Strong start helps carry Otsego boys past rival Plainwell
Matt Dennis got his first taste of the Otsego/Plainwell rivalry on Friday, Jan. 13.
That’s when Dennis, in his first season as head coach of the Bulldogs, led his squad against the host Trojans in a Wolverine Conference South showdown.
The experience didn’t disappoint.
“The atmosphere in that gym tonight was amazing,” said Dennis, who previously served as head coach of the men’s program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. “You don’t get that kind of atmosphere at the junior college level. It’s something special. This is what high school sports is all about.”
The fact that Dennis’ Bulldogs won the game 61-46 only added to his enjoyment of the evening.
Otsego set the tone early, as Bill Woodhams and Tyler Rayman each knocked down a 3-pointer for the game’s first points. It was a start of a 15-2 game-opening scoring run that staked the Bulldogs to a lead they never relinquished.
“Before the game I told the guys we had to come out with a lot of energy,” Dennis said. “I told them whichever team came out with the most energy was probably going to win. Our guys came out and started about as well as we could have hoped and that carried over.”
The Otsego lead stood at 20-11 at the end of the first quarter, although Plainwell rallied to cut the deficit to 34-28 at halftime.
But an 11-0 Otsego run midway through the third quarter gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game at 50-33.
Woodhams led the charge during that run with a pair of 3-pointers, while Zac Lucas accounted for the remaining five points.
Woodhams finished with 28 points, while Lucas went for 17.
“Bill is a heck of a player,” Dennis said. “He’s so unselfish and does such a great job of making decision out on the floor. He always wants to do what’s best for the team and he knows in doing that there will be plenty of opportunities for him offensively.
And Zac has really stepped up his game for us. When he stopped trying to do everything and really started to focus on the things he does really well, he really took his game to another level.”
Rayman gave Otsego a third double-digit scorer, going for 10 points.
Evan Finch led Plainwell with 11 points, followed by Zakary Termeer and Luke Morrell with eight points each.
The win was the fourth in a row for Otsego since suffering a 60-50 loss to Battle Creek Central during Christmas break.
“That loss to Battle Creek Central has been a turning point for us,” Dennis said. “We did not play well. The score makes it seem like the game was closer than it was. So I talked to the guys and told them they had to decide if they wanted to just be out there for the fun of it or if they wanted to go out there with a little swagger and expect to win.
“Since then, we’ve been a different team. I just hope we can continue to build on that and continue to get better.”