TOLEDO – The Toledo Christian Eagles have been the team to beat in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference (TAAC) for the past several years in boys basketball but the Ottawa Hills Green Bears were not impressed.
Despite falling behind 11-0 in the first quarter and never enjoying a lead until the game’s final two minutes, the Ottawa Hills defeated the Toledo Christian, 43-38.
The evening started poorly for Ottawa Hills as they were in danger of being blown out of their own gym as Toledo Christian dominated every phase of the game in the first quarter. The Green Bears battled hard but the Eagles defense was too tough and the Green Bears consistently turned the ball over.
Ottawa Hills failed to play much better in the second quarter as they continued to turn the ball over but the steady play of senior Brent Abendroth helped the Green Bears from falling farther behind. Unlike in the first quarter when the Green Bears seemed reluctant to put the ball up from outside, Abendroth hit several key shots that allowed his team to stay even with the Eagles. As a result, the Green Bears only trailed by nine going into the break, 19-10.
“Brent Abendroth got us back into the game,” said Ottawa Hills coach John Lindsay. “He got the hot hand and we began to run some sets for him.”
The second half was a different story for the Green Bears. In the first half, they committed 10 turnovers but in the second half they committed only two. Meanwhile, Toledo Christian, which played almost flawlessly in the first half by turning the ball over only twice allowed the Green Bears to slowly climb back into the contest by committing eight second half turnovers.
“We didn’t take care of the ball. We pride ourselves on taking care of the ball and we didn’t,” said Eagles’ coach Dave McWhinnie.
As the third quarter progressed, the Green Bears slowly began to chip away at the Eagles lead. Unlike in the first half, where the Green Bears had difficulty penetrating the Eagles defense, the Bears began to find holes in the Eagle defense. Abendroth and sophomore Eliot Browarsky took turns putting up points and, as the quarter closed, Ottawa Hills had pulled within three at 29-26.
Although the momentum had obviously switched to Ottawa Hills, Toledo Christian hung tough through most of the fourth quarter and refused to fold. The Green Bears stayed close but the Eagles maintained their lead until the game’s final three minutes when Ottawa Hills finally tied the game on a long range 3-pointer from Browarsky.
Finally, with only a 1:12 remaining in the game, the Green Bears took their first lead with a 37-35 edge. Only a few seconds later the Eagles had seemingly tied the game when junior Ethan Michael drove hard to the basket but he was called for a charging foul and the apparent tying basket was waved off the referee.
With the game in its final minute and the Green Bears enjoying their first lead, the Eagles were forced to foul. Ottawa Hills, however, was up to the task as they hit 3-of-4 foul shots to take a 40-35 lead and an apparent victory but, even with only fifteen seconds remaining the Eagles were not ready to throw in the towel.
Eagles senior Joe Claytor, who had not tallied a basket all evening, took an off-balance shot from three-point range with only 13 seconds remaining that successfully found the rim and Eagles still had a chance. The Bears were able to inbound the ball, however, and the they were again forced to foul. A move that resulted in the Green Bears converting on their attempts and taking home a 43-38 victory.
Leading the way in scoring for Ottawa Hills was Brent Abendroth with 19 and Eliot Browarsky with 15. Kyle Whitlow led the Eagles with 17.
“I am real proud of our kids,” said Ottawa Hills coach John Lindsay. “They hung tough when we got down early. They showed a lot of character in coming back.”
Ottawa Hills win moves its record to 2-1 while Toledo Christian falls to 3-2. Both teams now have one league loss and trail Cardinal Stritch, which is undefeated in the league at 3-0.