What could have been.
Area boys basketball coaches still involved in the postseason knew most likely that the Ohio High School Athletic Association was going to cancel the rest of the postseason but it didn’t make it a easier for them to break it to their teams and accept the inevitable.
The word came down Thursday from the OHSAA that the tournaments were canceled and the coaches found it difficult to break it to their players.
Mark Triplett, whose Shawnee Division II squad was ranked No. 1 in the state with an unblemished mark, apologized to his players when he broke the news to them.
“I know how much time and effort they spent on this. How passionate they are about it,” Triplett said. “They love each other and when you have the type of season that we had and and get that close to the goals that you set for yourself and you don’t get the opportunity to achieve them I felt really bad for them.”
Fellow Western Buckeye League coach Tyson McGlaughlin also said it was tough to break the news to his team but added it provided closure on the season of what could have been. The Division III Titans, who were 25-1 and also in the regionals, appeared to be heading to a possible state berth.
“It’s tough,” McGlaughlin said. “When you have a team that can get down to state and the possibility of bringing home a state championship and it’s hard.”
Like his coaching counterparts, Columbus Grove Chris Sautter also envisioned a possible final four showing as his Division IV team was ranked No. 1 in the state and sported a 26-0 mark and were poised for a chance at state.
Sautter said because he can’t meet with the players he had to text them the word of the cancellation which made it even tougher.
“I didn’t really know what to say because I don’t know what to say,” Sautter said. “We never thought this would play out the way it did, and I apologized to them. It made it hard. They have worked hard to accomplish the goals we set.”
Sautter added that the team set three goals after it lost in the regionals last year, winning the Putnam County League, the Northwest Conference and returning to regionals and heading to state.
The hardest part for these teams was how it affected the seniors.
For Shawnee, the Indians will say good bye to John Barker, Will Roberson and Matt Bean.
“I’ve had three and fortunately that is the fewest I have had to say good bye to,” Triplett said. “It just doesn’t seem right that this is the good-bye that they get. John Barker has been our engine and a leader all year long. Matt Bean and Will Roberson are two kids that have bought into their roles and played as hard as they could on a daily basis. They make us better in practice. They make us better in games. All three of them are tremendous young men.”
The same holds true for Ottawa-Glandorf’s seniors who McGlaughlin said helped maintain the proud Titan tradition. The seniors on the team this year were Jarrod Beach, Kamron Maag, Parker Schomaeker, Hayden Dean, Ethan Alt, Ben Westrick and Aaron Rieman.
“It is a special tradition here and they have been part of the program for years and it was their turn to showcase their talents and have their turn at doing something special and that is the toughest part,” McGlaughlin said “The thing I liked about these seniors was their camaraderie,”
Columbus Grove also featured seniors who played a major role in the team’s success. Sautter said Evan Hopkins, Alex Schneider, Tanner Smith and Owen Macke will be missed.
“Everybody played an important role on this team and every time they got in a game they gave their best effort,” Sautter said. “What I like is these seniors gave our younger players something to shoot for. I have a lot of respect for them. These younger kids see how hard they worked and it gives them something to shoot for and makes those younger kids want to work hard to reach the expectations these guys have left behind and get back to regionals and possibly state.”
Even though the teams never got that chance to snare that elusive state title each coach said their respective squads should be proud of what they accomplished both on and off the court.
“They are special,” Triplett said. “The thing they do for each other on a daily basis. The way they care about each other on and off the court. They spend so much time together. If we don’t have a game they are together. They are making silly rap videos together or going to lunch together. They just genuinely care about each other. The biggest reflection on the team is they are special from what I see off the court than what I see on the court.”
McGlaughlin also echoed those sentiments about his team.
“Obviously our record shows we had success but the biggest thing is this was a team with no egos,” McGlaughlin said. “They cared about each other and cared about being the best they could be as a team. “
McGlaughlin added that this team was composed of selfless players who were concerned about winning.
Sautter pointed out that this team worked a lot and should be proud of what it accomplished.
“These kids stayed focused and accomplished what they”set to do,” Sautter said. “They came into this season determined to make it back to regionals and they did. That says a lot about these players.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.