Four in a row:
Someday, maybe somebody will come along who matches A.J. Atwater’s accomplishment as a member of the Otsego boys’ basketball team. Maybe.
But no one will ever surpass it. And he’ll always be the first.
Atwater scored 19 points to help the Bulldogs upend visiting Dowagiac 70-45 in the Wolverine Conference championship game on Thursday, March 5.
The league title was the fourth straight for the Otsego. And it was the fourth straight for Atwater, who made the varsity squad as a freshman.
“It’s an honor, a blessing and a privilege to have been part of this run we’ve had the past four years,” Atwater said. “Years from now, we can walk back into this gym with our kids or grandkids and look up at that banner, knowing we were a part of that.
“I love playing in this gym, I love this team and I love my teammates.”
While the four-year run of championships coincides with Atwater’s tenure on the varsity squad, it also coincides with Bulldog coach Josh Holmes’ time with the team.
Not that he wants any of the credit.
“This is just a great team and a great group of guys,” said Holmes, who served as the Otsego JV coach before being promoting to the varsity position prior to the 2011-12 season. “There’s so much talent here. To be honest, I think any coach could have won four straight titles with these guys … but I’m definitely glad it was me.”
Otsego wasted no time in setting the tone for this game, closing the first quarter on a 16-0 run to take a 25-6 lead.
Atwater and Seth Dugan led the charge with eight points each in the period. Chris Pearl added five points, with two of those coming on a thunderous dunk on a rebound midway through the quarter.
“We came out with a lot of energy right from the start and that dunk from Chris really energized us even more,” Holmes said. “We’ve talked all season about putting together four solid quarters, and that starts with the first one.”
Pearl also had one of his three blocks in the first quarter. He finished with nine points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and took a charge for good measure.
“These last three years have been so much fun,” said Pearl, who transferred to Otsego as a sophomore. “Where I came from, we didn’t do a lot of winning. So to come here was amazing. I just try to go out and use my athleticism and basketball IQ to help this team any way I can.”
Dugan finished with a game-best 23 points, while Michael Williams had 15 points and eight rebounds for Otsego, which led 40-19 at halftime and 57-35 entering the fourth quarter.
For full story, pick up a copy of the March 9 issue of The Union Enterprise or subscribe to the e-edition.