OTTAWA -- Getting a taste of the state tournament was enough to inspire the Ottawa-Glandorf boys basketball team to want to make it back.
The Titans, who made it to last year’s state tournament with all underclassmen in the starting lineup, will return to Columbus for the Division III state tournament for the second consecutive season.
Last season O-G lost to Portsmouth in the Division III state semifinals, 74-66.
This past Saturday, O-G defeated Bloom-Carroll in overtime, 60-56, in the regional championship game at Bowling Green State University to stamp its ticket for the state tournament.
The Titans (24-3) will take on No 3-ranked Ironton (23-2) at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in a state semifinals at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
This year O-G wants to be around for Saturday’s state championship, and not as a spectator.
“Last year right when the (state semifinal) game was over, we told ourselves that we were going back,” senior guard Matthew “Chewy” Kaufman said. “We put a lot of hard work in during the offseason and during the season. Most people are fortunate to go to state once. We’re fortunate to go back-to-back, and this time we want to win.”
Kaufman is known more for his defensive prowess, than his offensive abilities. Kaufman takes a great deal of pride in being labeled the team’s best on-ball defender.
“I just took it (the role of being a defender) because we have so many offensive threats,” Kaufman said. “My teammates are so good at scoring, so I just took the role of playing defense. I put in a lot of work on playing defense. I try to give my teammates a lot of energy on the defensive side.”
With all the success O-G had last season, many experts picked the Titans to not only make a run in the tournament, but also to win the Western Buckeye League title this season.
However, O-G finished second in the league race behind Bath and Elida, who tied for first.
O-G coach Tyson McGlaughlin said there was a point in the season when his team sat down and got refocused on its goals.
“You can go back to the St. Marys loss (second WBL loss of the season). It’s nothing against St. Marys, but we didn’t play very well and we weren’t ready to play. I don’t think our players were ready. I don’t think our coaches were ready and I think we took it for granted.
“We talk to our guys all the time about not having any regrets. As talented as these guys are, they have a tendency to think that they can just flip a switch on. And I think they learned the hard way that it’s not the way it works.”
With the adversity of getting knocked out of this season’s league race, McGlaughlin’s squad took it upon themselves to get things turned around.
“The thing I like the most is that they had a team meeting amongst themselves – no coaches had anything to do with it,” McGlaughlin said. “They found a solution and that’s the key. Coaches can only say so much. These guys found the reason. They have goals that they want to accomplish and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”
Senior Caleb Siefker, who also was the quarterback on the football team, wants to make his final trip to the state tournament a successful one.
“It’s a really big thing for us,” Siefker said. “That’s what we always talk about with O-G basketball. …It’s about taking that long run in the tournament.
“Once we met up with LCC (in the regional semifinals), us seniors knew we wanted to give them our best shot, because it would be our last time. And once we got past them, we wanted to get back to state and bring home the trophy.”
Senior T.J. Metzger added after winning the regional title, “Our goal at the beginning of the season is always to win the WBL title. But since that didn’t happen – the O-G Titans are all about the tournament run. I think our teammates came through today.”
In O-G’s dramatic overtime win over Bloom-Carroll, Metzger scored 13 points.
Noah Bramlage, a 6-foot-7 post player led the Titans with 15 points and nine rebounds. Michael Rosebrock added 13 points for the Titans.
McGlaughlin is proud of the way his team has stayed focused on the ultimate goal.
“These guys have been under a lot of pressure and I’m really proud that they get a chance to go down to Columbus again,” he said.