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Ottley fights tooth, nail to lead Saints

January 16, 2004|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

ST. JAMES - St. James' Jordan Ottley had a lot more than basketball on his mind Thursday before the Saints faced Maryland School for the Deaf.

It was a strange feeling that had nothing to do with a rigorous academic schedule, hunger or girls. It had more to do with where he would be positioned for the game's opening tip.

Ottley, the sparkplug in the Saints' lineup, found himself parked on St. James' bench after an abcessed tooth forced him to miss a practice. But it didn't take long for him to get into the game as he scored 24 points to lead St. James to a 79-68 victory over the Orioles.

"Jordan Ottley is a team guy," St. James coach Patrick Gahan said. "We have a strict policy here that if you miss practice, you don't start. Jordan was OK with that - and when he had his chance, that pain didn't stop him at all."

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The Orioles couldn't stop Ottley either. MSD built a 42-28 lead in the first half with its speed and smothering zone defense, but couldn't sustain the success into the second half.

The Saints almost effortlessly overcame the halftime deficit, primarily by controlling MSD's star player Martice Colstan in the second half. Colstan finished the game with 27 points, but only hit 2 of 14 shots in the final 16 minutes while St. James scored 51 points.

"I thought we began to gain confidence when we worked to get the ball inside and took some high-percentage shots in close," said Ottley, whose face was swollen because of the sore tooth. "But it sure makes the pain easier to take when we can win like this."

In fact, the Saints began feeding the Orioles a steady diet of Matt Greissing inside while Ottley and Shannon Strange forced MSD to come out of the zone by hitting shots on the perimeter. Strange finished with 20 points.

The Saints tied the score at 51-51 after three quarters, mainly by working the ball into Greissing. The 6-foot-1 Greissing was several inches than the Orioles' front court, but he managed 11 points and 16 rebounds.

"It was tough under the boards." Strange said. "Matt was fighting them in there, so we knew our shooting would open them up inside."

And when it did open up, the Saints marched through a 17-5 run over a five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter to clinched the win.

"This is a courageous team defensively." Gahan said. "We figured out what MSD was doing to us and then we responded."

"We were confident our defense would make our offense go." Greissing said. "This time, it worked out for us."

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