Trailing by a point 24 seconds into the fourth quarter of his team's Division II regional basketball semifinal against Willard last night at Savage Hall, veteran Ottawa-Glandorf coach Dave Sweet swallowed his pride and decided to take a leap of faith.
Twelve seconds earlier standout Willard guard Nick Dials had meshed two free throws for his 24th and 25th points of the game, and the Titan boss figured something needed to be done.
A box-and-one defense - with O-G senior guard Nick Ruhe (15 points) shadowing Dials and his 28-points-per-game average - was the new plan. It worked well enough to earn O-G (22-3) a 72-64 victory and a spot in the regional final for the second straight year here against the nation's top-ranked team, the LeBron James-led Fighting Irish of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
“We did something we've never done with that junk defense,” Sweet said. “I don't believe in junk defenses, but Dials was hitting some big shots and we had to try something.
“Nick's quickness really helped curtail Dials in the last three minutes. He went to the foul line a couple times, but overall it worked.”
After Kevin Unterbrink (11 points) meshed the Titans' eighth and final 3-pointer of the game, Crimson Flashes sub Harley King answered with a three-point play to put Willard back on top 56-55 with 6:37 remaining.
But Unterbrink's steal (from Dials) and transition layup put O-G ahead, and standout 6-4 junior forward Tim Pollitz (21 points, six rebounds) added a three-point play for a 60-56 edge with 4:54 remaining, and Willard (21-4) got no closer than two from there.
Dials, who mixed five treys into his 29 points, added four free throws in the final 2:09 to keep the Flashes close. But O-G's defensive work, and its ability to execute offensively down the stretch, decided the game.
Much of O-G's late offense came from Pollitz and his twin brother, 6-4 guard Eric Pollitz (17 points, seven boards). They combined for 12 of the Titans' 20 fourth-quarter points.