By Jason Wesseldyk
OTSEGO—During its two regular-season games against Plainwell, the Otsego boys basketball team got off to slow starts and had to fight back to secure wins.
Senior Ashton Atwater made sure there would be no slow start for the Bulldogs when the teams met in a Division 2 district opener on Monday, March 7.
Atwater scored 14 points in the first quarter to help Otsego build a 20-8 lead en route to the collecting the 64-39 win.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to play Comstock in a district semifinal on Wednesday, March 9, with the winner advancing to the title game on Friday, March 11.
“Tonight was a great night for the Bulldogs,” Otsego coach Matt Dennis said. “Ashton got our offense going early and I thought we played solid team defense holding them to only eight points (in the first quarter).”
Atwater finished with a game-best 26 points.
“Ashton Atwater is a good player and floor general,” Plainwell coach Larry Ash said. “Matt Dennis is a good coach on the sideline and then you have a good coach on the floor in Ashton.
“Otsego did a great job getting inside whenever they wanted to. When you give a team like Otsego easy layups, it is going to be a long night.”
Otsego’s leads stood at 31-16 at halftime and 46-27 through three quarters.
Atwater added four points in the second quarter and eight in the third to get to his 26-point total. Five other Bulldogs scored at least four points: Sam Bronkema with 10; Blake Marks with eight; Jacob Zartman with seven; Kalei Bryant with five and Cooper Smalldon with four.
“After the first quarter, everyone chipped in on the offensive end to keep thing rolling,” Dennis said. “When everyone pitches in, we are a tough team to defend.”
For Plainwell, Jack Anderson led the way with 12 points. Landon Majdan and Daeshawn Dixon-Schuhmacher each had six, while Sam Gibson chipped in five.
Plainwell finished the season at 14-7 in Ash’s first season back at the helm of the program.
“This season was a lot of fun and I really enjoy these young men,” Ash said. “They have done everything I have asked of them. It’s been a long time since Plainwell has won 14 games and when you are having a good time, the season goes by fast.”
Ash said he’ll miss the senior group of Anderson, Dixon-Schuhmacher, Holden Deaton, Jack Wilson and Trent Jacobs.
“I have five seniors who showed great leadership with their hard work and dedication,” Ash said. “When you have a team that believes in and then buys into the system, it makes everything fun and easy. This is why I love coaching because of these young men.”
And Ash is already looking forward to next season.
“I have a great coaching staff that is trying to get everyone to buy in to working in the off-season,” he said. “It’s the work you put in when no one is looking that really makes the difference.”