By DAVE HANNEMAN
Ottawa-Glandorf ended the regular season with three straight losses.
But when they flipped the page on the calendar, the Titans flipped an internal switch as well.
“Our guys understand that when March comes around you have to kick it up a notch,” said O-G coach Tyson McGlaughlin.
“We would have liked to have won more league games. But I’d take a sectional title over a league title any day of the week. That’s my personal view of things because you always remember a tournament run.”
State champion in 2004 (Division II), 2008 (Division III) and 2013 (Division III), O-G followed those season-ending losses with tournament wins over Bluffton, No. 1-seeded Archbold and Paulding to earn a fourth straight district championship and a spot in the Division III regional at Bowling Green State University.
Lima Central Catholic (21-4), Ohio’s Division III champion in 2008, takes on 1999 state champion Worthington Christian (18-7) in today’s 6:15 p.m. regional opener at the Stroh Center. O-G (15-10) and Huron (18-6) clash in the second contest. The winners return Saturday for the 7 p.m. final that will decide who advances to the Division III state tournament in Columbus.
The Division III BGSU regional features a tested group of tournament veterans. Huron is making its second straight appearance in the regional, Worthington Christian its third straight, and O-G its fourth. LCC is in the regional for the third straight year and fourth time in the past five seasons.
If O-G and LCC win their opening games and advance to Saturday’s final, it would mark the fifth straight year the Titans and T-Birds have met in either the regional tournament or district finals.
Ottawa-Glandorf and Huron don’t play each other during the regular season. But game films reinforced something McGlaughlin already knew about the Tigers.
“They’re a very strong, athletic, physical team,” McGlaughlin said.
“I really respect how hard they play and how well they rebound. They really get after you. They look like a group that has won all the way up through the ranks. It’s kind of in their DNA, so we’re going to have our hands full.”
McGlaughlin could readily relate to the Tigers because they reminded him of another team — his own.
“We are very similar. It’s two teams that are really physical and really get after people,” he said. “It’s going to be some good hard-nosed basketball.”
Seniors Cody Thompson (6-foot-2) and Zach Souter (6-4) epitomize the athleticism in Huron’s lineup. Both were first-team Division V all-Ohio football players, Souter, also a college baseball prospect as a catcher, at linebacker and Thompson, a first-team all-Sandusky Bay Conference pick who averages 10.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists, at defensive back.
Adam Storer, a junior who scored 31 points in a regular-season win over Vermillion, is also an offensive threat. Senior guard Keegan Bollenbacher, a second-team all-SBC selection, and Gabe Camella (6-3, sr.) round out Huron’s starting lineup.
Huron’s athleticism is most notable on defense. The Tigers have allowed no more than 37 points in any of their three tournament games and have held 13 of their 24 opponents under 50.
Where O-G and Huron greatly differ is depth. In Saturday’s 51-32 district final win over Colonel Crawford, Huron’s five starters accounted for every point and every rebound the Tigers had.
In Ottawa-Glandorf’s 10-deep, high-pressure, get-after-it style, starters Noah Bramlage (6-7, jr. 17.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Alex Schroeder (5-9, sr. 9.6 ppg), Zach Kuhlman (6-0, jr. 7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Tyler Zender (6-2, sr., 6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Matias Trampe-Kindt (5-11, sr., 4.5 ppg), have usually had a minute or two break before the first quarter is even over.
“They (Huron) do not go real deep on their bench. Hopefully that’s something we can exploit,” McGlaughlin said.
“We have some physical players, and Noah (Bramlage) demands a lot of attention. It’s no secret we’re going to go to him, and we have guys coming off the bench playing with a lot of confidence right now. Brad Recker (6-2, jr.) has hit some big threes for us lately and that’s opened things up for Noah and Alex (Schroeder).
“Hopefully this game gets up and down the floor, and I think it has the opportunity to do that. You’d think that would be in our best interest. Maybe we can get some transition baskets and try to wear on them a bit. You never know in tournament, though. We just scored 36 points in our last game, so I can’t really say a whole lot about that.”
A 3-3 start to the season and two three-game losing streaks resulted in a 12-10 record at the end of the regular season, a down year by O-G standards but understandable for a program that graduated four starters and eight seniors from its state championship team.
McGlaughlin knew, though, that all slates are wiped clean come tournament time.
“Toward the end of the season we had to make some decisions. We asked ourselves, ‘What do we have to do to make a tournament run?’” McGlaughlin said.
“Our record isn’t exactly what we wanted, but six of our 10 losses were to teams that reached the district finals, so we think our schedule prepared us for this. One thing we talk about every time we take the floor is have no regrets. We tell them, ‘Are you playing as hard as you can, because if you’re not don’t come back and play that what-if game.
“These guys could have folded a long time ago. But they didn’t give up and we’re still playing. Since they were little kids watching those other guys playing, they wanted to be a part of it. They understand that what really matters is what happens in March.”
By DAVE HANNEMAN