Braxtin Miller played like a star, and got more than enough support to secure Alter their second consecutive Division II title, and third in the school’s history.
Columbus – It goes without saying that nothing hurts more than being denied…unless it’s being denied twice!
Such was the story Saturday as Ottawa-Glandorf came back to the Division II finals intent on atoning for a disappointing loss to Versailles last year in a hotly-contested Division III final. This time they found an even hotter opponent in junior guard Braxtin Miller and the Kettering Alter Knights…in Division II!
Miller played the opportunity like a virtuoso under the bright lights of the state’s biggest stage. She scored a game-high 33 points, defended like a demon, rebounded, and generally provided championship leadership on the way to a 74-48 Alter win. In a word, she was unstoppable, the perfect example for the age-old adage of the irresistable force versus an immovable object!
In a physical first half that saw both teams throw down their respective challenges, Alter went to the locker room with a five-point, 27-22, advantage.
They threatened to break the game wide open at the outset of the third quarter, going on a 10-2 run that had O-G reeling.
Not outdone, however, O-G turned up their own defensive pressure and went on a 10-2 run of their own to cut the deficit to four. Erin Kauffman, just a freshman, was the spark plug, scoring 7 of the 10 points on a three pointer and a pair of transition layups off open-court turnovers.
But an Alter timeout and an untimely, and unfortunate, broken finger to O-G sophomore Kadie Hempfling on a scramble for a loose ball, changed the momentum of the game…for the duration of the game.
Alter went on another 8-2 run with Hempfling, an emotional leader, out of the lineup and quickly extended their advantage to 15 points. Ottawa never threatened again.
It wrapped up an incredible season’s performance in repeating, considering their domination in the tournament…and a senior class that won 103 times in four years to secure that coveted repeat title. And with Miller and fellow guard Libby Bazelak coming back for their senior year next year, the future prognosis becomes very, very repeatable!
“I don’t think the score was indicative of the effort that our girls gave,” said O-G coach Troy Yant. “But it’s hard to beat a time that shoots 60% from the field, 60% from three-point, and 75% from the foul line. It was just a great game by them, and obviously it hurts to come here twice in two years, in different divisions, and not go home with a win. But we just ran into a buzz saw. Alter’s a great, great program.”
The injury to Hempfling, their mercurial sophomore, was a turning point.
“I don’t think we ever recovered from losing Kadie,” added Yant. “She’s an engine for us on the court. You saw that at the end of the half, and we just don’t have a very deep rotation. She’s hard to replace.”
“We saw her on film, and we saw her out here today,” smiled Yant. “She sure looks good on both locations. She’s a leader who obviously plays at a high level at both ends. We’ve seen others play with her energy, but I wouldn’t take anything away from the rest of her team, either. She’s obviously part of a very good system.”
Her performance wasn’t record-breaking, but records weren’t the object of Miller’s break-out 33-point performance…27 in the second half, and 15 in the third quarter alone. She just wanted the title!
“I’m just playing with more confidence that I’ve had in the past,” she said in the post-game interview room. “It helped to be a part of a program the last two years where there were so many good players and Libby and I had to wait back…wait for our turn.”
“She makes it look easy, but she really does play hard,” added coach Kendal Peck. “She has that knack of making things look easy, but she works just as hard on the defensive end as she does on offense. A lot of good offensive players won’t do that. In fact, she gets made when you don’t assign the other team’s best player for her to guard. She’s very, very competitive.”
Alter, officially, finished the game shooting 60% from the floor, 60% from three-point range (9 of 15), and 75% from the line. Miller’s 33 points were the highlight, but Kara Stephenson had 10 and Bazelak had another 10 to complement a team performance that saw nine different players score.
For Ottawa-Glandorf, three players scored in double figures: Erin Kaufman (12), Kylie While (11), and Kadie Hempfling, before her injury, added 10. The Titans finished shooting 45% from the floor, 18% from three-point range, and 33% (3 of 9) from the foul line.
The outlook for Alter in 2017? Very good. Miller and Bazelak lead a good returning cast and a feeder program itching to wait their turn behind the likes of the present-day stars.
It is, in a word…very “repeatable”!