SHINGLEHOUSE — It was a tale of two halves for Austin. The first half was a story to forget, but the second will surely be used to fuel the rest of this season.
The Panthers were down by as many as eight at one point and trailed 20-14 to Oswayo Valley at halftime. But Austin rallied to win the game, 38-30, on the road.
“It feels pretty good,” said Austin head coach Jon Ogden. “That’s the first close game that we’ve been in and I was real proud of the boys and how they fought back. Being down a bit there in the first half. We fought back to get this win.”
The offense for both teams looked slow at the start of the game.
Too many shots heaved from long range, an unwillingness to attack the paint and tentativeness all-around. OV found its rhythm first, with Ian Bilski scoring seven points in the first quarter and doing everything for the Green Wave.
Bilski knocked down a deep 3-pointer and then tipped in the ball to finish off the score on the next play. As Austin tried to set up after that play, he stole the ball and went the length of the court to finish through defenders and score again.
Cayden Black was the leading scorer for OV with 14 points. He did an excellent job finishing around the rim and attacking the Austin ball handler.
But, OV ran into foul trouble.
“It really hurts our offense when one of our leading scorers gets into early foul trouble,” said OV head coach Nick Goss. “Somebody else has to pick it up and we have to rely on some young guys as well as some older guys just to pick up the slack. And we just weren’t able to do it.”
It’s a big reason why Austin attempted 20 free throws in the second half alone. That, and the Panthers found an offensive rhythm attacking the basket.
Down six points to start the third, Austin scored nine points and held OV to just four, narrowing their deficit to one. They then put up 15 points in the fourth quarter, nine of them off of free throws. Austin attacked the basket all throughout the second half.
Both teams played zone for much of the night, and Austin used cuts to get guys underneath for shots. The Panthers also did a good job driving in the lane, showing a willingness to take contact if it meant getting to the line.
“Our guys are aggressive offensively,” said Ogden. “We like to drive more than we like to shoot. I think that contributes to the fact that we get to the line more than our opponents. And they just stepped up in the second half and did that.”
Jacob Hooftallen was excellent in that regard.
He finished with a game-high 15 points and went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe in the final quarter, only missing one free throw all game. Hooftallen helped Austin get players open down low and provided strong defense.
Cameron Rees was second on the team with 10 points. He had a big second quarter, scoring seven points to help narrow the halftime deficit.
Both teams played well on defense all night, as evidenced by the final score.
In the third and fourth quarters, Austin was unstoppable on the boards. Once, after a player missed the second of his free throws, two players boxed out an OV defender, got the ball, went up for the shot, got fouled again and got Austin back to the free throw line.
“My motto is, on the defensive end, ‘They should get one shot if any,’” said Ogden. “So we’re really trying to limit the number of attempts teams get against us. They came out and executed that real well.”
Austin will get the weekend to enjoy the win but come Monday, they began a stretch of three games in four days, starting with Brockway. As for OV, they too get the weekend off before playing Otto-Eldred.
“We just gotta understand it’s a long season,” said Goss. “We started 2-0, this loss could be a learning moment for us. Get the sails back to level and kinda get us focused on (O-E) for Tuesday.”