TONTOGANY - The defending Suburban Lakes League champions opened the season last night in the same fashion they played most nights last season.
Otsego, sparked by a game-high 21 points from 6-5 center Seth Waits, posted a 57-49 victory by pulling away from Anthony Wayne in the final minutes.
The Knights, who compiled a 20-2 record last season, outscored the Generals 8-2 in the final minute of play to ruin the Generals' attempt at a second-half comeback. Anthony Wayne trailed by 10 points at halftime.
“Anytime you win the first game of the season it's a good win,” Otsego coach Larry Ausmus said.
Waits, who averaged 14.3 points last season, scored 11 of his 21 points in the second half. A three-point play by Waits with 35 seconds remaining secured the win for the Knights. Otsego's best inside scoring threat put back a missed free throw by Nate Dubois and was fouled on the play. He sank the free throw to give Otsego a 55-47 lead. The Generals (0-1), who rallied from the halftime deficit and actually led by three points early in the fourth quarter, couldn't stop the Knights in the end.
“We didn't do anything special,” Ausmus said. “We just decided to get the ball into Seth Waits's hands and he hit a couple of key baskets down the stretch. He also made a couple of big shots off of rebounds.”
Anthony Wayne shooting guard Jeff Talmanik scored a team-high 20 points, including 14 in the second half as the Generals marched back to make Otsego work for the victory. Keith Mikes added 18, but was limited to four points after halftime.
Anthony Wayne's first-year coach, Matt Hutchinson, wasn't disappointed about losing his first game. He considered it a learning experience for a team still picking up his system.
Nevertheless, the Generals had their shot at pulling out the win, but they made only 5 of 15 foul shots. The Knights sank 24 of 32.
“If we make the uncontested 15-footers from the foul line we win the ballgame,” Hutchinson said. “I thought we showed a lot of character coming back in the second half.
“We just ran out of steam, and they made some big plays down the stretch.”
The Knights, who went 16-0 in league competition last season, are expected to be tough to deal with in the SLL again this year. While they may have lost a couple of key players from the best team in school history, they showed the Generals there's still plenty of talent remaining to make another run at an SLL title. Pete Ferdig, a 5-10 guard, provided 14 points in his first-ever start for Otsego.
“We were happy with Pete Ferdig tonight at point guard,” Ausmus said. “He did a nice job out there.”
The Knights took a 32-22 halftime lead when Josh Niceley swished a 3-pointer from the baseline as time expired to end the second quarter.