Senior trio helps propel Otsego to win over Plainwell in rivalry game
Having already wrapped up the Wolverine Conference North championship with a win over Paw Paw three days earlier, the Otsego girls’ basketball team entered its contest against rival Plainwell on Monday, Feb. 19, loose and relaxed.
No Bulldogs were a better example of that than the trio of senior starters Grace VerHage, Jaycie Callaway and Liz Barwegen.
“I thought those three girls really set the tone for us tonight,” Koshar said. “They were active and relaxed, which helped the rest of the team.”
The result was a 59-33 victory that gave Otsego the regular-season sweep over the Trojans. The teams will meet again in the first round of districts at Wayland on Monday, Feb. 26.
“This was a good win for us,” Koshar said. “It gives us some momentum and confidence heading to districts.”
VerHage led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 points and steals with four in addition to five rebounds and three assists. Callaway finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds to go with four blocks, while Barwegen dished out a team-best four assists and chipped in with four points and four rebounds.
Junior Mattison Rayman joined VerHage and Callaway in double figures with 11 points. She also had five rebounds.
Otsego set the tone for the game early, scoring the first eight points.
“Starts have been an issue this year but we have improved on that as of late,” Koshar said. “Even though Plainwell righted the ship a little in the first quarter, I thought the 8-0 start was big for us.”
The Bulldogs’ lead stood at 13-5 at the end of the first quarter before expanding to 26-11 by the time halftime rolled around.
Defense played a big role in Otsego’s quick start and the Bulldogs’ continued success throughout the contest.
Three of the first four baskets came off of Plainwell turnovers, including steals-turned-layups by VerHage and Callaway.
For the game, Otsego forced the Trojans into 27 turnovers.
“Our pressure sped Plainwell up some and forced turnovers and quick shots,” Koshar said. “We did a nice job of limiting them to one shot, which led to some fast break opportunities.”
Plainwell coach Tim Rieman also gave credit to the Otsego defense.
“Otsego rotated very well in their half-court trap,” he said. “They forced us into 27 turnovers, which in turn enabled them to get out and run.”
The third quarter was more of the same, with Otsego holding a 17-8 scoring edge to push its lead to 43-19 heading to the final frame.
A highlight for Plainwell was the performance of freshman Vannessa Robinson, who scored a team-high nine points in her first varsity start.
“She played well,” Rieman said.
As a team, however, Rieman knows the Trojans need to improve their output on the offensive end of the floor.
“We’re just in a bad run shooting wise these past five games or so,” he said. “With a team as young as ours, it can be tough turning things around. But the girls are hard workers, so we’re hoping it turns around.”