Like most teams Ottawa-Glandorf and Shawnee have endured injuries, postponements and the pandemic this season but none of these obstacles have seemed to stop these two teams from producing wins and the two state ranked squads will face off to see who takes control of the Western Buckeye League Friday night in one of the most highly anticipated games of the season.
The two teams are the only undefeated performers in the competitive Western Buckeye League.
Ottawa-Glandorf comes into the contest with an 11-1 mark and a 4-0 mark and is a team that Titans head coach Tyson McGlaughlin admits it has been tough at times to juggle all the issues that they have confronted.
“I think it has been a struggle but at the same time it is the time that we are in right now no matter what occupation you are in job you are in you are facing adversity and I think the big thing is getting our kids back in school and getting them back in a routine,” McGlaughlin said. “I think the kids really like the structure. They might not always admit it but they are creatures of habit and it is good to have them back.”
McGlaughlin adds that it has been a challenge to find a routine with cancellations and Covid but he points out that his players, a team that featured a host of veterans, has remained focused throughout the season.
“I have said it from the beginning our kids are best when they are around us,” McGlaughlin said. “This is the safest environment they came be in with the schools and their families and it is frustrating at times when people don’t look at it at that angle but when our kids are with us we are taking care of them and we are putting their best interest first and I think our kids appreciate that and understand that.”
The Titans lone loss came this year to Lima Central Catholic back in the fourth game of the season and since then, O-G has reeled off eight straight wins.
O-G, averaging 70.5 points a game, is a versatile squad that can beat you in a number of ways. Whether it is Brennen Blevins bombing 3-pointers or Owen Nichols doing the dirty work inside, the Titans feature a number of offensive weapons. But perhaps their best weapon is the team’s defense.
The Titans are giving up an average of 43.4 points a contest and like to pressure teams into turnovers for transition buckets.
McGlaughlin said while the team has been successful in the first half of the season, he said there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We have had some serious changes in our lineup throughout the season for different reasons so it is trying to find that continuity and it is always tough but I am happy with the way our guys are playing and they continue to get better and I think our best basketball is yet to come,” McGlaughlin said.
The positive energy and outstanding effort exhibited by his team are two areas McGlaughlin said have been a mainstay this year.
“We come to practice with the right mindset,” the Titan head coach said. “We have a wide variety of guys that do different things. We don’t have to rely on one guy and we are building more depth as the season goes on and a lot of that is just getting reps together and getting a lineup in there that you are going to see for weeks at a time. It is a process but we are taking steps in the right direction.”
Rebounding and facing adversity in big games is two areas the Titan coach said he feels are places where this team needs in improvement and that will tested against Shawnee.
Despite not having Tyson Elwer, the talented Shawnee center, the Indians are aggressive on the boards and as for the big game this is perhaps the biggest regular season game of the year for the Titans primarily because it puts the winner in the driver’s seat for the league title.
“We know the challenge at hand and we understand what is on the line and whoever gets this win is going to have a leg up in the competition in the WBL but it is one of those games where every possession is going to be important and we have talked to our guys about winning the possessions and you can’t win the game without taking care of things,” McGlaughlin said. “We just talked to our guys about being focused and dialed in and be ready to do all the little things.”
Like Ottawa-Glandorf, Shawnee has faced injuries, cancellations and Covid, but the Indians have played like a team on a mission this year.
The Indians, ranked No. 1 in the state in Division I, have steamrolled through the first half of the year and have been beating opponents by an average of margin of 28 points a contest. Led by George Mangas, who is averaging an impressive 32.6 points a contest, Shawnee is averaging 73.5 points a contest.
Perhaps even more impressive is that the Indians have been giving up 42.3 points a contest.
The loss of Tyson Elwer was a major blow to the Indians. Prior to being sidelined with a foot injury, the senior standout center, was averaging 10.5 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots.
Shawnee head coach Mark Triplett said the philosophy this season that he and his staff have preached is control what you can control knowing the uncertainty with the pandemic.
“We try to celebrate each step and each accomplishment we achieve and can get through and we focus day by day and try to get better and move on and that is all we can do,” Triplett said.
Because the team brought back four starters from a squad that won the WBL and made it to the regional finals, Triplett said it was a huge benefit to this team coming into this season and the Indians have shown it with their undefeated season thus far.
“We have been proud of the kids’ effort and their attention to detail coming every day to practice and really that is what it is all about for us,” Triplett said.
Triplett added that keeping the team focused with the myriad of issues that continue to crop up has been a challenge and they have preached to the players to stay mindful of who they are hanging out with and taking the proper precautions when it comes to the pandemic.
“I think we have a group of kids who it is pretty easy for them to take care of themselves because they love the game of basketball and if they were kids that hadn’t had success or didn’t want to be out there they wouldn’t take things so seriously but we really haven’t had that issue because our kids have been taking care of themselves off the court,” Triplett said.
The injury to Elwer is one area the team had no control over but Triplett said the team has responded by filling the void left behind by their teammate. Elwer is expected to be out four to six weeks.
“We are not our best without Tyson and he knows that and we know that and nobody is going to feel sorry or us and take it easy on us and it is just a matter of some of our guys are going to have to step up and hit the glass harder and play harder on the defensive end of the court,” Triplett said.
Like his coaching counterpart, Triplett understands the importance of the game against Ottawa-Glandorf and points out that no WBL team has beaten O-G on their home court since 2015 and the Indians have not won in Ottawa since 2010. The Indians did beat the Titans in a thrilling 63-61 victory last year in Shawnee.
“Their place has been a house of horrors for everybody in the Western Buckeye League anf they have really dominated there for a long time so we knew we are going to have our hand’s full going in there and without Tyson it is going to be harder for us but we are excited about the challenge and it is going to be a great atmosphere,” Triplett said. “Our kids are ready to go in there and do all they can to walk out of there with a win.”