A year after not having at least one team in any sport make a state tournament, the Western Buckeye League has placed five teams in three sports in the Final Four this year. This weekend two more try to snag a state title. What a rebound…
I’ve got several friends from Kenton. I played football with most of them. And I know their mentality.
It’s also successful.
And so are the Wildcats and the rest of the Western Buckeye League.
Few leagues – if any – have enjoyed the success the WBL has this school year.
The league hasn’t won a state championship but it has had five teams earn trips to state. This weekend at the boys basketball state tournament two WBL teams will take the court: Elida (D-II) and Ottawa-Glandorf (D-III).
The five trips to state in one year is the most by WBL teams since 2002 and comes a year after the league failed to produce one state semifinalist in any sport for the first time since 1985.
Way to rebound.
“The WBL is a great league,” first year O-G boys basketball coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “Elida is down in the final four. Defiance had a great regular season (19-1). Van Wert is always strong. Year-in and year-out you have some of the top teams traditionally in D-II and we’ve had a lot of success ourselves at the D-III level. When you go in and face these communities its always a packed house and a tournament atmosphere. That helps.”
Said Elida head coach Denny Thompson: “The WBL this year was exceptional.”
The league’s “state-ments” haven’t come quietly. They’ve captured acclaim.
In football the WBL made national news with Kenton QB Maty Mauk’s march towards his brother’s national passing record. Mauk – who like his brother Ben was selected Ohio’s Mr. Football – eventually broke his brother’s national passing record (career yards) in a first round playoff win over Wellington. He tied a state record in that game with nine TD passes and broke another by completing 19 straight passes.
Kenton reached the D-IV state final but was denied the school’s third title by Norwayne in one of the most memorable state finals ever. Several records fell in the game and five TDs were scored in the final six minutes. Norwayne won 48-42.
Elida, making just its second appearance ever in the state football playoffs, advanced all the way to state semifinals in D-III before losing in another memorable game. Led by senior QB Reggie McAdams – a two-time first team All-Ohioan and the 2011 D-III Ohio offensive player of the year – the Bulldogs led Springfield Shawnee 35-14 in the second quarter of the state semis. They lost 56-42.
Last weekend Lima Bath’s girls basketball team advanced to the D-II state tournament for the sixth time overall and first since 2008. The Wildkittens held West Holmes to six first half points in their semifinal before falling 35-29.
Then there’s this weekend.
Continuing its remarkable run, Elida finds itself in its first boys basketball state tournament four months after making its first football final four. McAdams is again the engineer.
The Akron recruit recently earned his third straight WBL Player of the Year award and was named first team All-Northwest District for the third straight season. He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,680 points).
“Reggie is an outstanding player and all-around athlete,” Thompson said. “He leads us in just about every category we have. But he’s got some guys to go with him.”
McAdams (21.2 points) is no solo show. Sophomore guard Dakota Mathias (6-4) averages 12.7 points and senior center Cory Royster averages 11.9.
Ottawa-Glandorf is making its sixth trip to state and will have the largest crowd of any school at the Schottenstein Center this weekend. The small Putnam County district breathes hoops.
“We’re spoiled here…and I tell our guys that all the time,” McGlaughlin said. “The support we get from our athletic department, boosters and community – I don’t think can be matched anywhere else. And I’m not trying to be cocky. The fan support we have for being such a small community is very, very impressive.
“It gives our guys something to feed off of.”
The conference isn’t starving. It has history and owns 18 state titles.
Kenton won back-to-back football titles in 2001 and 2002 and was runner-up in 2003. St. Marys, led by legendary coach Skip Baughman, was a football dynasty in the 1990s, winning three titles (1990, 1992-1993) in four years.
O-G boys basketball is the league’s recent flag bearer.
The Titans basketball program has won two of the conference’s last three state titles, including its most recent – the 2008 D-III championship.
O-G enjoys the pressure of bringing home another. Their fans – and league – expect it.
“Sometimes we base our successes on whether or not our team gets to Columbus,” McGlaughlin said. “Is it fair to some teams? No. But that’s the expectations we have.
“And we wouldn’t want it any other way.”