ADA — Lake entered Tuesday’s Division III regional semifinal riding a five-game winning streak with its last lost nearly a month prior.
The Flyers then jumped out to an early lead and held one-loss, state-ranked Ottawa-Glandorf scoreless in the opening 90 seconds.
But the No. 7 Titans, who consistently make deep tournament runs, found a rhythm and overwhelmed Lake — which was making its first regional appearance in nine years — with pace and power to take a 17-point halftime lead and score a 69-30 win at Ohio Northern’s King Horn Center.
“They’re here consistently. They’ve got players who are just two years removed from the state final four,” Lake head coach Joe Nowak said.
“That was a great team that beat us tonight … and that’s a great program. We knew it was going to be a tough go tonight,” he said. “At the end of the day I think they’ve got too many good players that just kind of wore on us.”
Lake, which had beaten four tournament teams who combined to win eight games against the Flyers during the regular season, finished its season at 14-13 overall. Ottawa-Glandorf improved to 25-1 and advances to play the Columbus Africentric-Margaretta winner at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lexington High School.
Lake scored the first four points of the game, which included a game-opening 3-pointer from sophomore Delani Robinson. The Flyers held the lead for nearly a minute and did not trail until the midpoint of the first quarter.
Robinson finished with eight points and junior Hayley St. John led with 10 points.
But O-G ended the frame on a 19-6 run, scored 20 second-quarter points and opened the second half with a 13-0 run. The Titans outscored Lake, which scored eight points in the second half, 25-6 in the third quarter.
The Flyers, in just their third regional appearance in program history, could not find space on offense.
Lake tried to swerve through the O-G defense, but rarely found a seam. The Titans repeatedly denied the ball and swarmed the paint on every penetration attempt. The Flyers did not have a counter, stumbling to 23 turnovers.
O-G flipped those turnovers into 24 points, while Lake scored just two points off of seven Titans turnovers.
“We started turning the ball over. I think they really started to get after us, even more so than what they were. We threw the ball away then they were gone, they were going,” Nowak said. “That definitely changes the pace of the game, and also the tone of the game a little bit.”
Lake shot 37.5% (12 of 32) from the field and missed its last four 3-pointers after Robinson’s first-minute triple. O-G converted 58.3% of its shot attempts, which included a 3-of-4 effort from deep.
Lake, seeded ninth in its district, entered the tournament with a losing record. Outside expectations were minimal after finishing in the bottom half of the Northern Buckeye Conference and its tournament opener was against the top seed in the district.
But the Flyers took off in the final month.
“I just think we knew that we needed to do something different if we wanted to prove everyone wrong. Prove a point that we can do it,” Robinson said. “We knew the whole season that we could do it, we just didn’t know what was going on. I feel like at practices we went harder and everything just ended up clicking at the right time.”
Four straight tournament wins over league opponents and a district championship is a memory that the group will have forever.
“I think the way that this team got here says a lot about who they are as people. And the way that they stuck together and used the tough season to propel them forward into the postseason, I think says a lot about the types of players that we have,” Nowak said.
“This little run that we put together after a tough season, I think is something that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I think they will too. And tonight’s outcome doesn’t change that one bit.”
Lake’s run ended on Tuesday, but the tournament success was a product of the visible strides the underclassmen-heavy team made since November.
“Coming into the year, having some young players that we were confident could do some things for us, we definitely saw that potential to have a good year. It just didn’t materialize as quickly as we thought it might,” Nowak said.
“Then to experience some difficult times, I think it really means a lot to kind of get things to click at the right time. To have glimpses of good moments throughout the course of the year and then whatever magic we had, we lost, and we’d find it again. And then to have it come back together at the end of the year, it says a lot about the leadership we have on the team. … It’s special.”