After a thrilling double overtime victory over Ottawa Hills to capture the Sectional Championship, the Swanton Bulldogs simply ran out of gas in the second half of their DIII District semi-final game against the Eastwood Eagles and dropped a 58-42 decision to end their 2016-2017 basketball season. Down by 10, points, 28-18 late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs battled back to pull within five, 28-23, after an inside toss by Duyane Goings to walk off the court as the halftime buzzer sounded.
However, the Eagles dominated the third quarter with speed, rebounding and deadly accurate shooting to outscore Swanton 23-6 and virtually end the Bulldogs’ chances of moving on to the next round.
“We battled against a tough team. We were only down five at the half and I thought we were sitting all right and they came out in the third quarter and were at a different speed than we were,” said Swanton coach Matt Smith. “They came out and hit two threes right off the bat and rattled us a little bit. They turned it up another gear. Their guards were just flat out faster than we were.”
Eastwood came out quickly in the third quarter and scored the first seven points to increase their lead to 35-23. They hit from long range as well as scoring some easy inside baskets and were soon up 41-24. At that point the Bulldogs went to a catch-up mode but were never able to recover.
The Eagles had a solid game plan which focused on shutting down the Swanton inside game, the strength that had carried the Bulldogs all year. “We told our kids all their scoring was going to come in the paint and through Gunnar (Oakes),” said Eastwood coach Todd Henline. “I thought we did a good job executing that plan in the third quarter.
Swanton center Zach Dziengelewski, with 11 first half inside points, kept the Bulldogs close, but every Eagles’ defensive scheme include a defender following Oakes everywhere he went on the court. The plan proved to be very effective as Gunnar was held to 11 points and despite the team high 15 points tallied by Dziengelewski, the rest of the Bulldogs were not able to make up the difference.
“Hats off to them,” said Smith commenting on the Eastwood effort. The Northern Buckeye Conference Co- Champions improved their record to 20-4 and move on to the DIII District final. Swanton finished their season with a 12-13 record.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org