ELIDA — Elida head coach Denny Thompson has called this year “weird” but only because of the twist and turns that has led his team to a 13-6 record.
After opening the season with a split in the Kewpee tip off classic that saw them lose a 65-55 loss to Shawnee, the Bulldogs followed up with a win against Spencerville and a loss to Delphos St. John’s. Back-to-back wins against Celina and Coldwater seem to have the Bulldogs back on track but a two-point loss to Lima Senior momentarily stopped the Bulldogs’ momentum.
A Western Buckeye League win over Defiance was followed by consecutive losses to Wooster and Wapakoneta. After that loss to the Redskins, Elida reeled off eight straight wins before losing to Piqua on Saturday.
In that eight game win streak, Elida had wins of five points or less five times. Elida got back to its winning ways with a 44-40 triumph Tuesday night against Bellefontaine.
“We had some close games where we have lost and had some close games we won,” Thompson said. “I few things go one way and we are 16-3. A few things go another way and we are 11-8. I still think we are the same basketball team, and I think a lot of teams are like us.”
Coming into the season, Thompson said he felt he would have a better shooting team but that has not been the case thus far. Throughout the season it has been the Bulldogs’ clamp down defense that has paved the way to a number of the team’s victories.
For the year, Elida is giving up around 50 points a game.
“Initially, I thought we were going to be a better shooting team,” Thompson said. “We have always had a good defense and we have had to rely on defense to win games. The defensive approach won’t change but I am still waiting for us to shoot better.
Elida is averaging around 55.8 points a game. The Bulldogs’ lone scorer averaging double-digits is Daniel Unruh who is putting up 18.1 points per contest.
Going hand-in-hand with their offensive woes, Thompson said the Bulldogs have had trouble executing their half court offense at times this year.
“We struggled initially to execute our offense in the half court,” Thompson said. “We are getting better at this and have matured as the season has gone on.”
Thompson said another area the team has put its focus on is cutting down on turnovers. The return of point guard Drew Sarno from injury should aid in both areas of concern.
The Bulldogs will need a near flawless game in the team’s showdown against Ottawa-Glandorf on Friday night. The Titans are 18-2 and 7-0 in the league. Elida, looking to share that WBL title, is 6-1 going into the game.
“We are pretty deep into the season so style and game plans are pretty much set,” Thompson said. “We do better when we have time to prepare for opponents.”
One area the Bulldogs have been working on is attacking the Titans’ tenacious zone defense that has befuddled opponents throughout the year. Against Lexington, O-G limited the Minutemen to 57 points and against Wapakoneta the Titans held the Redskins to 43 points. The 43 points is the second lowest output by Wapakoneta which was averaging 58 points per game entering the O-G encounter.
Thompson said rebounding is one element that is essential in beating the Titans. Not an easy task against the Titans’ big men Jay Kaufman and Jake Dible.
“We are outrebounding our opponents this year,” Thompson said. “O-G has size and strength in the middle so we are going to have to battle and fight if we are going to compete against them.”
Elida’s Baylen Stinson leads the club in rebounding, averaging 6.8 boards a game. Donte Johnson is second on the club with 4.9 caroms a contest followed by Unruh with 4.8 rebounds a game.
The contest against Ottawa-Glandorf, whether Elida wins or loses, will be a teaching moment and give the Bulldogs an indication of what they might expect in the postseason.
“This is a big game. If we lose we are out of the WBL championship race,” Thompson said. “We might have to face them down the road in the tournament, and it is also a big game in that respect as well.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueas1