Some people think that just being a basketball player is being an athlete. That is laughable.
Swanton’s Gunnar Oakes is an all-state football selection and is ready to sign a National Letter of Intent to play at Eastern Michigan next fall.
He also led the Bulldog baseball team in runs batted in last spring, as well as winning the NWOAL high jump with a leap of 6’2.”
He is a regular in the Bulldog weight room and bench presses 300 pounds.
Friday night he added to his list of accomplishments by hitting the 1,000 point mark during his Swanton basketball career, and the Bulldogs needed every one of his 35 points, including 22 of Swanton’s last 30 to take down Evergreen 56-48 in overtime.
The win evened the season series between the two teams as the Vikings won 62-60 in December at Evergreen.
“We have a lot of size and strength on them,” Swanton coach Matt Smith said after. “Not so much length but strength. Coach (Jerry) Keifer had them prepared and they rebounded well (early). At halftime we said ‘listen we aren’t outrebounding them, let’s go. You guys better start killing them on the boards if you want to win this game.”
Evergreen used a 10-3 edge on the boards in the first quarter, along with triples from Nate Brighton, Mason Loeffler and Bryce Hudik to take a 12-10 lead after one.
Swanton bounced back in the second, getting inside with Oakes who scored nine points along with Zach Dziengelewski’s three-point play to take a 21-20 halftime lead.
Evergreen pulled ahead with five minutes left in the third when Dziengelwski was called for an intentional foul and after splitting a pair from the line, Loeffler forced up a three that went in to give Evergreen a 28-27 lead.
That lead grew to 35-30 on a pair of Phoenix VanOstrand baskets inside and another triple from Hudik before Oakes scored inside and Nick Koback hit a three-ball just before the end of the quarter to keep Swanton within 38-34 heading into the fourth.
From there it was Oakes, Oakes and more Oakes..hitting five straight hoops including a third time putback along with two other scores off the offensive glass to draw Swanton even at 44-44 with 3:58 left.
Loeffler split two free throws to put Evergreen back on top, but Dziengelewski answered with a pair at the other end to give Swanton a 46-45 lead.
Brighton went 1 for 2 to tie the game with 1:40 left before Oakes again scored his fourth putback of the quarter to give Swanton a lead.
Brighton got inside at the 1:00 mark to tie the game and Swanton had two more chances to go ahead or win but Dylan Gilsdorf missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 16 seconds left and after a Viking miss, Duyane Goings missed both free throws after time had run out.
“We’re shooting 47 percent for the year and it’s cost us at least three games already,” said Smith. “I thought it was gonna be another one and I was just heartbroken over there. I felt for Duyane he’s goes up there and misses two and I thought ‘oh boy’. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after that going into overtime feeling you had the game won and you don’t. So I’ll give our kids credit, they didn’t blink, they rallied and they finished overtime right.”
It was Oakes who gave the Bulldogs all the points they needed with a pair of baseline moves in the first 1:49 to push Swanton up four and with Evergreen not making a shot in the extra period, along with Swanton’s 16-5 rebounding edge in the fourth and OT, Swanton put the game away at the line, including Goings hitting a pair.
The only question left was would Oakes hit 1,000 points and with a free throw in the last few seconds to give him his 35th point, the Bulldog senior hit the magic number.
For the game Oakes and Dziengelewski combined for 48 of the Bulldogs 56 points, many on second chance scores as the Bulldogs held a 35-14 advantage on the glass after the first quarter.
“There’s no doubt about it, Gunnar, and Zach, live in that weight room,” Smith explained talking about how his Bulldogs exploited the Vikings on the glass. “They live in that weight room and they have made their bodies look the way they do over four years. It’s a credit to those guys and it definitely helps us (win close games).”
Loeffler’s 19 points led Evergreen. Hudik added 10.
Swanton (7-10, 1-2 NWOAL) then dropped a 56-45 decision at home to Genoa Saturday, while Evergreen (7-10, 1-2) fell at Ottawa Hills 39-35. The Bulldogs are at Patrick Henry this Friday and Evergreen is at Delta.
Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]