HOLLAND – Way back in the beginning of December, Evergreen had to ward off a 13-shot barrage of made 3-pointers to beat Otsego in overtime.
In Friday night’s Division III sectional title game it was the Evergreen boys who locked in from long range early, then gave the Knights very few open looks in a dominating 64-42 win before a capacity Viking crowd at Springfield.
Evergreen, now 22-1 on the year, advances to Thursday night’s district tournament at Toledo Central Catholic.
“First of all our community support in fans was fantastic,” said Vikings coach Jerry Keifer. “You come into a neutral site and fill up your side and spill over to the other side, that just shows a lot of what our fans and community is about and how they feel about our kids. It was really fantastic.”
Otsego came out in a triangle-and-two defense to slow the Vikings’ combo of Mason Loeffler and Nate Brighton, who burned Otsego for 48 points in the first go-round and Jack Etue made them pay.
The senior guard canned a triple to open the game, then after Joe Dzierwa and Rob Gray got inside to give Otsego a 4-3 lead, Etue drained a right-wing howitzer that started a 70 second burst where the Vikings ran off 10 straight.
“When they came out in the triangle-and-two, Jack really gave us a jump and it was huge because they had to come out of that defense and try to switch to something else,” explained Keifer who notched his 365th win Friday night. “That allowed us to get the ball inside a little better and we were able to run what we like to do.”
Loeffler knocked down his first of four triples, Evan Lumbrezer pickpocketed an Otsego player at midcourt for a steal and score and then committed a second act of larceny that led to a Loeffler layup for a 13-4 Evergreen lead.
Ben Gray momentarily stopped the Viking explosion with a bucket inside but Etue locked in again from outside the arc and Loeffler turned another Knight turnover into a slam for an 18-6 lead.
After settling for a 22-12 advantage after a quarter, Otsego battled back to a 24-19 deficit on Evan Harves’ three-point play and Noah Keifer’s 3-pointer before the Vikings rang off eight in a row.
Ethan Loeffler’s post move began the run, then CJ Hauk knocked down a corner triple and Mason Loeffler netted another 3-pointer to give the Vikes a 32-19 lead with 1:38 left in the half.
Otsego closed to 32-23 at the break but Evergreen opened it up in the third.
Mason Loeffler and Harves traded baskets to start the quarter but the Vikings held Otsego to two field goals the rest of the way, outscoring the Knights by 10 for the rest of the period.
Etue nailed his fourth triple, Brighton powered his way to the rim for a score and Lumbrezer found Mason Loeffler for a post move then a long triple to close the stanza with the Vikes up 49-30.
“Again tonight we were very good on the defensive end,” expressed Keifer. “We made them really work for open looks. I thought we did a decent job on the boards and contesting passing lanes.”
Hauk found each Loeffler, Mason for a tomahawk dunk and Ethan for a more conventional layup to begin the fourth which put Evergreen ahead 53-30.
Brighton scored three times on feeds from Lumbrezer to boost the Vikes to their largest lead, 60-35, with 3:10 left before massive substitutions finished the game up.
Evergreen shot 24-of-39 for the game while holding Otsego to just 15-of-48.
The Vikings had a large 26-14 edge on the glass.
Mason Loeffler took game scoring honors with 21 points, while Brighton added 14 and Etue 12. Lumbrezer hit double figures on the assist total with 10.
The Vikings’ opponent in the 6:15 time slot is Toledo parochial school power Cardinal Stritch.
“This was another good win and achieved yet another goal in winning the sectional,” said Keifer, who won his 14th sectional title. “Obviously we face a very good Stritch team next.”
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org