By MICHAEL BURWELL
BOWLING GREEN — Ottawa-Glandorf’s boys basketball team had depended heavily on Noah Bramlage this season, being the lone returning starter from last year’s state-championship club.
The 6-foot-7 junior scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, including 9 of 10 from the free-throw line, to lead the Titans to a 36-32 win over the Panthers at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
That tournament experience was never more valuable than in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Division III district final against Paulding, and it helped the Titans reach a fourth-straight regional tournament.
“It’s something people don’t think about often, but once you get into the bigger arenas, different venues, it can be tough with the backdrops and everything,” Bramlage said. “We played a good number of games here, so you get familiar with the backdrop.”
O-G (15-10) will play the Huron-Colonel Crawford winner in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Stroh Center. Paulding’s season ends at 18-7.
After a sluggish first half for the Titans’ offense in which they scored just 11 points, shot 4 of 17 (24 percent) from the floor and trailed by six, O-G slowly picked things up in the third quarter by outscoring the Panthers 8-4 to make it 21-19.
Then, it was Bramlage’s turn to take over the game.
His pair of free throws tied it at 21 apiece with 7:25 left in the game. Thirty seconds later, Bramlage drained a three from the corner to give the Titans a 24-21 lead, its first since a 8-7 cushion at the end of the first quarter.
That 3-pointer, however, wasn’t what the Titans drew up.
“It was actually funny because we were running a play where I was supposed to draw the defense out by going to the corner, and we were supposed to get a lob into the middle, and coach kind of said to divert them,” Bramlage said.
“Paulding didn’t get to him in time, so I shot it, it felt good, looked good and went in. It was kind of a funny situation,” according to Bramlage.
Paulding’s Kyle Kauser came right back and drained a wide-open three to tie it at 24 with 6:53 left.
O-G’s Alex Schroeder responded with a trey after missing his previous three attempts from beyond the arc to give O-G a 27-24 lead.
With the help of Bramlage’s free-throw shooting, rebounding, and defense in the paint, the Titans never relinquished the lead from that point, despite Paulding cutting the deficit to two on four occasions.
Kauser kept it close for the Panthers. His put-back cut O-G’s lead to 28-26 with 2:53 left, and after Bramlage made a pair of free throws, Kauser nailed a pair of his own from the line to make it 30-28 with 1:34 on the clock.
O-G made three of the games next four free throws to push its lead to 33-29 with 56 seconds left, but Treston Gonzales’ bucket cut Paulding’s deficit to 33-31 with 40 seconds remaining.
Both teams exchanged a free throw over the next 28 seconds, and Bramlage’s pair with 10 seconds left gave O-G its final 36-32 margin.
“It wasn’t a game that looked very pretty, no style points, but at the end of the day, we did enough to win and it shows a lot about our guys’ character,” McGlaughlin said.
Paulding came out and executed exactly like they wanted in the first half, according to Panthers’ head coach Shawn Brewer.
The Panthers scored the first eight points of the second quarter, capped off by Kauser’s three, to take a 15-8 lead with 1:07 left in the half.
Defensively, the Panthers forced O-G to take contested shots.
“This is what we’ve hung our hats on all year, and I think the kids really bought into it and did a good job,” Brewer said. “When you play defense like that, you have a chance in any game.”
O-G’s only points in the second quarter came on a 3-pointer from Brad Recker with 30 seconds left to cut Paulding’s lead to 15-11.
Just like Thursday night’s district semifinal game against Archbold, Ottawa-Glandorf came out in the third quarter with a full-court press and forced five Paulding turnovers in the period.
“We can do those types of things in spurts,” McGlaughlin said of the Titans’ full-court press. “I just don’t think for 32 minutes that’s something that we want to try to do or that’s probably in our best interest right now, but for 16 minutes, it’s worked pretty well for us.”
Bramlage grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for the Titans and Tyler Zender added seven boards, all in the first half. O-G outrebounded Paulding 28-20 for the game.
Kauser was the only Panther to score in double figures (10), and Gonzales added eight points and a team-high six rebounds.
Schroeder 1-5 1-4 4, Trampe-Kindt 0-1 1-2 1, Kuhlman 1-3 2-3 4, Zender 0-2 2-2 2, Bramlage 4-11 10-12 19, Recker 2-3 0-0 6, Schnipke 0-0 0-0 0, Osting 0-0 0-0 0, Blevins 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 8-26 16-22—36.
Vance 0-5 2-2 2, Kauser 3-7 2-2 10, T. Gonzales 4-12, 0-1 8, Gerod Harder 0-3 2-2 2, Guy Harder 0-0 1-2 1, J. Gonzales 1-3 1-2 4, Salinas 0-1 2-4 2, Arellane 1-1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 9-32 10-15—32.
Ottawa-Glandorf 8 3 8 17 – 36
Paulding 7 10 4 11 – 32
3-POINT GOALS: Ottawa-Glandorf 4-10 (Recker 2-3, Bramlage 1-3, Schroeder 1-4); Paulding 4-12 (Kauser 2-5, Arellane 1-1, J. Gonzales 1-3, Gerod Harder 0-1, Vance 0-2).
Rebounds: Ottawa-Glandorf 28 (Bramlage 9); Paulding 20 (T. Gonzales 6).
Turnovers: Ottawa-Glandorf 9, Paulding 9.