Playing on the road and giving away three inches of height per player in the starting lineup against Ottawa Hills, Gibsonburg did its best to stay with the Green Bears until the final two minutes Friday night.
But in crunch time, the visiting Golden Bears finally cracked, and Ottawa Hills took a 47-39 Toledo Area Athletic Conference victory in boys basketball.
Geoff Beans, the Green Bears’ 6-foot-7 senior forward, led the way with 13 points and five rebounds for Ottawa Hills (5-1, 3-0 TAAC), which outscored Gibsonburg 6-1 in the final 2 minutes, 3 seconds.
“It wasn’t anything we didn’t expect,” Ottawa Hills coach John Lindsay said of Gibsonburg. “Their depth, their perimeter shooting, and, to be truthful, they outworked us tonight. We expected a dogfight, and it was.”
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Freshman guard Hunter Sieben had 11 points, 6-9 senior center R.J. Coil contributed nine points, and junior forward Nick Hauck added seven for the Green Bears.
In the opening half, with both teams shooting well from the field, Gibsonburg shot 5 of 7 on 3-pointers to stay even at 27-27.
But the arc was not so friendly to the Golden Bears after the break with 1-for-11 effort.
“We spread them out a little bit and had some success with that,” Brent Liskai said of the first half. “We had the same [3-point] looks in the second half that we made in the first half. We had to shoot the 3s, and we knew we had to shoot them well to stay in it. Unfortunately we missed some good looks there in the stretch.”
Jordan Kreglow topped Gibsonburg (2-2, 1-2) with 11 points, sub Bryce Ernsthausen was next with seven, and Andrew Cantrell and Andy Burmeister added six apiece for the Golden Bears, who were picked in the preseason coaches poll to finish second to Ottawa Hills in the TAAC.
The Green Bears already had a signature win this year (56-51 in overtime at perennial D-III power Liberty-Benton) and lost to unbeaten D-I Southview last week.
Gibsonburg was not intimidated by those credentials, nor by Ottawa Hills’ huge size advantage.
The Golden Bears spread the court in their half-court sets for much of the game, before Liskai decided to stall to open the fourth quarter with his team’s nine second-half fouls ready to send Ottawa Hills into the double-bonus for the final eight minutes.
After missing an early fourth-quarter shot but keeping possession, Gibsonburg held the ball near the timeline for more than three minutes before Ottawa Hills extended its defense.
The Golden Bears, almost immediately turned the ball over, then went 1 for 5 from the field in the final four minutes.
Still down just 41-36 after the stall, Gibsonburg got a back-door layup from Burmeister to pull within three with 2 minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
But senior point guard Ben Silverman (six points) hit two free throws with 2:03 left, and Hauck scored on a back-door feed from Beans for a 45-38 lead with 1:26 to go. The Green Bears hung on from there.
“It was a war,” Beans said. “They battled hard, and we knew we had to go up and grab every rebound [late in game]. We had to get stops on defense, and then make free throws in crunch time. We had to take care of the ball because we had a couple silly turnovers to start the fourth quarter. But we buckled down at the end and got it done.”
Ottawa Hills was 17 for 25 (68 percent) from the field, 10 for 18 at the foul line, and edged the Golden Bears 18-17 on the boards.
“I’m proud of the way we competed in what was left of the fourth quarter,” Lindsay said. “At that point we really stepped up. We competed enough tonight to get the win.”
Gibsonburg shot 15 of 37 (41 percent) from the field.
“They’re pretty athletic and skilled, so we wanted to shorten the game,” Liskai said. “Looking back, maybe we lost our composure a little bit. Maybe we should have stayed in the spread.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter@JungaBlade.