Seniors lift Delphos St. John’s


That was the amount of wins Delphos St. John’s produced in the 2015-16 season.

It was a disappointing year and one the St. John’s seniors did not want to repeat.

And with a lineup dotted with five seniors the Blue Jays came into the season with plenty of optimism especially after a great off season, Delphos was ready for a successful season.

“We knew we had something special in the summer with all the work we were putting in and we knew we could do anything,” Josh Warnecke said.

Instead, the Blue Jays opened the year with some inconsistent play and sported an average 3-3 mark with the capper being a blown lead and last second loss to Crestview.

The loss meant it was time for a change. The seniors decided it was time to re-evaluate and refocus after the Crestview game and Warnecke said it was tough to watch the film from the loss to the Knights.

“After the Crestview game we all kind of woke up and realized what was happening,” Tim Kreeger said. “We had a lot of experience under our belt since we still had some guys filling their roles. I think the lights were a little big at first but the guys adjusted and we really changed the season around right there.”

Realizing their roles and reaching their potential, the Blue Jays garnered their next 18 out of 19 wins, highlighted this past weekend with a regional final win over Mansfield St. Peter’s.

Delphos head coach Aaron Elwer said that at the onset of this year he took a new approach concerning the leaders on this team and he feels that it paid off.

“We really took a different approach this year and I wanted to talk about leadership and what it means to be a leader and there is a lot of books and discussion on how you lead,” Elwer said. “I tried to communicate that to our guys and give them ways to think how to lead and our five seniors have done a really good job of that. They are all unique in their own way.”

Elwer added that Kreeger is more of the vocal leader while Josh (Warnecke) and Owen (Rode) are more on the quiet side but lead by example which is also the case for Robby (Saine) and Jacob (Hellman) who bring the blue collar approach by showing up and getting the job done.

“Our younger guys take to these guys and I think it is a big part of why we are where we are because of the chemistry and how those guys have led in their unique way,” Elwer said.

Elwer added that after the Crestview loss the team discussed the path they were taking.

“In those losses we had a lot of things that we did the year before,” Elwer said. “We talked about it a lot about needing to grow up and said this can’t be us, it is the same team as last year so we had some tough locker room sessions, tough film sessions and tough practices and our guys grew up.”

Defense has been the cornerstone of the Delphos team and the Blue Jays take pride in preventing teams from scoring. In the postseason, the Blue Jays have not allowed an opponent score more than 43 points.

Anchoring the defense is Kreeger in the middle, but it has been the perimeter players and their ability to smother an opponent’s outside shooting that has been a major factor.

“We take huge pride in our defense,” Kreeger said. “It has always been a goal every year and we always have the goal of being the best defense in our league and we have got that the last two out of three years. We really focus on taking teams out of their comfort zone. If we can take them out of their comfort zone we can get into ours better.”

Offensively, the ball runs through Kreeger and while he could easily go for 20 a night, the lanky center can facilitate as well as shoot the ball with equal prowess.

“Everybody just plays through Tim,” Rode said. “That is our game plan. Anybody can go off any night.”

Kreeger admits that he is a humble person so he is more than happy to share the wealth. That is not to say he is naive enough to know that he is usually the main target for opposing teams, and he sees this as an advantage.

“I don’t like to take all the credit and everything because it is a team effort and a team sport,” Kreeger said. “A lot of teams focus on me sometimes because I am a little bigger than what they are used to facing, and it is easier for me to find a shooter and they (my teammates) do a great job of getting in my passing vision so every one on the team can score so it is just a matter of who score at what time.”

Another factor that is not seen on the stat sheet that makes this team successful is its team chemistry.

“We are a really close family so everyone knows what we can expect from each other,” Kreeger said. “I think helps us wins games.”

Elwer echoed his center’s sentiments.

“It is a really close group and I think in today’s day and age and society that any time you can get a group of guys, especially in high school, with maturity and are really close and get along you have a chance,” Elwer said. “I think there is some merit to having a close knit group with no egos and they want everybody to do real well.”

With the state game looming, the Delphos seniors are confident they can produce at state.

“This is exciting and something new for all of us,” Warnecke said. “This is like a dream come true.”

Kreeger added that this team wants to carve its own name in the proud Delphos tradition of athletics and winning championships.

“I think we need to play our game and don’t let the stage be too big for us because it is not,” Kreeger said. “I think our little group of players has felt this for a long time and that we could do something good when we became seniors because we added other players that could really help us out and fill some puzzle piece gaps that we needed to and I think it (going to state) has been a goal and dream for everybody.”

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Owen Rode, left, and Jared Wurst help Delphos St. John’s teammate Timothy Kreeger off the floor during Friday’s Division IV regional finals championship game at John F. Savage Arena in Toledo, and it shows this team’s ability to pick each other up throughout the season. Rode, left, and Jared Wurst help Delphos St. John’s teammate Timothy Kreeger off the floor during Friday’s Division IV regional finals championship game at John F. Savage Arena in Toledo, and it shows this team’s ability to pick each other up throughout the season.
Blue Jays’ road to state started in summer

By Jose Nogueras

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Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1