By DAVE HANNEMAN
COLUMBUS — The Ottoville green and gold was tinged with silver, like the runner-up trophy the Big Green received after Saturday’s 63-48 loss to Minster in the Division IV state championship game.
But coaches, players and fans will long discuss, debate and deliberate all the wouldas, couldas and might-have-beens of what looked like a golden opportunity for the Big Green.
Ottoville, 27-2 and ranked No. 2 in the final girls state poll, and Minster, 25-3 and ranked No. 4, were locked in a back-and-forth battle with the state championship on the line. From the middle of the second quarter on, no more than four points separated the two teams. In the first 3:15 of the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands eight times.
As often happens in games of chance and games of skill, fate stepped in.
A shot went up, there was a scramble for the rebound and in the confusion, Ottoville’s Bridget Landin went sprawling, hitting her head on the Schottenstein Center floor. The 6-foot senior, a two-time first-team all-Ohio selection, went to the bench for observation, then to the locker room for concussion protocol examination.
She never returned to the game.
Landin didn’t need to score 30 points and grab 20 rebounds a game to earn all-Ohio honors. Ottoville, making a second straight trip to the state tournament, is too deep and too balanced for that.
That proved to be the case with senior forward Amber Miller twice giving the Big Green one-point leads, at 44-43 when she put back an offensive rebound, and 46-45 when she converted two free throws after rebounding another miss.
Junior wing Kasey Knippen also put Ottoville up by one, at 48-47 with 4:45 left when she connected twice from the line as well.
Landin’s absence would soon be felt, though.
Minster’s Courtney Prenger, also a first-team all-state selection and, ironically, a teammate of Landin’s in AAU summer ball, scored on a short turn-around jumper in the lane following a TV time out. Taylor Kogge scored after an Ottoville turnover and Prenger again after a Demaris Wolf steal.
Minster would then convert 8 of 8 free throws the in the final 1:30 to claim its third girls state basketball championship.
“The turning point was obviously when Bridget got knocked down or fell down or whatever,” said Ottoville coach Dave Kleman.
“We ran a pick-and-roll and they (Minster) both went with Bridget, from what I saw. Then bodies started flailing. There was no malicious intent as far as I’m concerned. It was just a basketball play and something happened.
“From a basketball standpoint she fell and hit her head. Then the wheels fell off after that. I would have liked to have seen what would have happened had she been able to finish the game.”
Landin finished with 13 points, one of three Ottoville players at that number. Miller and Knippen also had 13 points and C.J. Kemper had nine as the Big Green, state runner-up in 2005, ended the year at 27-3.
Prenger, a 6-2 junior forward, had 17 points and a team-high six rebounds for Minster (26-3). Kogge added 12 points for the Wildcats, who also got 15 points from two freshmen — 5-8 starting guard Ivy Wolf and 5-4 back-up guard Janae Hoying.
Wolf made the steal and Hoying made the lay-up that allowed Minster to trail just 24-20 at the half. Hoying then scored seven straight points in the third quarter — a 3-pointer from the right corner, a lay-up off a steal, and two free throws following another turnover — when Minster rallied from a 29-24 deficit to go up 33-29 with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
“Early in the year we made the decision, that with the talent we had in our junior and senior classes, in order for us to make a run, Janae had to be a part of it as an extra guard,” said Minster coach Mike Wiss.
“We did not do anything with the decision at the time. We already had Ivy (Wolf) (on varsity) , so we started working Janae in since the middle of January. She’s continued to grow and today it showed: 6-for-6 from the line, 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench, a couple of steals that gave Kasey Knippen fits on the other end of the floor …
“To make this run, we knew we needed her in the mix.”
Minster scored the first basketball of the game, but Kemper and Knippen hit a two and a three each and Miller scored inside completing a 12-0 run by the Big Green.
“We saw Minster on their heels a little bit,” Wiss said.
“Once we got out of that and started applying a little more full-court pressure — which is what we do — we got (Ottoville) out of synch a little bit offensively. Cutting the deficit to four points by the half was a big deal, too. Basketball is such a game of momentum, and it can change so fast. At the end, (Ottoville) was struggling to find its identity and we knew right where ours was.”
Minster’s 13-5 run to open the third quarter flipped the momentum as well, but it also lit a fire in Landin, who scored on four drives to the basket in the final four minutes of the third quarter, capping the last with an and-one 3-point play.
Knippen, like Landin a left-hander, also found a seam in the Minster defense for a driving lay-up.
“They were getting to the left block where they are tough to beat,” Wiss said.
“Lefties go left when the pressure is on them and righties go right. That’s where they ended up and that’s where they were making their baskets. Once we made some defensive adjustments about who’s guarding who, we were to stop that and make a run of our own.”
“Bridget was on a mission,” Kleman said. “She was coming at them and was taking over until she fell and hit her head.”
“Our feet got tangled up and I ended up hitting my head on the floor,” Landin said after the game.
“Everything started getting dizzy, then they took me back (to the trainer’s room). I told her that I wanted to play, but she said I couldn’t.”
“Bridget has been an iron woman for us,” Kleman said. “I don’t think she’s missed more than one game her entire career. She had a sprained ankle once and I think she would have played but I didn’t let her.
“Back in the day, they probably would have let her play. You know, ‘Lace your shoes up and let’s go’. But we’re smarter these days. It takes a lot to get her out of the game, but no way are we going to put her in if there’s a risk toe her health. She’s more important than any game we play.”
Fischer 0-3 2-2 2, I. Wolf 4-10 6-7 15, Kogge 5-7 2-3 12, Prenger 7-11 3-6 17, D. Wolf 1-6 0-0 2, Ernst 0-0 0-0 0, Pelletier 0-0 0-0 0. Wuebker 0-00-0 0, Thobe 0-00-0 0, Richard 0-0 0-0 0, Barhorst 0-0 0-0 0, Falk 0-1 0-0 0, Thien 0-0 0-0 0, Hoying 4-6 6-6 15, A. Wolf 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21-44 19-24—63.
Kemper 4-8 0-0 9, Landin 6-11 1-3 13, Schlagbaum 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 4-7 4-4 13, Knippen 4-10 4-4 13, Geise 0-0 0-0 0, Hanneman 0-0 0-0 0, Hoersten 0-1 0-0 0, Knippen 0-0 0-0 0, Honigford 0-0-0 0, Hilvers 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18-39 9-11—48.
Minster 9 11 21 22 — 63
Ottoville 14 10 16 8 — 48
3-Point GOALS: Ottoville 3-7 (Kemper 1-3, Miller 1-1, Knippen 1-2, Hilvers 0-1); Minster 2-12 (Fischer 0-3, I. Wolf 1-3, Ernst 0-2, Falk 0-1, Hoying 1-3).
rebounds: Minster 25 (I. Wolf & Prenger 6); Ottoville 22 (Miller 7).
turnovers: Ottoville 17, Minster 8.
ASSISTS: Minster 11 (I. Wolf 4); Ottoville 9 (Landin 4, Schlagbaum 3).
STEALS: Minster 11 (D. Wolf 3); Ottoville 5 (Miller 2).
BLOCKS: Minster 4 (Prenger 2); Ottoville 3.
ASSISTS: Ottoville 18, Minster 14.
FOULED OUT: None.