Otsego’s Liz Barwegen (left) drives past Allegan’s Antonette Ware during the Bulldogs’ district-final win. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Otsego holds off Allegan to secure district championship

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

Based on the final score, you might assume the Class B girls’ basketball district title game between Otsego and Allegan on Friday, March 3, was relatively easy for the Bulldogs.
It’s a reasonable assumption. It also happens to be inaccurate.
Because despite the fact that Otsego posted the 43-29, the game was much tighter than it would appear.
“I’ve been (coaching Otsego) for five years now,” Bulldog coach Tony Koshar said. “During that time, we’ve probably played Allegan 13 or 14 times between the regular season and the postseason. And each time we step onto the floor with them, we know it’s going to be a battle. They’re always well coached and play hard.”
Just how close was this game?
At halftime, Otsego clung to a 20-17 lead following a late 3-pointer from Allegan senior Haylie Curtiss. The Tigers were still within five points of the lead at 34-29 with 1:12 to play in the game thanks to a basket from junior Delanie Nahikian.
“This is one of those times when the final score doesn’t really tell the whole story of the game,” Allegan coach Josh Holman said. “I thought we battled hard the entire game and I’m really proud of the girls’ effort. We just didn’t quite have enough at the end.”
Given its deficit, Allegan was forced to foul in the game’s closing minutes. That was fine by Otsego, which knocked down seven of its eight attempts at the charity stripe in the final 53 seconds of play to pull away.
Senior Erica Drobny did the bulk of the damage at the line for the Bulldogs, knocking down all six of her attempts during that span.
“The crazy part of that is that Erica probably shoots about 55 percent (from the line) for the season,” Koshar said. “But in the final minutes of a game, in crunch time, she’s probably closer to 90 percent.
“She’s just one of those players who enjoys the pressure and wants the ball in her hands when the game’s on the line. And that’s what you’d expect from someone like her. She’s a four-year varsity player and one of our senior leaders.”
Drobny put the finishing touches on the victory with a steal-during-layup with eight seconds remaining to cap her game-best 13-point effort.
Sophomore teammate Mattison Rayman joined Drobny in double figures with 11 points, while Jaycie Callaway went for six. Grace VerHage and Liz Barwegen added five points each for the Bulldogs, who improved to 19-3.
“I didn’t think we ever got in a really good offensive flow like we wanted to, but credit the girls for battling through it and finding a way to win,” Koshar said.
Defensively, Otsego limited Allegan to 12 second-half points, with six coming in each the third and fourth quarters.
“I know we didn’t give up a lot of points (17) in the first half, but I still feel like we didn’t play particularly well defensively during that time,” Koshar said. “In the second half, I felt like we played much better and made things a lot tougher for Allegan. That was the difference in the game, in my opinion.”
Nahikian was the lone Allegan player to score in double figures, going for 10 points. Antonette Ware was close behind with nine points, followed by Kara Bishop with five, Curtiss with three and Leslie Scane with two.
“We just couldn’t get our shots to fall,” Holman said. “We had some good looks, especially in the first half. We just weren’t able to make enough of them.”
The district title is the fourth for Koshar in his five-year tenure with Otsego, which was scheduled to play Three Rivers in a regional semifinal game. The winner of that game will play either Marshall or Stevensville Lakeshore for the regional title on Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in Three Rivers.
“It never gets old,” Koshar said of winning district titles. “Now I just want to see how far we can go.”

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