ELIDA — Ottawa-Glandorf just needed to hit some free throws in the last minute to keep its pesky boys basketball opponent.
Sounds easy, right? Not when a trip to the state tournament is on the line.
The Titans missed 5 of 6 free throws including several front ends of one-and-ones in the final minute until Brennen Blevins finally sank a pair of free throws with 19.7 seconds left. It was enough to protect the Titans’ lead and guide them onward to next week’s state tournament in Dayton with a 64-56 win against Johnstown in the Division III regional final at the Elida Fieldhouse.
“We’re giving our fans their money’s worth in the postseason,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “I don’t know what it is about this group of guys to just not want to seal the deal.”
Blevins’ pair of free throws, along with many other key shots on his way to an 18-point performance, were the key to securing the win for Ottawa-Glandorf (20-4), which had advanced to the regional championship game last year before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the state tournament.
“Last year, that was really heartbreaking. This year, it’s just like revenge,” Blevins said.
The Titans play Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (14-3) at 8 p.m. Friday at University of Dayton Arena. They advance for the fourth time since 2000, with state titles in 2013, 2008 and 2004. Overall, O-G has been to the state tournament seven times before.
The Titans simply wore down the Fighting Johnnies (22-6) over the course of the game with their pesky defense. Johnstown’s leading scorers, Gavin Foe (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Tylar Cox (15 points), just weren’t able to get into the flow of the game.
“We said we wanted to bring all the energy and get them out of their comfort zone so they couldn’t run all their sets and get their two main guys the ball in key positions,” McGlaughlin said. “I just thought our guys set the tone early on about how we wanted to play.”
Meanwhile, the Titans found it easier and easier to get the ball into Owen Nichols, who had 13 of his 21 points in the second half to lead all scorers and become the latest Titan big man to help his team head to the state semifinals. Nichols also had six rebounds.
“I couldn’t imagine this feeling,” Nichols said. ”I’ve never had this before. It’s amazing.”
Will Kaufman also had six rebounds. Carter Schimmoeller added eight points, including a pair of well-timed threes.
In the first half, it looked like the Titans might run away with the game. Blevins scored nine points in the second quarter, as the Titans turned a tied game into an eight-point advantage by halftime. The Titans opened the quarter on a 10-2 run, including a layup, a 3-pointer and a free throw from Blevins.
The Johnnies rallied back with a 21-14 third quarter, led by Foe’s 12 points in the quarter. On two occasions, Foe caught a full-court inbounds pass for relatively easy shots. Foe then fouled out of the game in the final two minutes.
In the end, all that matters is the Titans are heading to the state tournament, not just for this year’s player but for the ones who saw their season cut short last year. Five of last year’s seniors were on the floor and were the first people to help cut down the nets Saturday night.
“This is a fraternity,” McGlaughlin said. “Those guys poured their heart and soul into this program and may be one of the best teams I’ve ever coached and may be one of the best to ever go through O-G. To have it taken away from them last year was really, really hard on those guys. … I think it’s just kind of a tribute to those guys, getting them the recognition that they deserve. I tell these guys all the time, this is a special place, and we’re just very thankful to be here.”