With the Knights on the brink of clinching at least a share of the SLL championship for a second straight year, the Otsego faithful packed the gym with hopes of witnessing another memorable moment for a team perhaps playing as well as any in the area.
The Knights didn't upset the festive homecoming crowd as they fought their way to a 68-63 win over the Eagles en route to their 27th straight SLL win dating to last season when they posted a 16-0 league record.
Seth Waits paced Otsego with a game-high 20 points while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds to help the Knights improve to 16-0, 11-0 in the SLL.
Pete Ferdig came through with 19 points, including 13 in the second half, while also dishing out six assists.
“It's really an awesome feeling right now,” said Waits, who was 4-for-4 from the foul line late in the fourth quarter to help secure the win. “People didn't really give us a lot of respect and we've just kept together as a team.”
Otsego coach Larry Asmus was more relieved than ecstatic about a game in which the Knights were out-rebounded 28-21. The Knights had to knock down 11 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter in order to hold off Eastwood.
“We'll take this win,” Asmus said. “Now we're up three (games) with three to go.
“This was a key win for the title, but we still have to go out and win one game next week to win it outright.”
The Eagles (11-5, 9-3) marched into the game needing a victory to keep alive their dream of dethroning the Knights. However, untimely turnovers and poor shooting didn't help their cause.
“I thought it was a pretty gutsy effort for us,” Eastwood coach Steve Stoller said. “We fought back, but to beat a good team like Otsego you can not turn the ball over.”
Ross Lingenfelder led the Eagles with 17 points while Brent Snyder and Thurman Lawniczak added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Knights took the lead midway through the second quarter and never trailed again.
Otsego forward Tyler Smith made his presence felt early on around the basket to help the Knights go up by as many as 12 points in the first half. Smith scored all of his 14 points before intermission, including 10 in the first quarter to help Otsego take a 22-16 advantage into the second quarter.
“Tyler Smith is a tough matchup for people,” Asmus said. “He's awfully strong inside.''
Nonetheless, the Knights' road to victory came down to the inside-outside tandem of Waits and Ferdig after Otsego carried a 42-34 halftime lead into the second half.
Ferdig, the Knights' best outside shooter, scored 19 points after not scoring a point in the first quarter. He became a steady scoring threat the rest of the way, at least five points in each of the three remaining quarters.
Ferdig and Waits combined for 12 of the Knights' 16 points in the final quarter. Both accounted for four foul shots down the stretch. Waits, Otsego's leading scorer (17.9 scoring average), made good on all four of his foul-shot attempts in the quarter.
As a team, the Knights were 16 of 28 from the foul line for the game.
“We were struggling a little from the line and I said on the bench `give me the ball' and fortunately I was able to knock them down,” Waits said.