Bulldogs Drop Heartbreaker to Ottawa Hills in Sectional Final
Down by two points to the Swanton Bulldogs in the waning moments of the game, Brayden Miller of the Ottawa Hills Green Bears scored on a short jumper and the subsequent foul shot with 2.9 seconds on the clock to stun the Bulldogs 34-33 in the final of OHSAA Boys Sectional Tournament. The Green Bears win sends them to the District Tournament where they will face the Archbold Blue Streaks at Toledo Central Catholic on Thursday, March 4th at 7:30 pm.
The game was a defensive battle from the outset with the first points put on the board by way two free throws by Swanton’s Josh Vance at the 4:46 mark of the first quarter. The Bears responded by scoring the next six points, four from senior center Eli VanSlooten, as the Bulldogs struggled to find the range. Just before the end of the period, Cole Mitchey picked up a loose ball and streaked to the basket to score just as the buzzer sounded.
Ottawa Hills extended their lead to 10-4 before Trent Weigel drained back-to-back three-pointers to tie the score. The Bears got baskets from four different players in the period and Blake Szalapski battled underneath for two scores and the Bulldogs trailed 17-16 at the half.
Andrew Thorton was able to break into the scoring column in the third quarter with five points, helping Swanton take a 23-19 lead. Ottawa Hills then scored the last six points on two buckets inside from VanSlooten and one from Caden Coy and led 25-23 going into the fourth quarter.
An inside bank shot by Thornton tied the game early in the fourth and another trey from Weigel put Swanton up 28-25. There were several lead changes before two foul shots by Mitchey gave the Bulldogs a 32-29 lead with 30.5 seconds remaining. The Bears cut the lead to one, 32-31 with 12.3 seconds on the clock and then fouled Vance on the inbound pass to send him to the line for the one-and-one opportunity. He was able to make the first shot but missed the second and the Green Bears made the most of the opening when Miller made the tough inside basket while being fouled.
Weigel led the Bulldogs with 12 points, including three shots from downtown. Thornton added eight points and Szalapski had four. VanSlooten scored 12 points for the Green Bears. Miller added seven and AJ George had six.
It was a heartbreaking season-ending loss for the Bulldogs and basketball career ending for Swanton’s four seniors, Szalapski, Thornton, Vance and Weigel. The Bulldogs finished the year with a 14-10 record and a third-place finish in the NWOAL. The defeat also brought an end to the outstanding high school cheerleading careers of seniors Jasmin Kenzie and Macie Rochelle.
Pictured: Trent Weigel shoots over Eli VanSlooten of Ottawa Hills