Otter boys’ basketball uses distributed scoring to overwhelm the Eagles

BRISTOL — Using waves of substitutes and a decisive surge late in the second quarter, the Otter Valley Union High School boys’ basketball team defeated host Mount Abraham on Saturday, 81-57, in the Otters’ season opener.
OV Coach Greg Hughes routinely substituted four or five players every few minutes, and it paid off with six or more Otters scoring points in every quarter, 10 recording at least four points, and five tallying at least seven.
The constant player rotation also allowed OV to press the Eagles for the entire game and force 20 turnovers, nine in a second period that the Otters closed with a 20-2 run to take a 39-21 lead at the break.
Hughes said the plan is to go 10 deep this winter, and that he was pleased with the energy and play of his second group in what he called a promising start to the season.
“We’ve been practicing like that all year. I’m hoping we keep up with teams in the first half, and then we start to get more of our wind in the second half,” Hughes said. “We didn’t really get started until the final few minutes of the second quarter. I wasn’t too pleased with the way we started out, so we’ve got a lot to work on still, but I think it was a good first game for us.”
First-year Eagle coach Martin Clark saw his team fall to 0-2. Clark also pointed to the second quarter, which included the Otters scoring 15 unanswered points and forcing six turnovers in the final 2:13.
“We made some key mistakes. The pressure got to us,” Clark said. “We weren’t making strong passes, and they have to learn from it, hopefully. It sort of put us in a hole in a hurry.”
The Eagles missed a number chances to score earlier in the game. They fell behind, 17-12, in the first quarter despite a 13-9 edge on the boards, including several offensive rebounds that they were unable to convert into second-chance points.
Clark said the Eagles also missed a number of makeable shots in their opening loss at Randolph on Thursday, and that his inexperienced team is still learning to cope with the pace of varsity basketball.
“The speed of the game is what we’ve got to get used to. We did a great job for a while rebounding. They were pretty big and physical compared to us, so I was happy about that part of it,” Clark said. “Shots have to start falling for us at some point. Once that happens, we’ll be competitive.”
Seven Otters scored one basket each as they took their 17-12 lead after one period, including late quarter threes from senior forward Collin Eugair and junior guard Thomas Kingsley. The Eagles countered with six points from sophomore forward Jackson Counter and four from junior guard Coleman Russell.
Mount Abe then opened the second quarter with a 7-2 run in the first 2:40. Counter hit in the lane, junior forward Ryan Thompson hit one free throw and senior swingman Charlie Meyer hit a pair, and junior center Finn Clements capped the run with a hoop assisted by junior forward Chris Wood to tie the game at 19-19.
OV junior guard Derek Aines sank a three to snap the tie at 5:00, and at 3:50 OV junior guard Kai Norwood drove to make it 24-19. A minute later two Counter free throws cut the lead to three, but those proved to be the Eagles’ last points of the quarter.
In the 15-point OV run that followed, nine came directly off steals: three free throws by sophomore guard Josh Letourneau and two by freshman guard Dylan Mackie, an Aines layup assisted by Norwood, and Eugair’s buzzer-beating steal and lay-in. In the surge, sophomore Payson Williams also chipped in a putback, Aines sank a three, and Tyler Peterson hit a free throw.
Hughes said until then the Otters had not been communicating as well as he would have liked on the press, but things started clicking at that point.
“Hitting a couple shots in a row and getting a couple quick steals gave them a little bit more confidence and a little bit more energy,” he said.
The Eagles four times cut the lead to 16 points in the second half, but could come no closer. Junior guard Jack Willis scored 12 points on four threes and chipped in five rebounds and a pair of assists. Counter finished with 15 points and seven boards, Clements recorded nine points and five boards, and Wood pulled down nine rebounds and had a team-high three steals. Meyer, who came off the bench to provide defensive energy, Willis and Counter stole the ball two times apiece.
Clark said experience will bring the elements the Eagles need to improve, including shot selection and discipline on offense and transition defense.
“There was great effort from the guys. I can’t complain about that,” he said. “We’re going to get better, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Aines led OV with 20 points, and Eugair finished with a dozen. Carson Leary hauled down a game-high nine rebounds, and Peterson added five as the Otters finished with a 40-37 edge, including team rebounds. Sophomore Conor Mackie and Dylan Mackie scored eight apiece, and the OV coaches credited Dylan Mackie and Norwood (seven points) with four forced turnovers each.
Hughes said the kind of scoring balance and ball movement on display on Saturday will be critical moving forward, and he also wants to see the Otters box out on the boards more effectively and continue to improve their communication on the press. He is confident those things will all occur.  
“We know we have things to work on, things to tighten up, but we’re definitely optimistic,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
OTTER JUNIOR KAI Norwood looks to put up a short jumper during Saturday’s game against Mount Abraham. Above left, Eagle sophomore Jackson Counter hooks a shot over Otter defender Carson Leary.
Independent photos/Trent Campbell

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