By BRANDON SHRIDER
PANDORA — Twenty-four seconds into the second quarter Joe Braidic was faced with a tough decision.
Drew Johnson, Pandora-Gilboa’s 6-foot-6 senior wing who notched all-Ohio honors a year ago, committed his second foul of the game on Nick Moorman’s 3-point attempt.
Braidic opted to sit Johnson for the final 7:36 of the half, Moorman knocked down all three ensuing free throws to knot the game at 11-all and Ottoville ultimately won the quarter for a three-point halftime lead.
Johnson returned in a pivotal third quarter, Jared Breece became more aggressive after an 0-of-6 first-half, Riley Larcom made every tough play and Cooper McCullough couldn’t miss as the Rockets rallied for a 59-51 win over Ottoville in a potentially Putnam County League-deciding game Saturday.
“Cole Schwab is just now starting to get into the minutes of playing. He came in for Drew and I give that kid all the credit in the world because he hasn’t played hardly all year,” Braidic said.
“But he came every day to practice to get prepared to play. And we kept telling him, your time will come and he was the one that came in there and we got great minutes out of him. They (Ottoville) could’ve made a run right there in that second quarter against that group.”
The 6-4 Schwab did not score, but gave the Rockets a big enough body to replace Johnson on defense.
Pandora-Gilboa improved to 10-1 overall and 4-0 in the PCL. Ottoville fell to 11-3, 1-1 in the PCL.
Including the three Moorman free throws, Ottoville outscored P-G 14-8 in the second quarter with the Rockets’ first bucket not coming until Larcom turned his own steal into a layup with 4:35 to play in the half.
“I thought that was our chance. I felt like we were playing better, but we weren’t able to get away from them a little bit to separate ourselves,” Ottoville coach Keith Utendorf said.
“That unfortunately came back to haunt us. It’s a credit to them, they’re good. Flat out, they’re good.”
The Rockets launched out of the break, though, with Larcom finding Breece for a bucket in the opening seconds and Johnson hitting a pair of free throws and a layup.
Larcom finished a bucket in the paint and then grabbed an offensive rebound and found McCullough — who poured in a team-high 18 points with three steals — for an open 3 on the ensuing possession.
Johnson finished with 13 points and three rebounds.
“We told them we got good looks (in the first half), they just didn’t go down,” Braidic said.
“Defensively, we were spot on. And we said, if you keep doing that and keep attacking the basket, you’re going to get those shots. The kids started taking the ball to the basket, we got open looks, Coop hit those threes and that just broke it open.”
McCullough’s 3 prompted a quick Ottoville timeout.
Moorman, who finished with a team-high 18 points, then hit the second of two free throws, but McCullough answered right back with a crafty driving layup off the glass forcing another Big Green time out. He buried another 3, on a textbook drive-and-kick to the corner from Breece, with 24 seconds left in the third quarter to cap a 19-point frame for P-G.
“We told (Breece) that we thought he could take that guy (Zane Martin) to the basket and so he started driving,” Braidic said of his senior guard who finished 12 points, all in the second half, and two assists.
“We told him, you’re gonna get down there, you just gotta make a good decision when you get there. He had a couple assists down there and he hit a couple buckets and that was huge for us.”
Ottoville managed just six points in the quarter, which included an NBA-range 3-pointer from Josh Thorbahn.
The 6-3 Thorbahn, who was man-marked by a versatile Larcom nearly all game, finished with 11 points including a second deep 3, a relatively unguarded triple in the game’s final seconds and one two-pointer on five attempts.
“That’s what I thrive on. My goal for defense is to shut down the best player,” said Larcom, who finished with seven points but a team-high 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.
“So when coach put me on him I was like, I’m not gonna let him score, at least try not to. Obviously he hit some ridiculous threes but you gotta live with that. I thrive off that.”
Braidic added that “Riley is a really good defender. He’s really quick, he’s long, so people have a hard time scoring on him. Thorbahn found out that kid could play.”
Logan Kemper finished with nine points for Ottoville, including five points in the final 30 seconds.
P-G’s Grant Murphy finished with eight points, including a 4 of 4 effort at the foul line in the final 25 seconds.
OTTOVILLE (11-3, 1-1 PCL)
Moorman 4-9–18, Thorbahn 4-0–11, Kemper 4-0–9, Suever 1-3–6, Bendele 1-0–3, Schimmoeller 1-0–2, Fisher 0-2–2. TOTALS: 15-34 14-21 — 51.
PANDORA-GILBOA (10-1, 4-0 PCL)
McCullough 6-3–18, Johnson 4-5–13, Breece 4-4–12, Murphy 1-6–8, Larcom 2-3–7, Phillips 0-1–1. TOTALS: 17-38 22-32 — 59.
Ottoville 8 14 6 23 — 51
Pandora-Gilboa 11 8 19 21 — 59
3-Point GOALS: Ottoville 7-14 (Thorbahn 3, Bendele, Kemper, Suever & Moorman 1); Pandora-Gilboa 3-13 (McCullough 3).
rebounds: Ottoville 19 (Kemper 9); Pandora-Gilboa 27 (Larcom 9).
turnovers: Ottoville 11, Pandora-Gilboa 8.
junior varsity: Ottoville, 36-27.