Metzger, Ottawa-Glandorf living the dream

COLUMBUS – For T.J. Metzger, the real thing was much better than a dream.

After a through-the-legs dribble and a pump fake to gain an opening, Ottawa-Glandorf’s season-long scoring leader struck an extra long finishing pose in hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter.

That shot gave the Titans a 15-point lead. Eight others just like it were part of Metzger’s 36-point package that paved the way for a 67-46 decision of Versailles to win the Division III state championship at Value City Arena here Saturday morning.

“In my back yard, when I was like 7 years old, I’d tell my brother, ‘Oh, a 3-pointer for the (state championship) win ,’ and I’d miss it,” Metzger said describing the dream game every young aspiring basketball player envisions.

Not only did he get the last-second deal right in the third quarter, he also hit a similar shot to close the first period.

Metzger’s 36-point line included 9-of-14 from 3-point range and 5-for-5 from the foul line.

His name goes into the record book multiple times. The nine 3-pointers ties the record for most in a championship game regardless of division and broke the Division III record of eight set by Sparta Highland’s J.T. Hoyng in 1998. His 13 goals from long range set a new standard for two games in the state tournament and his 36 points also tied Hoyng’s Division III championship game record.

Metzger wasted no time establishing himself in what looked like an all-day shootout early.

Six of the game’s first seven field goals were 3-pointers – three by Metzger, two by Versailles’ Chad Winner and one by the Tigers’ Damien Richard.

The difference was Metzger never stopped. By quarter’s end, he had 18 points with five 3-pointers, one of which he turned into a four-point play. Three of those came in Ottawa-Glandorf’s 15-2 burst over the final five minutes of the period for a 24-11 lead. Versailles (23-6) was never closer than nine the rest of the way.

“I woke up this morning thinking we’re going to have a really tough game,” Metzger said. “You have to play with confidence. I give my teammates all the credit. They found me open; they did everything for me.

“After the first one goes, it gives you confidence,” he said. “That’s what you need in a game like this. With 13,000 people, you can’t get nervous.”

Titan coach Tyson McGlaughlin has seen this act many times. Metzger hit his first seven 3-point attempts in a win over Kalida this year.

“He was in a rhythm and we always talk about feeding the hot hand,” McGlaughlin said. “We ran a couple sets for him; he does a nice job of coming off screens. To me, one of the really big plays was one time T.J. came off a double screen. He had a look but he had a guy coming at him and he dumped it off to a teammate for a 12-footer.”

By halftime, Metzger already had 26 points in a run that took the Tigers out of the game almost before they had a chance to get into it.

“We knew he was capable of going off on you, but that was something you don’t see too often. Credit to him,” Versailles coach Scott McEldowney said. “That hot little stretch there made it tough for us. The game played out pretty evenly after that. That’s basketball.

“You hope to stay even most of the game and then get that little spurt,” he said. “They hit it and they were always able to maintain it.”

A big part of that was the Titan defense. Versailles came in averaging 62 points per game but Ottawa-Glandorf’s mix of man-to-man and a 3-2 zone limited the Tigers to 17-of-47 shooting. The Titans also owned a 34-24 rebounding edge.

Tiger leaders Ahrens and Winner managed 12 and 10 points, respectively, well below their combined 35-point average.

“We finished 26-3 and we outrebounded our opponent in 25 of those 29 games,” McGlaughlin said. “Three of those (four) games, we lost. Rebounding and preventing easy transition baskets, those were key.”

Michael Rosebrock had eight points and eight rebounds and Matt Kaufman added seven points, six boards, five assists and two steals for the winners.

The numbers aren’t huge, but like Metzger, they’re living the dream.