Cambridge and Buckeye Trail’s boys basketball teams play for regional titles this week. The road for both has not been easy. Along with the
everyday tests from the opposition, the two have had to deal
with the loss of legendary former BT head coach Terry
Leggett. Leggett passed on January 4 at the age of 61.
Guernsey County is once again thriving on the boy’s high school basketball scene. One year after Guernsey County’s Meadowbrook Colts made a trip to the Division II regional final, the Cambridge Bobcats and Buckeye Trail Warriors are returning to Athens for regional play.
The Bobcats (19-5) are making their first trip to Athens since 2004, while the Warriors (11-13) haven’t advanced to regional play in 14 years (1995).
The road for both teams has not been an easy one. Along with the
everyday battles and tests from the opposition, the two had to deal
with the loss of legendary former Buckeye Trail head coach Terry
Leggett. Leggett passed on January 4 at the age of 61.
Fourth year Cambridge head coach Don Vogt explained the night Cambridge and Trail met in one word, “inspiring.”
“It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve been around,” Vogt stated. “Tons of people came to pay their last respects. I just wish I would have known him a little longer. He touched a lot of lives, and this was just an incredible tribute to him. He wanted to see this game happen, but never had the chance.”
Leggett’s death happened just two days before the Bobcats and Warriors played for the first time ever, which is a game the former Trail boss had dreamed about. Leggett was hoping to see his grandson (Shayne Leggett), who is a starter for Cambridge, perform against his former team.
“Shayne was very, very close to his grandfather, and this just ripped him apart,” a sincere Vogt explained. “The way the other kids supported him was just phenomenal. They were all pallbearers at the cemetery. I just can’t say enough about our kids and how they stuck together. Shayne is an incredible kid, who signed with the marines. He handled it maturely with his head held high and with dignity just like his grandfather would have wanted him to do.”
Leggett amassed 268 wins in 16 years as a head basketball coach. His teams won nine sectional championships, five district championships, two regional championships and his 1983 and 1987 Buckeye Trail teams were state semifinalists. Coach Leggett was named the Class A State Coach of the Year in 1983. Leggett recorded a collective record of 225-50 at Trail for an exceptional 82-percent winning percentage before hanging up the whistle at the end of the 1988-1989 campaign.
The Cambridge Bobcats wear warm-up shirts that say “In Loving Memory of Coach Leggett” before each game.
Though, the death of a loved one is far more important than any basketball issue, neither team was without those struggles as well throughout the course of the season.
Cambridge, who will play East District foe Carrollton (13-10) in a Division II regional semifinal on Thursday in Athens at 6:15 p.m., started the year 0-2 and things seemed to be heading south. The Bobcats have been bombarded with rumors of coaching changes since the former Parkway and Coldwater boss arrived at the school. Vogt, who replaced a legend in Gene Ford, has done an unbelievable job considering the unwarranted criticsm he’s had to deal with and the regional appearance just proves it even more. However, Vogt doesn’t worry about that stuff.
“We just take it one game at a time and don’t worry about things we can’t control,” Vogt relayed. “It’s about what our kids do and what I do. We dwell on the positive things around here and have some wonderful kids. I don’t dwell on negativity. It will get you no where fast.”
The Cats 0-2 start was due to lopsided losses to Marietta and New Philadelphia, but those games were marred by injuries. Once the line up got back together, the ‘Cats rolled off seven-straight, before losing to this Thursday’s opponent (Carrollton) 66-64 on the road. Vogt doesn’t think this contest will be any different in terms of competitiveness.
“We expect it to be another battle,” Vogt commented. “They are a very talented, athletic, and young group of kids playing like seniors. When I look out on the floor and see Johnny Lowdermilk, Kristian Cross, or A.J. Dalton to name just a few, I see kids who make senior decisions not sophomore and junior plays. We will have to combat their transition game and the many different defenses they throw at us to be successful.”
With all the success the Blue and White has deserved, there must be a leader to this strong contingent? However, according to the Bobcat general, there isn’t one.
“I have six senior leaders on this team,” Vogt said. “These kids have been great role models and taken the underclassmen under their wings. I have many different things with these kids. We have Leggett with silent strength, (Taylor) Leppla who is a bull full of energy, Thomas Norris with his athleticism and growing basketball intelligence, Winston Turner has the quiet tenacity, Ben Shepard is just an absolute great teammate, and Luke Lepage is a great academic kid who brings his intelligence to the floor.”
Those six seniors will combine with juniors Kyle Cox and Ryan Hatmaker to try and advance Cambridge to its first regional final appearance in eight years (2001).
The Buckeye Trail Warriors, on the other hand, have taken a totally different path. The Warriors took the road less traveled by most teams in regional play. Trail started the year 0-4 before beating St. Clairsville on the road and then the craziness continued.
Trail suffered through some injuries and suspensions, but righted the ship. The Warriors were up-and-down all year, but did show some good signs by playing in a lot of close games and even beating Coshocton and Frontier.
However, down by 11 points with time winding down in the fourth quarter in the sectional opener to Shenandoah, things were looking very dim for head coach Dave Linn and his Warriors. Trail came storming back and eventually ended the Zeps season in double overtime. By the way, Trail was without its top two scorers in this contest.
Most people thought that win was great, but no one and I mean no one gave them a fighting chance against mighty Fort Frye. Much like Shenandoah, the Cadets had beaten the Warriors twice during the regular season. However, unlike the Zeps the Cadets buried Trail by an average margin of victory of 26 points. Once again, the odds were stacked against Buckeye Trail without junior Cody Nelson in the line up.
Nevertheless, BT jumped out to a 14-2 lead and never looked back cruising to a 59-44 victory and with it came the sectional crown. Linn, who won an Ohio state girl’s championship in 1979 at Trail, guided his team to its first sectional title since 2005 when the Warriors were defeated in the district final by the Bellaire Big Reds.
In district play at Coshocton High School, Trail was able to sneak by a game Martins Ferry squad and then stymie a very good Garaway squad to advance into Wednesday night’s Division III regional semifinal game in Athens against Grandview Heights (20-3). Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m.
The Warriors will try to deal with 6-foot-3 senior Casey Rouch and his 14.5 points per outing, 6-1 senior Dan Tyler and 6-6 senior Bryan Riggs. The Bobcats have won 10-straight and 13 of their last 14.
The Warriors starting line up, which is short in size, but big in heart will try and combat the Bobcat size with precise cutting in their flex offense, top notch box out skills and sticky defense. The Warriors have been doing an excellent job with drive and kick lately, and hitting some big shots from the outside.
The Warriors are led by 6-3 senior Joe Collart, 6-0 junior Bobby Beros, 6-1 junior Greg Strasser and senior guards Jed Beros and Tommy Allen.
Regardless of the outcomes Wednesday and Thursday, both teams have put Guernsey County hoop fanatics into a March Madness frenzy.
Terry Leggett would be proud.