HOLLAND – Ever toss a biscuit between a puppy and a big dog to see who gets it first?
Try it and I’ll bet the puppy grabs it and runs away leaving the big dog wondering what just happened.
Brittaney Cymbolin’s Evergreen Vikings were like a pack of puppies chasing tipped passes, picking ball handlers from behind and diving for loose balls like they were a box of Milk Bones, and it was a 19-2 Otsego team that was left wondering what happened as the Vikes flat out stole a Division III sectional title from the NBC champions in a 59-52 win at Springfield Thursday.
It was the 8th sectional title for Evergreen in the last 10 years, and Cymbolin’s first in her initial season at the helm.
“It came down to who worked the hardest,” said Cymbolin after. “Otsego kids work their butts off and we just knew we had to put in that extra effort to win the game tonight.
“We knew we were going to strategically trap and do different things and set up different presses and our kids are just smart when we do that.”
That hard work became apparent right away in the first few minutes when Bailie Sutter chased down a Viking miss and found Alyssa Noe for a wide open triple that gave Evergreen an 8-4 lead.
Brynne Limes’ basket inside knotted the game at 9-9 before Lexie Shipman nailed a bank from the right side to give Evergreen an 11-9 lead at the quarter.
Shannon Weihl’s fallaway and Holly Roe’s fastbreak hoop gave Otsego a 14-11 lead with 6:41 left in the half.
It was then that Evergreen’s smallest pup began to be Otsego’s biggest annoyance.
Noe missed a triple try, but Hannah Herr went to the floor for the loose ball and fed Noe for a another second chance three-ball tying the game.
After Hannah Fonseca put the Knights back on top, Evergreen regained the lead with 4 for 6 from the foul line before Herr knocked away a pass and when left-right-left to the rim to put the biscuit in the basket for a 20-16 Viking lead.
Weihl put Otsego back in front with a transition score with 54 seconds left in the half, but Noe answered with a pair from the line to give Evergreen a 24-23 lead at the break.
Jamie VanLoocke snuck behind Fonseca starting the third quarter for a steal and score, then after Sutter scored out of the key a short time later, it was Herr again with Sutter trapping Weihl on the sideline when one of the big dogs took offense.
A frustrated Weihl fired an elbow into Herr’s face drawing a flagrant foul that Abi Borojevich knocked home both free throws while Herr was being administered to give the Vikes a 31-23 lead.
Borjevich’ feed to Sutter gave Evergreen a 35-25 lead with 5:30 left in the quarter before Otsego rallied.
Weihl hit a triple then a jumper from the right side to knock the Viking lead to 40-36 before VanLoocke’s thievery on a loose ball rebound score, then the seventh Otsego turnover of the third quarter put Herr on the line where she hit 1 of 2 to give Evergreen a 43-36 lead heading into the fourth.
With the score at 43-38, it was Noe who blew the game open again.
The senior guard nailed a step back triple, fed a wide open Shipman for a score, then became the next thieving pup with a steal and score which blasted the Viking lead to 50-38.
“I’ll tell you right now, I just love that kid,” said Cymbolin of her point guard. “I don’t think that she has gotten the respect she deserves. She proved tonight, the last two games, what type of player she can be and what type of player she is.”
Weihl’s four free throws and a Limes hoop got the score within six, but the Vikings began cashing in at the line, hitting 6 for 8 to keep the lead at 56-50 on a pair by Borojevich with 24 seconds left.
Weihl hit two more with 15.4 to go when controversy arose and an already frustrated Otsego sideline got burned.
Evergreen ran a double pass to get the ball inbounds to Borojevich who was fouled and when an Otsego assistant went onto the court to argue that VanLoocke had received the first pass inbounds before going out, he earned a technical that Borojevich made good on with 3 of 4 free throws to put the game away.
In all the Vikings hit 9 for 12 from the line in the last 2:01.
“We lost 8 of our 11 games by four points or less because of free throws,” stated Cymbolin. “We’ve been working hard at gaining confidence shooting those.
“Obviously that was the key to the game,” Cymbolin said of the Vikings foul shooting in the last two minutes. “Actually I’m pretty excited about it because the kids won’t think I’m crazy anymore. I can show them that stat and say ‘see I told you’.”
For the game, Evergreen hit 20 of 31 from the line and forced 21 Otsego miscues to only 12 of their own.
Weihl led all scorers for the Knights who go home at 19-3, with 24 points. Evergreen had three hit double figures as Noe had 17, Sutter 11 and Herr 10.
The Vikings play Delta Thursday in the opening round of the All-NWOAL Lake District. Game time is 6 p.m.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org