Choosing any high school’s greatest shot in history is a difficult task, but in O-G’s case, the challenge is doubly hard because the Titans basketball tradition is steeped in success. In other words, there’s a lot to choose from. However, I believe one special basket rises to the top:
March 21, 2013, state semi-final game at OSU’s Schottenstein Center. Ottawa-Glandorf vs. Ironton: Matthew “Chewy” Kaufman scores the tying basket in the last second and sends the game into over-time.
The Titans, under third year head coach Tyson McGlaughlin, were making their second straight appearance at state. They knocked off Lima Central Catholic and Bloom-Carroll in the regionals to earn their way to Columbus and the opportunity to make up for their state semi-final loss the previous year to Portsmouth.
O-G opened the 2013 state tournament with an early game against Ironton before a crowd of 10,742 fans. The game was tied at half-time but their opponent took control of the game in the 4th quarter and held what appeared to be a comfortable lead of six points with under forty seconds remaining in the game. Things looked bleak for O-G.
Enter the Titan full court press.
O-G turned Ironton over twice and Caleb Siefker responded with 5 quick points cutting the lead to one. 27 seconds now remained on the clock and Ironton made one free throw but missed the second one, opening the door for O-G.
Enter Matthew “Chewy” Kaufman.
Kaufman, a heady point guard with a great handle, gained possession of the ball and streaked down the floor looking to make a play, but Portsmouth’s defense smothered his attack. Sensing the confusion for his team, McGlaughlin leaped from the bench and called a time out. There were now less than twelve seconds to work with and his team trailing by two.
In the huddle, McGlaughlin set up a play called “Gold,” one very familiar to the Titans. The design had two options: The inbound passer, Michael Rosebrock, was to get the ball into his point guard, Kaufman, and then use a pick by T. J. Metzger on the baseline for a shot at the rim. The second option on the play was tailor-made for their leading scorer and deadly 3-point shooter, Metzger. After setting his pick for Rosebrock, Metzger was to work his way up the lane, using a double pick, for an open shot at the top of the key.
Neither option worked as Portsmouth’s defenders disrupted the timing of the play and smothered Metzger in a double team when he received the ball. There was temporary chaos as the play broke down and Kaufman sprinted to Metzger to retrieve the ball.
In critical moments of meaningful games, great players often instinctively make decisions that impact the outcome.
The clock was now under five seconds and Kaufman began driving to his left hand, near the top of the key, desperately looking for an open teammate, when he realized that every player on both teams was outside the three-point line and the paint was deserted. In a split-second decision, Kaufman made a cross-over dribble to his right hand, split two stunned defenders, and headed for the rim. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, the path to basket was wide open and Kaufman was looking at an easy layup. Except for the pressure of the moment.
Thinking back to that moment now, Kaufman remembered what was at stake. “That was probably the worst layup I ever took in my life,” he says. “I don’t think I jumped two inches off the ground, I was trying to be so careful. The ball rattled all over the rim before it went in,” he added.
Coach McGlaughlin’s thoughts in that moment were more for his player than for what was at stake. “I remember thinking, Please God let him make it or he will be haunted by it for the rest of his life,” he says. Kaufman’s basket became a key piece in the events that then led to a state championship for O-G.
Kaufman’s lay-up sent the game into over-time where Metzger’s free throw, with one second remaining, sealed the win and sent O-G to the state championship game against Versailles. In the title game, the Titans rode Metzger’s incredible 3-point shooting (9-14) to a convincing win. O-G laid claim to the school’s third basketball state championship.
Looking back at the experience, Kaufman, who graduated from The Ohio State University and is now completing a Master’s Degree as a Physician Assistant, downplays his achievement. “For me, it was the collective memory of what it took from everyone on our team to win that championship and not one play,” he says. “There were so many key moments, we were always in it tO-Gether,” he added.
Matt Kaufman’s attitude allows for a glimpse into the DNA that has guided the Ottawa-Glandorf prO-Gram to the lofty status as one of the most successful and respected in Division III basketball. There is no denying the Titans have produced their share of great players, many who have gone on to impressive college careers. But the real key to their success lies in developing role players, like Kaufman, who bring unselfish leadership, passionate energy and mental toughness to the game.
My pick for greatest shot in O-G history is Chewy Kaufman’s clutch last second basket that opened the door for a third state championship banner.
Runner Up: March, 1977, Regional Final: O-G vs. Lexington at BGSU’s Anderson Fieldhouse. O-G, under a young coach Ron Niekamp, wins regional championship and advances to state tournament for first time in school history. In an era when dunking was uncommon, Joe Maas breaks lose late in the game and throws down a thunderous slam dunk that brought the house down. Long-time O-G fans insist it is the loudest noise they have ever heard produced by the Titan faithful.
Reach Bob Seggerson at email@example.com