OTTAWA — When a team loses its top scorer to injury it is never a good thing. But Ottawa-Glandorf seems to have turned losing senior standout Jay Kaufman to a torn ACL for half the season into a positive after opening the season with three impressive wins.
The Titans, who opened with a 70-60 win over Bryan, have posted back-to-back blowouts and outscored their last two opponents, Liberty-Center and Liberty-Benton, 195-87, twice eclipsing the 90-point barrier.
Titan head coach Tyson McGlaughlin said he remembers the fateful call during the summer from Kaufman about his injury and said he was devastated for the senior who is expected back in January. But as far as his basketball team, he admits he had talent but he didn’t expect these huge offensive outputs.
“We thought we had a chance to be very successful,” McGlaughlin said. “We only graduated one senior from the year before and we had a very nice junior varsity team so we had some pieces to the puzzle.”
After bowing out last year in the district semifinals to Elida, McGlaughlin admits that they felt they should have gotten further in the postseason and when the players showed up for the off season and summer practices, they played like a team looking to prove something this year.
“I think they had some motivation from last year in the way that it didn’t end like we wanted to,” McGlaughlin said. “Whenever you have a tough loss the year before the kids are fired up right away and they are ready to start the offseason and you see that for a month. We had kids busting their butts all summer and had kids put in hours and hours of practice in the offseason and that is the type of player we have that when one kid starts doing it they all want to do it.”
Without Kaufman participating during the summer, McGlaughlin said some of the other players on the team took it upon themselves to fill that void as well as improve their game.
“Even though Jay was not there, in hindsight, I think it gave some guys the opportunities to step up their roles up and to take a bigger role and I think it gave some of the other guys confidence to do more maybe without having Jay to carry the load so much,” McGlaughlin said. “I think it is going to be addition by subtraction because once he starts to come back and these guys are playing at a higher level that they are more comfortable to do more at a higher level.”
McGlaughlin said during the summer he watched the squad compete against some top notch competition in Indiana and during one tournament he watched his team embrace the fast approach as well as gain some self-confidence.
“I saw not only that the pace is where I wanted it to be but we had different guys stepping up in different parts of the games and those were guys who in the past were looking for Jay to get us out of it,” McGlaughlin said. “We had different guys demanding the ball and wanting to take the big shots and getting big defensive stops. They weren’t looking around. They were reacting and it was pleasant to see.”
In the first three games, the Titans have shown a more uptempo attack where they want to get the ball up and down the court by playing a smothering defense and producing points off turnovers as well as developing more fastbreaks off defensive rebounds.
Hitting 3-pointers at a 60 percent clip in the early going has also been a catalyst for the Titans’ early scoring success.
McClaughlin said the most encouraging thing about the early wins is the team’s unselfish play and squad playing as a team with no clear cut top scorer. Against Liberty-Center and Liberty-Benton four different players scored in double digits in each of those games.
“We don’t need for someone to average 20 points a game for us,” McGlaughlin said. “We are better when we have four or five guys in double figures. I think that makes us a more complete team.
Depth is also a bonus for McGlaughlin, especially with the uptempo style of play the Titans are going to run this year.
“If you are going to play the uptempo style you are going to have to bring fresh bodies in,” McGlaughlin said. “We are very comfortable playing 10 or 11 guys and some of the guys are going to log more minutes than others but that is the nice thing about this style is that you have to play more guys and the guys know if they play hard and do the little things they are going to get rewarded with minutes and I think that is a positive.”
McGlaughlin added that also adds some internal competition among the players because they know if they do play hard they will see more court time.
The big wins coupled with the big offensive showings looks great in the first three games but the Titans open Western Buckeye League play Friday and he knows his team must continue to stay focused and not get complacent because of the early success.
McGlaughlin actually said the 90 point performances are akin to fool’s gold in the sense that the Titans shot extremely well and it will be hard to repeat when they play St. Marys followed by Lima Central Catholic on Saturday night.
“We play in the league and things are going to change and it is going to be much more physical but at the same time we are going to try to,” McGlaughlin said. “We are going to get up and down and our style of play is not going to change. We have such good players and coaches in the WBL that it does not matter who you play you are going to be tested.”
And being defending WBL champions where the Titans went 9-0 last season, McGlaughlin said that gives teams additional motivation to bump them off but the Titans head coach adds that this team embraces that role and is looking forward to the challenge of defending the league title.