COLUMBUS GROVE — Coming into this season, Columbus Grove head coach Brian Schroeder had several question marks that needed to be answered.
In addition to finding new leaders on a team with three starters back, the Bulldogs needed to replace the scoring of Rylee Sybert and the the defense of Amy Vorst.
For the scoring it appeared that freshman standout Kenzie King, who showed she could produce points as a freshman, would be the answer.
And while King is delivering again, it has been a more team effort when it comes to scoring and it has paid off with the Bulldogs going 4-0 in the Putnam County League and the Northwest Conference and an 11-3 mark overall.
“In terms of filling the points that we are missing from Rylee it has been a variety of girls,” Schroeder said. “Kenzie King has been the main focal point of other teams and she had done a phenomenal job of understanding that as a sophomore. She wants to score. She wants to help the team to win but she also understands if teams are focusing on taking her away how important it is to distribute the ball and create opportunities for others.”
Schroeder admits that he was a little concerned that someone wanted to take on the role as the main scorer such as King, Angel Schneider, Sydney Witteborg, Erin Downing, Savanah Ridenour or Abby Gladwell but over the course of the season it has developed into this unselfish approach.
“They have really all become much more assertive offensively in terms of attacking the defense and not to be afraid to take shots,” Schroeder said.
The balanced scoring has helped to offset the fact that the Bulldogs do not have much size. But what they lack in height they make up in hard work and team chemistry.
“This team isn’t physically intimidating maybe,” Schroeder said. “We don’t have great size on this team. I think we start two or three girls that are like 5-4 or 5-5. Our post player Angel Schneider is 5-7 but they just play so well together. They really share the ball. I know at one time this year we had four girls averaging 10 points and another girl averaging seven points a game.”
Schroeder added that the team is unselfish and keeps the ball moving to get the best or high percentage shot.
Columbus Grove is averaging 52.2 points a contest.
The Bulldogs are both effective from inside or outside the 3-point arc. The Bulldogs are shooting 37 percent from the treyland.
Inside, Schnieder is the Bulldogs’ main threat and despite regularly facing taller opponents is putting up 12 points a contest.
“We are able to score in a variety of ways so that makes us fairly tough to guard,” Schroeder said.
The second question was the defense, and like the offense, it has been a team effort.
Another key factor is the Bulldogs’ team defense. Columbus is giving up an average of 37.1 points a contest. In eight of those contest the team has surrendered 35 points or less. Interesting to note that in their three losses, the opponents scored 50 or more points twice and all three defeats came to ranked teams.
Schroeder said he was concerned about the defense when the team gave up 49 and 47 points in the first two contest.
“It was a little bit worrisome defensively after those first two games basically giving up 50 points our first two games,” Schroeder said. “Typically our goal is mid 30s or lower is kind of where we want to be in terms of defensive average and they have really turned it around. We really focused on our defense and getting tougher and doing the job protecting the paint and being physical and rebounding in spite of our lack of size. I have seen a lot of growth on the defense.”
Schroeder told the girls that sometimes your shot may not always travel but your defense does.
And as far as finding new leaders, the seniors, Schneider, Witteborg, Addison Schafer and Abigial Gladwell, have stepped up.
“They all lead in their own ways,” Schroeder said. “Some lead verbally. Some lead just with their work ethic in how they go about doing things but all four have definitely been a big influence on some of our younger players who have needed to sort of move along and contribute to our varsity team.”
Even though the Columbus Grove is leading the pack in both the PCL and NWC, Schroeder knows there is still plenty of basketball yet to play and the Bulldogs are in the midst of six games in 12 days.
“Right now it is pretty easy to keep them (the team) focused because they next game is basically the next day so now our main focus is keeping our players fresh,” Schroeder said.