BLUFFTON – Bluffton suffered its second consecutive loss of the season when the Pirates were beaten by Wapakoneta in a non-league affair Tuesday night. The defeat comes off the heels of the team’s first loss of the season to perennial powerhouse Ottawa-Glandorf Saturday.
Prior to both of those games, Pirate head coach Todd Boblitt knew he was in for some tough battles against these Western Buckeye League teams, and while he came out on the losing end of both games, he is encouraged by his team’s development and somewhat surprising opening to the season considering he has no seniors on the roster.
Despite not having any seniors, Bluffton (8-2, 2-0 NWC) opened the year with eight straight wins including big victories over Leipsic, Arlington and a huge win over Crestview, 43-41, in the Northwest Conference opener for both squads.
Boblitt said the fast start can be attributed to the time the players put in during the off season.
“We had a number of guys that were really committed in our offseason through the summer and into our preseason that came in and were a little bit ahead of our skill development, so when we started practice, we had some guys that had put time in and that made a difference for us.”
Led by a healthy Luke Denecker, a junior who has battled knee injuries, and the emergence of juniors Matt Soper and Jared Piercefield as legitimate scoring threats, can be attributed to the Pirates early season success. Not to be overlooked are the key contributions by Baylor Garmatter, Luke Hohenbrink and Mickey Alt.
For the season, Denecker is averaging 15 points a game and 5.5 rebounds a contest and Soper is averaging 14.9 points a game and 6.6 caroms a contest. Piercefield is putting in 14.4 points a game and 4.5 rebounds.
“I don’t think we expected to start the way we did,” Boblitt said. “We don’t have any seniors so many of guys were gaining their first experience or really true valuable minutes on the fly so to have the start we have had has been fun,” Boblitt said. “We have been able to win a lot of different ways and be successful and get back in the gym and get better.”
Boblitt added that it is definitely different not have seniors on the roster.
“I think some times you lean on seniors for maturity, not just physically, but also mentally, and when guys are a full year younger you notice the difference on the floor and you can see it from an experience standpoint,” Boblitt said. “Fortunately for us, we have good leadership with our young guys. They are extremely coachable and try to do things the right way. They are willing learners, so all of this has been a fun start.”
Signs of this team keeping its composure were most evident when Bluffton stopped Crestview. The Pirates hit clutch shots under pressure and were poised down the stretch when the Knights made their run in the final stanza.
Boblitt said this is another step the team’s development. As much as the Pirates have done in the first half of the season, the Bluffton head coach understands there is still plenty of basketball to be played and his top priority is the team’s next opponent Lincolnview Friday.
Lincolnview, who come into the game with a 5-5 mark overall and 1-1 in the NWC.
“We have made plays when we have needed to make plays, but I think there is still a lot of growth we are going to see and it is going to be exciting to see what happens for us,” Boblitt added. “Even though we have had a great start, we think our ceiling is pretty far above us, and so we want to keep to continue to get to that point, and I don’t know when it will happen or even this season.”