of pressure we put on them, but we didn’t execute. You can chalk it up to a lack of experience. But eventually the experience they are gaining has to start translating to a better performance the next night.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.