The Big Green won its latest game Saturday at L.W. Heckman Gymnasium, drilling Leipsic 65-45 in a Putnam County League showdown, and head coach Tom Von Sossan said overcoming the mental strain of losing has been the key to his team's late-season turnaround.
“We went through a very difficult stretch where we lost a lot of close games and that gets to you mentally,” Von Sossan said. “We just had to keep working hard and you can tell now that the kids are a lot more enthused when they come to practice.”
Leading the charge for the Big Green (7-11), which closes the regular-season this week against state-ranked Marion Local and area power Wayne Trace, are Andrew Koch and Brad Turnwald.
The junior tandem has provided most of the scoring punch for Ottoville this year, and on this night against the Vikings (4-15), it was Turnwald who led the way.
He dropped 19 points on Leipsic, including a layup and free throw that put Ottoville ahead for good at 5-4.
Twelve of his points came in the second and third quarters on a steady diet of jumpers and layups as the Big Green stretched its lead 51-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
“My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball and fortunately the shots were falling for me,” Turnwald said. “I feel like myself and the rest of the team is playing with more confidence and we're looking to finish the season strong.”
Koch scored only 8 points while senior Phil Sargent and freshman Scott Pohlman stepped up and hit for 10 points apiece.
“We need Andrew and Brad to play well for us to have a chance to win,” Von Sossan said. “They score a lot of points and they have done a nice job of stepping up. We have other guys who are contributing more and that helps, too, but Andrew and Brad make our offense go.”
Ottoville has stepped up defensively lately as well. Against Leipsic, the Big Green limited the Vikings to a 16-of-41 showing from the field.
Leipsic scored only three field goals in the fourth quarter as Ottoville finished off the win in convincing fashion.
Dereck Mangas was the only player to score in double figures for Leipsic, clicking for 10 points.
“Ottoville played very good defensively,” Leipsic head coach Scott Maag said. “They made it very difficult for us to get good looks at the basket. We didn't have an answer for it.”
Leipsic trailed just 12-10 after one quarter but Ottoville went on an 8-0 run that stretched into the early minutes of the second quarter and put the Big Green up 20-10. Koch scored 4 points during the burst.
The Big Green led 35-20 at halftime.
“I thought the run we made in the first half was important,” Von Sossan said. “It got us going and we were able to stretch the lead in the second and third quarters to put it away. For the most part, we played pretty good basketball.”
Ottoville still has room for improvement, though, and Von Sossan would love to see his team build up a little more momentum before tournament play begins in less than two weeks.
“The key for us is to get more consistent in our play,” Von Sossan said. “We still have times where we don't put 32 minutes of basketball together. But the guys are believing in themselves and as long as they continue to work hard, we will get better.”