Woodhams leads Otsego to comeback win over Trojans
By Jason Wesseldyk
WAYLAND—The first half of Otsego’s Class B boys’ basketball district opener against rival Plainwell on Monday, March 6, couldn’t have gone much worse for the Bulldogs from an offensive standpoint.
Otsego made just three of its 27 shots from the field in the first two quarters (11.1 percent), including 18 straight misses during one stretch as it faced a 23-11 halftime deficit.
So what words of wisdom did first-year Bulldog coach Matt Dennis have for his players during the intermission?
“I just reassured them that we weren’t really playing bad ball and we were still very much in this game,” Dennis said. “We were doing some good things. We were getting to the basket and getting some good looks. We just couldn’t finish.
“We talked about moving a little more without the ball and looking to make the extra pass. I told them they might have a good shot, but a teammate might have a great shot. That was the focus for the second half.”
Apparently the message got through, especially to senior Bill Woodhams.
After being limited to three first-half points, Woodhams—Otsego’s leading scorer—erupted for 27 second-half points to lead the Bulldogs to the 54-40 come-from-behind victory.
With the win, Otsego advanced to the district semifinal against Fennville on Wednesday, March 8. The winner of that game will face either Wayland or Allegan with the district championship on the line at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 10, in Wayland.
“This was a great game to be a part of,” said Dennis, who previously served as head coach for the Kalamazoo Valley Community College men’s team. “For this being my first district game as a coach, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was against our rival with a great crowd and we were able to finish strong and get the win. This is what high school basketball is all about.”
While this was the first district game for Dennis, Woodhams wanted to ensure it wouldn’t be the last for him and his fellow seniors.
After going 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half, Woodhams made all seven shots he took in the third quarter as he totaled 18 points in the frame. The final of those shots was a 3-pointer that knotted the score at 34-34.
And while Plainwell briefly retook the lead and headed to the final stanza up 35-34 following a free throw by senior Ben Gibson, the Trojans knew the momentum had clearly shifted.
“When Billy started shooting the ball the way he did in the third quarter, he’s tough to stop,” said Gibson, who’s competed against Woodhams at the varsity level for the past three years. “After he hit those first few, you just start looking at each other thinking, ‘Oh, no. Here we go again.’” He’s a great player and he stepped big.”
A 3-pointer from Tyler Rayman to open the fourth quarter started a 10-0 Otsego run to put the Bulldogs up for good. Woodhams scored the final seven points of that stretch on his way to a game-best 30.
“When Bill’s on like he was in the second half, it makes me look like a great coach,” Dennis said. “The crazy thing is, we didn’t call one play specifically for Bill. It was all movement and staying in the flow of the game. His teammates did a great job finding him and he did a great job knocking down the shots.”
Rayman added 10 points for Otsego, with Zac Lucas going for five.
Evan Finch paced Plainwell with nine points, followed by Gibson and Luke Morrell with eight each.
“This has been the story of our season,” Plainwell coach Dan Klein said. “We’ve had double digit leads in the first half in probably half our games. We just can’t quite seem to find a way to finish.
“This was a great group of guys. We have a lot of them back, which is the good news. But we’re really going to miss our seniors, especially (Gibson). He’s the engine that makes us go and it’s been a pleasure to coach him the past three years.”