OTTAWA – After last season’s state championship run for the Ottawa-Glandorf boys’ basketball team, there were a lot of unknowns heading into the 2013-14 campaign.
O-G graduated eight players, including four starters from last year’s Division III state championship squad.
Heading into Friday’s Western Buckeye League opener against visiting Van Wert, the Titans wanted to answer some of those questions.
After three quarters of nip-and-tuck basketball, the Titans got after it at the defensive end and pulled away from the Cougars for a 60-40 victory.
O-G outscored Van Wert 21-6 in the final eight minutes. The Titans were 10-of-13 shooting from the field in the final quarter, with most of its scoring coming off transition.
Zach Kuhlman led O-G (2-1, 1-0 WBL) in scoring with 17 points. Noah Bramlage (6-foot-7, forward) poured in 14 points, had 12 rebounds and six blocks. Bramlage also stepped outside the arc and hit two 3-pointers. Point-guard Alex Schroeder scored 13 points for the Titans.
Matt Bidlack led Van Wert (2-2, 0-1 WBL) with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. He also led the Cougars with nine boards.
“Van Wert was very patient and they tried to get the ball to Bidlack, who had a very good game,” O-G coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “I thought, especially defensively, we were very, very good tonight. What I have seen, defensively, I like the effort. Because, where we were a month ago, to where we are right now, it’s night and day. Our starting five played really well tonight.”
The game was tight, early on, as Van Wert slipped out with a 17-16 advantage by the end of the first quarter. The Cougars made 7-of-10 from the floor with Bidlack scoring seven points.
In the second stanza, Van Wert struggled, hitting just 1-of-10 from the floor. The Titans got out in transition often and pulled out to a 32-23 lead by the break.
Bramlage was a load down low, scoring eight points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking two shots in the first half. Kuhlman scored 11 points in the first 16 minutes.
However, in the third quarter, Van Wert slowed O-G down, holding the Titans to seven points, on 3-of-10 shooting.
“I think we got a little complacent,” McGlaughlin said. “That first possession of the third quarter, we played really good defense, but we played defense for about a minute, 45 seconds. It kind of lulled us to sleep a little bit. When we got the ball, then we chucked it up there right away and had to come back down and play defense.”
McGlaughlin pointed to his team’s defensive effort as the key to the game.
“In the second quarter and at the end (fourth quarter), we picked up the pressure,” McGlaughlin said. “I think the size and strength of our guys just wore on them as the game went on. Bidlack got into a little bit of foul trouble and they just didn’t have the size to match up with Noah (Bramlage) and (Tyler) Zender (6-2). Then (Jason) Schnipke came in and gave us some good minutes.”
For the game, O-G shot 54 percent from the field. Van Wert connected on 33-percent of its shots from the floor.
O-G won the battle on the boards, 34-17.
Van Wert committed 11 turnovers, while O-G turned it over nine times.
Van Wert also was coming into Friday’s WBL tilt with some questions about its young team.
“They (O-G) have won a lot of games here for a reason.” Van Wert coach Mark Bagley said. “They have a horse down low (Bramlage) and for whatever reason, we couldn’t make shots tonight.
“Last Friday we made shots and it showed. Tonight, we couldn’t make shots. (Nathan) Stoller (five points) and Holly (Connor Holliday, five points) have to score for us. When those two don’t score, then we struggle to find offense. We have to do everything fundamentally right. Tonight, I was disappointed, fundamentally, at some of the things that happened.”
McGlaughlin acknowledged that his team will be a work in progress this season.
“I think the roles are slowly starting to develop. I think they are starting to understand what they are supposed to be doing. The chemistry is slowly starting to get there. We just need more game reps. …And the more game reps we get against other teams, we’ll start to find out,” he said.