HOLLAND — It was like watching a snowball the first time you pushed one down a hill.
It kept rolling and rolling, gaining size and strength the whole way until it reached its appointed destination.
Delta started fast and kept their margin growing and growing until the Panthers reached their spot in the Division III sectional final with a 57-18 opening round rout of Otsego Tuesday in boys hoops.
The Panthers now play top-seeded Eastwood at 5:30 p.m. Friday back at Springfield in the title game of their bracket.
“It helped when we played them two weeks ago and only beat them by five,” said Panther coach Matt Brighton of his team’s fast start. “As soon as the Patrick Henry game was over on Friday we said it’s time to prepare for Otsego. We came in on Saturday and the kids were really ready to go. We had a good practice Monday. We didn’t want to have a similar situation like we did two weeks ago.”
James Ruple’s three-point play began a 10-0 burst to start the contest and the Panther advantage only grew from that point.
Justin Ruple bagged a left-side triple, then Justin fed James for a layup and Bryce Gillen scored off an Otsego turnover for a 10-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first.
Otsego cut the margin to 12-7 on a Chase Helberg three-ball, but that was as close as the Knights got.
Let’s just call them Justin and James, as the aforementioned Ruple nailed his second long ball and the elder scored off a steal to push the bulge past double figures at 19-7.
James hit Josh Tresnan-Reighard for a layup, and Tresnan-Reighard returned the favor to push the Panthers up 22-9.
Gillen scored on yet another steal, dished to Tresnan-Reighard for a layup, then finished his own point gathering trip with an easy basket off a turnover and a long triple to help the Panthers go up 34-11 at the half.
“We talked about playing against the zone,” Brighton said of his team’s ability to move the ball against Otsego. “We said we had to keep moving and get the ball down low to get good looks.
“Also our ability to skip from one side to the other is something we work on every day. When you move the ball against a zone you move it from side to side and that’s when things open up. You get the defense to shift, things open up and good things happen.”
Gillen scored a three-point play, Bryar Knapp hit a three-ball and Nolan Risner had a spin-and-score to get the Panthers to the magic 35-point running clock mark at the end of the third, 49-14.
James Ruple had 13 points to lead the Panthers. Gillen had 12.
Delta shot 21-44 from the floor and had 10 turnovers.
Otsego was just 7-31 and committed 20 miscues.