By Mike Phillips
Conditioning won out over speed in the boys’ championship game of the 37th Annual Northwest Invitational Saturday night at Hughesville.
Otterville survived a fast tempo, pressure and double-teaming defense of the Green Ridge Tigers in the third quarter. The Eagles got off the canvas after a standing eight count and hit free throws down the stretch to post a 58-50 win.
“Yeah conditioning played a part,” said Otterville Coach Jon Tester, whose team improved to 3-0 and won the Northwest Tournament for the second straight year. “I think because we played last night, we were in game condition to play tonight. This is only our third game. We went down to Lincoln last week and last night was just our second game.”
Otterville struggled all night from the free throw line, making 15 of 29 from the stripe. The Eagles made six of 13 charity tosses in the fourth quarter but that was enough to prevail over the tiring Tigers.
“Sometimes you win in spite of yourselves,” said Tester, shaking his head as he glanced at the scorebook. “We won last year here and made only 10 of 25 free throws in the championship.”
Otterville senior guard Ryan Benny, the Most Valuable Player in the Cooper County Athletic Association last season, scored seven of his 12 points and hit four of five from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers, 3-1, scrambled all over the floor, often double-teaming the ball-handler in the third quarter. Green Ridge forced numerous turnovers and made the Eagles play at a faster pace than they wanted to.
The white-clad Tigers pulled even at 41-41 after three quarters after trailing most of the first half.
Otterville led 29-25 at halftime.
Green Ridge’s Justin McCarthy scored to start the second half to make it 29-27. Benny answered for the Eagles to push their advantage back to four at 31-27.
Axton Harding made a steal and scored and Austin Story followed with a trey to knot the game at 31-31.
Green Ridge’s Hayden Doane topped off a 5-0 Green Ridge run as the Tigers opened up a 36-31 lead.
Otterville came roaring back in a game that became extremely rough and at times dirty. Justin Halgren topped off a 7-0 Eagle run as Otterville recaptured the lead 38-35.
Story and Jacob White scored to give Green Ridge a 39-38 lead.
Halgren made one of two free throws to tie it at 39-39. Devin Rockett canned a 16-footer to give Otterville a 41-39 lead but Story tied it again with a putback off the offensive glass to tie it 41-41 after three quarters.
Benny converted a three-point play to start the fourth and Otterville had the lead for good at 44-41 and Green Ridge began to show signs of fatigue. They lost their legs and that made a lot of their shots come up short. Green Ridge had to foul down the stretch.
The Eagles led 14-12 after the first quarter and 29-25 at the half.
Jake Gaskell led Otterville with 17. Benny had 12 and Halgren 11.
Story led Green Ridge with 13 points. Harding and Ben Scotten had 12 points each. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.