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La Conner’s Otis Plays In Memory Of Brother

His earliest memory of playing the game is his brother handing him the ball. He’s two, or three. After a few tentative bounces he gets the pat on the back and the brotherly directive.

Let’s try it again.

When the rain stopped and the baseballs came out, Andy Otis took his first cuts with his brother lobbing them in.

Over the years they had together they fished. Played hoop. Hung out. Talked out a lot of the confusion of growing up.

Andy Otis - who’s helped the La Conner Braves into today’s trophy round of the State B Tournament - idolizes his big brother.

Just because he’s gone doesn’t change that.

Five years ago, D.J. Otis was killed on a winding stretch of Dodge Valley Road west of La Conner. He was 23. Andy was in sixth-grade.

The memory lingers.

“It was a Saturday night,” Otis said, after the Braves’ bruising win over DeSales on Friday. “It happened at 1 o’clock in the morning. I was staying over with a friend. I found out when they came to pick me up, about 3 o’clock.”

Andy watches the movie Stand By Me and sees a lot of himself in the Wil Wheaton character, who goes on an adventure with his friends while recovering from the loss - from a car accident - of his cherished big brother Denny.

“It’s just about the same,” Otis said. “It was devastating - the toughest thing to get over. It’s always right there, in the back of my mind. It’ll be that way the rest of my life.”

A 5-9 junior guard who came into this tournament averaging 19.5 points, Otis has “learned to live with it, to think of the good things.”

The many good things.

Some are rooted here, in this event, where Andy in the old Coliseum watched his brother, a sturdy 185-pound La Conner guard, earn the nickname Pit Bull for his tenacity on the court.

There was a third-place trophy in ‘87 and a fifth-place finish the following year. Andy Otis treasures the memories of his brother’s successes.

Duplicating some of them now is an intense experience.

“I was here with my sister and both brothers,” Otis said. ‘I’ve been here like 13 times before. It’s great, coming back to where they’ve been, wearing his number, to play for him.”

Otis wears D.J.’s No. 22 in every sport.

“Where it happened, I take that road everyday to go to school,” Otis said. “There’s a guard rail there now. I pass that spot and think of him every time I go by.”

D.J. Otis passed a wealth of experiences on to his brother.

“He taught me everything I know about sports and everyday life,” Andy said. “How to treat people. He was the main person in my life.”

The healing is ongoing. Some of it has happened here, this week, just touching down where so much went on between them.

When the ball goes down for him today, give Andy the points.

Credit the assist to D.J.

Pateros sets records, exits

Pateros coach Mike Hull wasn’t kidding himself about the Billygoats’ sizzling shooting Thursday.

The top-ranked Billygoats set or tied a handful of State B records in a 96-44 loser-out romp over Pe Ell, taking a little sting out of a first-round loss to Curlew on Wednesday - and a stunning loss to Darrington on Friday.

“We could have played like that (Wednesday) night,” said Hull, “and still probably have lost.”

Pateros set a State B record for field-goal percentage (62.5 percent) by hitting 35 of 56 attempts, breaking the existing standard of 59.7 set 25 years ago by Coulee City against Bickleton. The Billygoats also tied their own record for highest score (set against Neah Bay in 1995), as well as records for points in a quarter (34) and margin of victory.

“We weren’t trying to set any records,” said Hull. “We just wanted to win a basketball game. You just never know how your kids are going to react after a loss like that. I watched those games this morning and everybody was a little sluggish - or scared of getting beat.”

Darrington staged its own romp Thursday - a 43-pointer over Lyle on the way to today’s trophy round.

“My sister (Donna Jones) lives in Darrington,” said Hull. “We were kind of hoping not to have to face each other.”

B buzz

Attendance through Friday’s afternoon session was down from a year ago. A total of 11,188 watched Friday’s four consolation-bracket games compared to 13,429 a year ago. Opening day and night crowds were also lower, but only slightly. Wednesday’s games drew 12,687, 213 fewer fans than the Wednesday crowds of a year ago. … When Chief Leschi added football last fall, the Puyallup school hired former Washington State University linebacker Rico Tipton to serve as head coach. Tipton, who played for Jim Walden at WSU in the mid-1980s, took the Warriors to the state playoffs in their inaugural season. … Tipton said the school’s enrollment is about 90 percent Native American… . La Conner athletic director Todd Torgeson played in the ‘85 state tournament with the Concrete Lions.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo