Bulldogs use late surge to get past visiting Marshall
From a sports fan’s point of view, few things are better than watching your favorite team dominate its opponents on a consistent basis.
Coaches, however, tend to have a bit of a different perspective.
“Obviously you always want your team to be successful and win games,” said Otsego boys’ basketball coach Matt Dennis, whose team had won its first six games by an average of 30 points. “But you also want your guys to be challenged. You want to see how they respond in a close game, especially late in the game.”
Dennis got the opportunity to see just that in the Bulldogs’ non-conference contest against Marshall on Friday, Dec. 28.
In a game that was separated by no more than four points at the end of any of the first three quarters, Marshall knotted the score at 51-51 on a basket by Dan Delmotte with one minute, 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Rather than panic, the Bulldogs regrouped to outscore Marshall 13-4 during the final 1:19 and secure the 64-55 victory to stay unbeaten at 7-0.
“I told our guys that this was going to be the best team we’ve played so far this season and we were going to have to play well if we wanted to win,” Dennis said. “I was really proud of the way the guys stepped up and did their jobs. We haven’t been in a lot of close games late, but we responded really well.”
The charity stripe was key for Otsego.
The Bulldogs made all eight of their attempts from the line during the final minute of play, led by a 4-for-4 effort from Will Eldred. Charlie Woodhams and Addison Atwater each made a pair of free throws during that span.
“We have two of the best free throw shooters in the state in Will and Charlie,” Dennis said. “Will didn’t miss a free throw last season and has been really good again this season, while Charlie’s also about as good as they come. Nothing is automatic, but it’s as close to automatic as it gets when those guys are at the line.”
Woodhams also accounted for the go-ahead basket that broke the 51-51 deadlock, knocking down a 3-pointer. That was the final of nine triples in the game for Otsego, including four in the fourth quarter.
“It actually wasn’t our best shooting night, but we did knock down some big shots,” Dennis said. “We have a lot of guys who can shoot from the outside. It’s been a weapon for us all season and it was again tonight.”
Atwater connected for three of those 3-pointers on the way to a team-best 17 points. He also doled out a team-high six assists and snagged five rebounds.
“Addi was good again for us,” Dennis said. “He’s come up big all season.”
Eldred and Jayden Dentler each had two 3-pointers, while Woodhams and Owen Watson had one each.
Woodhams and Eldred joined Atwater in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Jordan Ross nearly gave the Bulldogs a fourth double-digit scorer with nine points to go along with team bests of seven rebounds and three blocks.
Otsego got out to a 14-8 lead following a 3-pointer from Atwater with 3:00 left in the opening quarter. Marshall responded with an 8-4 run to close out the stanza and knot the score at 16-16.
The Bulldogs led 28-24 at halftime and were up 40-37 at the end of three quarters.
“This was a good test for us,” Dennis said. “With Christmas, we’d had five days off before having a voluntary shoot-around on the 26th. We then had a full practice on the 27th and then this game on the 28th. So, we haven’t had a lot of practice time.
“But it’s like I told the guys. We had six games prior to this one to work through some things, so we should be ready to go.”