BRANDON — Dylan Mackie pumped in 19 points but it was Otter Valley’s second-half defense and the way the Otters responded to Mount Abraham’s challenge early in the third quarter that propelled OV to a 50-31 victory Saturday in a non-league game at the House of Noise.
The game marked a radically different result than the first time these neighborhood rivals met in Bristol early in the season where the Eagles posted a solid 10-point victory.
The Otters emerged from a see-saw first half with a 24-22 lead. But OV should have been much more comfortable at the intermission. Thanks to a 7-3 spree, the Otters attained a 24-15 lead with 1:30 remaining to the half.
Senior laden Mount Abraham responded by closing out the second period with a 7-0 spurt and appeared to have stolen the momentum from OV going into intermission.
Sure enough, despite Delshon Norwood’s trey to open the scoring in the second half, the Eagles answered with a 7-3 run and on Logan Wiley’s layup off a turnover, the Eagles tied the game at 29-29 at 4:28 of the third.
The Eagle offensive surge caused Otter coach Greg Hughes to immediately call a timeout. During that timeout, Hughes switched the Otter defense from a sliding 3-2 zone to a straight man to man.
“They started getting used to that 3-2, getting the ball in the middle and it was tearing us apart, so I went man,” Hughes said. “That definitely took away some things and put a little different perspective on them ... It’s amazing how one little momentum swing – us hitting a couple of shots, getting a couple stops – can change things.”
The Otter man defense buffaloed the Eagles. And the Otters began to score off it while the Eagles offense withered.
Mackie put the Otters up for keeps with a baseline trey. Pat McKeighan added to the lead with a bucket off the rebound and Kam Strickland scored in the paint on a pretty feed from Norwood, bumping the lead to 36-29.
Finally, Parker Hines’ inside hoop broke the Otter run but the Eagle offense was scoreless for over four minutes.
“Nothing really went our way in the second half,” Eagle coach Martin Clark said. “The change in defense threw us off and we never really recovered. You can’t win if you can’t score.”
But the Otter offense continued to flow as they hit from the outside or found cutters to the hoop in the paint with Kollin Bissette going inside before Mackie put an exclamation point on the third period and provided the Otter with their largest lead at 41-31.
The game was exciting. The gym was packed and the noise was deafening, even sans pep band. But it was far from pretty: Mount Abe committed 20 turnovers, while OV committed 10 in the first half. At times the teams seemed to be playing too fast and were too careless with the ball.
Still, the Otters kept it going, reeling off points with Tyler Rowe and Jack Adams getting into the act.
Meanwhile, the Eagles seemed hamstrung by the aggressive Otter defense and as the clock ticked away the Otter lead mushroomed. When the final horn sounded the Otters had held the Eagles scoreless in the fourth period and achieved a blowout victory.
“Our confidence level needed this win; a win while we are playing hard will get out guys motivated,” said Hughes of his 5-5 team. “It doesn’t really matter what type of defense we play, if we play hard, we take away what we want to take away.”
For 4-4 Mount Abraham it was a difficult afternoon. Liam Keilliher led the Eagles with 10 points but had just one basket, a trey, in the second half, while Shain Sargent added eight and Hines contributed nine rebounds.
Mackie scored in every period, including eight points in the first period alone. The senior guard popped in a trio of treys. McKeighan chipped in eight points, while Strickland and Adams added six apiece.
Mount Abe travels to Randolph Tuesday. The Otters host Hartford that night.