PEMBERVILLE – Otsego bolted out to a 14-2 lead and then held on against a gritty Eastwood team to post a 51-40 victory Thursday in a Northern Buckeye Conference contest.
With the victory the Knights finished 13-1 to win their third NBC title in nine years. Otsego finished 13-1 in both the 2014-2015 and 2016-2017.
“The good thing is all three were out-right,” Otsego head coach Scott Bernthisel said. “It’s even sweeter when you can win an out-right championship.
“We know what they (Eastwood) are going to do. It’s hard to prepare for it … They keep coming at you,” he added.”
The teams came into the final NBC game at 12-1, but behind Brynne Limes’ 19 points and 17 rebounds the Knights were able to prevail.
“We came out and we wanted it so bad,” Limes said. “We have worked so hard these last couple of weeks … We stayed those long hours after practices.
“I think we played a little more relaxed. We knew we had to break their press right away,” Limes continued. “We got those transition points that we needed.”
Limes scored nine points in the first quarter to help the Knights take an 18-4 lead.
The Knights continued to play well and took a 29-10 lead into halftime. While Otsego was 11-of-32 on shooting in the first half, the Eagles were only 4-of-24.
“It’s tough you give yourself 10 points in the first half you are putting yourself in a tough position,” Eastwood head coach Nick Schmeltz said.
Even with the loss of team leader Jamie Schmeltz, the Eagles made a monster comeback out-scoring the Knights, 23-6 in the third quarter. Aubrey Haas scored seven points for the Eagles while Kenna Souder and Kaitlyn Luidhardt each added six points.
“We won the third quarter 23-6 and got ourselves back to within two points and we had possession to take the lead or tie it … We kind of wore ourselves down at the end,” coach Schmeltz said.
“We were playing on our heels. It’s hard to convince kids at halftime with a 19-point lead that the game is not over,’” Bernthisel said. “A good team like Eastwood figured the game wasn’t over.”
A 3-pointer from Kylie Brinkman got the Knights started in the fourth quarter. Otsego was up 41-37 before making an 8-0 run to basically seal the victory.
“Eastwood is going to go on runs and you just have to minimize their runs,” Bernthisel said. “Because we played so well this first half and then with five seniors on the floor for most of time in the second half we just told them to go out and win one quarter. They won (the fourth) quarter and the league championship is ours.”
“We didn’t freak out,” Limes said about the third quarter. “We kept scoring.”
With the loss of Jamie Schmeltz, who underwent knee surgery Thursday, and senior Hannah Limes, who suffered a shoulder injury with 3:03 left in the first half and did not return, the Eagles were playing with underclassmen while the Knights had five seniors on the floor.
“Jamie is somebody that pushes us on the court,” Brynne Limes said. “She is a great competitor and we love playing against her. I wish nothing but the best for her. Going into tonight we knew that was an advantage.”
With Brynne Limes leading the way Otsego’s starters scored 48 of its 51 points.
“Otsego has a lot of experience. They have women and we are playing young girls. At times there were five sophomores were out there for us,” coach Schmeltz said. “We rolled with one senior and one junior.
“She was huge,” he added about Brynne Limes. “She had 14 points in the first half. She came out and made two threes right away … She played pretty well and they beat us up inside with second chance points.”
Haas led Eastwood with 13 points and nine rebounds while Luidhardt added nine points.
Eastwood finishes the regular season 17-5 and Otsego, 18-3, has a non-conference game at Ottawa Hills on Saturday.
Limes, 5-2-3—19; Brinkman, 1-1-0—5; Moser, 2-3—7; Cepek, 4-0—8; Smoyer, 3-3—9; Greenhagen, 0-0—0; Roberts, 1-1—3; McCoy, 0-0—0. TOTALS: 16-3-10—51
Farmer, 0-0—0; Haas, 4-1-2—13; Limes, 0-0—0; Moenter, 0-2—2; Abke, 1-2—4; Luidhart, 0-3-0—9; K. Souder 1-1-2—7; J. Souder, 0-0—0; Ameling, 1-1-0—5. TOTALS: 7-6-8—40.