OV basketball pulls away in second half to defeat Eagle boys

BRANDON — Saturday’s competitive high school boys’ basketball game in Brandon between host Otter Valley and Mount Abraham took a sharp turn at 4:28 of the third quarter.
That’s when after watching Eagle senior guard Logan Willey convert a steal to tie the game at 29-29, OV Coach Greg Hughes called for time. That hoop erased the last of what had been OV’s nine-point second-quarter lead.
According to OV senior guard Dylan Mackie, Hughes had already reminded his team they had to buckle down if they didn’t want to lose again to the Eagles, who had defeated them, 61-51, on Jan. 2 at Mount Abe.
OTTER VALLEY’S DELSHON Norwood dribbles past Mt. Abe defenders on his way to scoring eight points in Saturday’s victory over the visitors from Bristol.
Independent photo/Steve James
After that reminder, Hughes’ message fully kicked in. Thanks also to a switch to more aggressive man-to-man defense, the Otters closed the third period on a 12-2 run bookended by two Mackie threes, and then shut out the Eagles in the fourth quarter to win, 51-31.
Mackie, who finished with a game-high 19 points, described that message, which also came on the heels of two close OV losses to Division I teams on the road.
“At halftime we went in and talked about how we have to go out and work a lot harder. Because we’ve been working really hard in the last two games we’ve played, Brattleboro and Burr & Burton, we came out really hard in those, and we came out a little soft in this game,” Mackie said. “So we went in there and talked about we’ve got to play a little harder, and, yeah, we turned it around.”
OTTER VALLEY SENIOR Tyler Rowe looks to pass to Kameron Strickland under the Mt. Abe basket during Saturday’s win over the visitors from Bristol.
Independent photo/Steve James
The victory allowed the 5-5 Otters to snap a three-game skid that started with their loss at Mount Abe. Hughes said Saturday’s win should be important for their psyche.
“Regardless of standings or anything like that, I think our confidence level needed it,” Hughes said. “We played well against Burr & Burton our last game, but got the loss. I think getting a win while playing hard, that’s going to get our guys motivated a little bit more, and we need that.”
The Eagles had been playing well, but dropped back to 4-4. Coach Martin Clark said he possibly should not have switched from the first-half man-to-man defense to a less effective double-teaming zone in the second half.
OTTER VALLEY SENIOR Tyler Rowe (23), Mt. Abe’s Parker Hines (5), Otter Valley’s Kameron Strickland (14) and Dylan Mackie (3) and Mt. Abe’s Shain Sargent (3) watch under the basket in Saturday’s game in Brandon.
Independent photo/Steve James
But Clark credited OV’s strong man defense, against which the Eagles lost the patience they had displayed against OV’s 3-2 zone in the first half, for most of the momentum shift.
“Nothing seemed to go our way, a couple bad breaks and our shots got away from us. I guess I’ll put part of it on me because I changed our defense, and they reacted well to it,” Clark said, adding, “We usually play well against man. But credit to them. They played hard.”
In a first quarter in which the teams combined for 11 turnovers, OV emerged with a 12-9 lead as Mackie broke loose for eight of his points. Senior forward Shain Sargent scored four of his eight in the period for the Eagles.
OV led throughout a more settled second quarter, and pushed its advantage to 24-15 with a 7-3 late-period run. Senior guard Delshon Norwood (eight points, six assists) set up a Mackie three and a hoop inside by senior forward Pat McKeighan, and Mackie stole the ball and fed senior forward Kam Strickland on the break at 1:40 to cap the run.
MOUNT ABE GUARD Logan Willey prepares to shoot on a breakaway in Saturday’s game against Otter Valley in Brandon.
Independent photo/Steve James
A three by Eagle junior guard Eben Clifford at 2:45 was the only Eagle answer during that surge. Clifford, who scored all seven of his points in the quarter, nailed another three at 1:25 to make it 24-18 and spark an Eagle run. Senior Parker Hines, a mainstay on the boards, added a putback, and as time wound down Willey fed Sargent for a short jumper that cut the OV lead to 24-22 at the half.
In the third quarter Norwood hit a three, Hines assisted a Sargent layup, and when McKeighan (eight points) laid in a Norwood feed three minutes in OV’s lead grew to 29-24.
The Eagles responded again. Junior forward Liam Kelliher, who finished with a team-high 10 points, nailed a three, and Willey went coast-to-coast with the steal to make it 29-29.
But after the timeout it was all OV. Mackie hit a three at 4:12, McKeighan converted an offensive board and drove and dished to Strickland for two more, senior guard Jack Adams added a putback, and Mackie capped the quarter and the 12-2 run with a three. A slick Hines move in the post at 2:25 proved to be the Eagles’ final points, and OV tacked on nine in the fourth quarter.
Clark said the Eagles have done well when they run and share the ball, and they will look to get back to those better habits when Randolph visits on Monday.  
“When we play together we look very good. We’re athletic. We push the ball, and we didn’t push the ball as much as we wanted to today,” Clark said.
OTTER VALLEY GUARD Delshon Norwood holds off Mt. Abe’s Logan Willey and Logan Rodriguez during Saturday’s game. Norwood tallied 8 points.
Independent photo/Steve James
Mackie said the switch from zone defense to man helped spark OV at both ends of the floor. 
“Getting into man helped us step up a little bit and play more intense,” Mackie said.
 Hughes said “one little momentum swing” helped create the one-sided result.
 “It’s amazing just how, us just hitting a couple shots, getting a couple stops, can definitely flatten another team. I think that’s what happened to them tonight a little bit there. But I think we continued to put the pressure on. We didn’t let up,” Hughes said.
And that’s the larger lesson for his team, he said.
“If we come and play hard, we take away what we want to take away,” Hughes said. So I just think that needs to be the message we’re sending to ourselves.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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