By MICHAEL BURWELL
OTTAWA — Ottawa-Glandorf’s girls basketball team doesn’t rely on a prolific scorer that can get a team 20 points a game.
The Titans are young, with only three seniors on the team, and no player on the entire roster is taller than 5-foot-9.
So how does O-G have a 15-2 overall record this season and have a current 11-game winning streak in which it’s outscoring opponents by nearly 29 points per game?
“You have to play ferocious defense,” O-G head coach Troy Yant said. “I think we do that fairly well, probably as good as any team with our height.”
The Titans (15-2, 6-1 Western Buckeye League) are ranked eighth in the Division-III Associated Press poll due in part to that “ferocious defense” leading to fast-break chances on offense.
O-G has held its’ opponents to 35 percent shooting this season and has forced over 25 turnovers per game. The only time the Titans have allowed more than 50 points in a game was in a 65-45 loss to Liberty-Benton on Dec. 17.
Offensively, O-G averages over 60 points per game with only two players (Kristen Miller and Elissa Ellerbrock) averaging double figures in scoring.
Miller, one of the three seniors on the team, leads the Titans with 12.4 points, 3.4 steals and 2.2 assists per game. Ellerbrock averages 10.2 points per game, and Anna Bellman leads the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.
When Yant took over as coach at the start of the 2012-2013 season, he didn’t want to have to depend on one or two players carrying the team, so he implemented a transition offense where everyone could get the ball.
“When you have one or two good players, that’s great, but if you run into a team that has one or two good defenders, it’s easier to neutralize one or two players than if everybody’s touching the ball,” Yant said. “I think when we first talked about building an offense where we wanted to be more transition, we wanted girls to be able to touch the ball that maybe wouldn’t have confidence to handle the ball in a half-court set.”
O-G fell on tough times from 2008-2012, going 28-57 with no more than nine wins in either of its’ four seasons. Even when Yant first took over as coach, he ran into problems.
“They were reluctant to playing the kind of style of basketball that we play now,” said Yant, who has a 31-11 career record as O-G’s coach. “Some of them didn’t see the advantage of being so small and trying to run against teams that were more disciplined and stuff, and it was kind of a hard sell.”
But the Titans are all in with his system now.
“We’re all learning the new process,” Miller said. “It’s hard at times, but he pushes us like crazy, and we turned into a fast-break team, and that has been the most beneficial thing of our season.”
Although the Titans have a chance to get its’ best record since the 2006-07 season (21-3), there’s still room for improvement. O-G lost 47-44 to WBL-leading Lima Bath (16-1, 7-0 WBL) on Dec. 5, along with the 20-point loss to Liberty-Benton (16-1) in which the Titans had a 31-29 halftime lead.
“I think coming into this season, our girls made realistic goals,” Yant said. “Looking at our schedule, we thought we could beat everybody.
“We’d have to play well, but we thought if we were playing like we were last year, we could beat everybody. So it’s been a little bit disappointing that we let some games get away from us.”
Yant said the Titans played its’ best basketball of his tenure during last year’s tournament run that ended in a 40-37 loss in the district final to Archbold, which advanced to the regional final.
So far this season, Yant said the Titans haven’t yet played at that level.
“We need to have a couple of close games. We need to know that we can get over the hump because obviously, we’re hoping to do something in tournament,” Yant said. “We need those games and haven’t really had those, so we’re not sure where we’re at, and that’s the selling point to the girls.”
The Titans have five games left in the regular season, with the next game tonight against Elida. The biggest matchup will be against Division-III rival and second-ranked Archbold on Feb. 11.
“Our girls, they have Archbold in the back of their head all the time,” Yant said. “Archbold is what fueled us in the summer, knowing that we were close, knowing that they made it to regionals, we did not.”
O-G begins its’ tournament run Feb. 22 when it faces the Elmwood-Bluffton winner in the Elida district. Other area teams in the district include Columbus Grove, Upper Sandusky and Liberty-Benton.
Until then, Yant will be pushing the Titans in practice with suicides and lane slides to prepare for the rest of the season.
“He works on us getting faster and stronger because when we go up against those big players and those big teams later on in tournaments and stuff, we need to out-hustle them,” Miller said. “We need to win all the 50-50 balls. We need to be the better team defensively because like he says, defense wins games, and that’s working for us.”
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By MICHAEL BURWELL