OTTAWA – On the final day of any tournament – no matter what place the teams are playing for – each squad is hoping to end the get-together on a high note.
The Putnam County boys basketball team did just that during the consolation championship game of the Marquette Christmas Tournament against Dwight on Thursday afternoon at Bader Gym.
The Panthers, who entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed but fell in their opening game to Wilmington and lost starting guard Austin Mattingly to an injury, used a 13-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to earn a 58-49 triumph over the Trojans.
“We obviously didn’t want to be playing on [the consolation] side of the bracket, but we were able to finish up 3-1 and bounced back pretty well,” PC coach Harold Fay said. “We talked before this game about wanting to be less sloppy with the ball and to be better on the boards. I’m not sure we were in either aspect today, but I really thought we played hard on defense and did a pretty good job of making [Dwight’s 6-foot-7 forward Wyatt] Thompson take tough shots for the most part. ... He’s a load.”
The teams traded short spurts for much of the game, but Dwight held a 43-40 lead with 4:47 left in the final quarter after a 3-pointer by Luke Gallet.
But from there, consecutive treys by Spencer Voss, four free throws by Owen Saepharn, and a triple off the bench by Bryce Smith helped the Panthers (14-4) hold a 53-45 advantage, one they were able to maintain over the final two minutes.
Voss finished with a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, Saepharn had 10 points, and Andrew Pyszka (seven rebounds, 11 assists) and Jackson McDonald (six rebounds) scored eight points each. McDonald was named to the all-tournament team.
“Losing our first game here hurt, and having Austin get injured was tough,” Pyszka said. “We had to change our mindset to try to win our next three games, and we talked about how we couldn’t change the past but just move forward. We did that.
“This wasn’t the game we wanted to be playing in, but I thought we did a really good job of bouncing back after not playing well and losing here back on the opening day.
“Spencer had stepped up from the second Austin got hurt. In the past three games, he has hit big shots for us, and you can see his confidence get stronger with every game. His back-to-back 3s in the middle of the fourth quarter today really gave us a big spark and helped us get over the hump.”
Thompson – an all-tournament pick – led Dwight (5-10) with 12 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. He finished the four-day event with 102 points, fifth most in the tournament’s history.
The Trojans also received 10 points from Gallet, nine from Dawson Carr, eight from Conner Telford and seven from Jack Duffy.
PC shot 44% (19 of 43) from the field compared to 33% (18 of 54) by Dwight, while the Trojans held a 33-21 margin in rebounds.
“I really didn’t think we played that badly today,” Dwight coach Jeremy Connor said. “It was a tough day for Wyatt, as [Putnam County] had three guys around him every time he touched the ball. I know he’s my player, but I really felt there were a number of times he was getting hung on or was hammered going to the hoop, and it wasn’t called. It was just a frustrating day for him, but he had a heck of a tournament for us.
“I think we really made some great strides as a team in the four games here, and I’m feeling pretty good about how we are playing heading into the second half of the season.”
Putnam County resumes play Jan. 6, hosting Tri-County Conference foe Woodland. Dwight is back in action Jan. 3 when it hosts Pontiac.