COLUMBUS GROVE – Chris Sautter, as head coach of Ada in 2009, went to state and lost in the state semifinal game. Now he has a new set of Bulldogs heading to state as the head coach of Columbus Grove, and he wants his team to understand that being there is a major accomplishment but winning the state title is the primary goal.
“I told them that the teams that lose are the teams that go there that are just happy to be there, and I don’t want to be just happy to be there,” Sautter said. “We are going with the mindset that we want to win on Friday. It is another game we want to win and not just another game we want to play so hopefully we are ready for it.
“Our kids are excited to get over the hurdle from last Friday, especially after not getting to play in the game last year but I think they are not done yet. They have the right mindset for Friday and put themselves in position for a state title.
Columbus Grove (24-2) faces New Boston Glenwood (24-2) at the University of Dayton Arena at 2 p.m. Friday.
Sautter said the Bulldogs have been focused on this moment since last year when they were denied the chance to play in a regional final that may have led to a state berth and the team’s determination and drive has shown especially in the postseason.
The Bulldogs, playing in perhaps one of the toughest districts in the state, defeated Fort Jennings, Lincolnview and Ottoville to make it to regionals and they gritted out two close wins over Carey, 48-45, and New Bremen, 50-48 in the regionals.
“We haven’t really played great,” Sautter admits. “In the district semis against Lincolnview we guarded really well. We didn’t shoot very well at all. We were 1 for 17 from three that game. The second half against Ottoville we played well defensively. I thought offensively we were much better that half and then we knew that the two regional games against Carey and then when New Bremen beat Antwerp, we knew those were going to be dogfights. They were going be physical and shots were going to be tough to come by and we weren’t going to get many open looks.”
Even though the offense has not been consistent, big buckets in clutch situations has helped carry the Bulldogs to victories. Whether it is Blake Reynolds muscling his way for points in the paint, or Tayt Birnesser, Gabe Clement, Ethan Halker or Trey Sautter popping pressure packed 3-pointers, the Bulldogs have found ways to win.
“Give Gabe and Trey and Tayt credit because they have hung in there and they have hit shots in the regionals that weren’t necessarily falling in the district tournament so it feels good to see them make shots and when we get four or five scoring in double figures or close to double figures we are really tough to beat and like I said we haven’t played great yet, and I am hoping we bust out on Friday and really have a good game and show everybody what we are capable of.”
In 26 games, Columbus Grove is averaging 60.9 points a contest and giving up an average of 45 points.
Reynolds leads the team in scoring with 15.8 points a game and Birnesser is scoring 15.1 points a contest. Clement is putting in 10.7 points a contest and Trey Sautter is averaging 8.8 points a game
While the Bulldogs offense has produced in crunch time, the Columbus Grove defense has carried this team throughout the postseason. In its tournament games, the Bulldogs are giving up an average of 43.4 points a contest.
Sautter said that the tough competition in the district and regionals has a lot to do with the Bulldogs’ inconsistent shooting but said they will have to be on their toes against New Boston Glenwood which will mix things up defensively.
The Bulldogs will need another outstanding defensive effort against New Boston Glenwood.
New Boston Glenwood
This is New Boston’s first tournament appearance since 1960 and are coached by Adam Cox, who is completing his fourth year as head coach. The Tigers have won back-to-back Southern Ohio Conference Division I titles.
“It’s kind of unreal that we are where we are. Our senior class has 18 students total in it. Seven are boys and four of them are on my basketball team,” Cox said in a teleconference Monday. “It’s just been an overwhelming enjoyment for our community and school. We’re proud to represent southern Ohio. It is pretty exciting to be able to represent all of southern Ohio.”
The Tigers are led by two-time Division IV All-Southeast district player of the year Kyle Sexton who comes into the game averaging 21.4 points a contest. He has more than 1,800 career points.
Teammate Tanner Voiers, also a first-team, all-district selection, is averaging 19.2 points a contest. The Tigers’ De’Von Jones is putting in 14.7 points a game. Chase Clark, who is 6-foot-6 and averaging 10.7 points a contest is also pulling down 11.8 rebounds a contest and blocking an average of 3.6 shots a game.
“Offensively we like to get everybody involved,” Cox said. “We like to make the right pass and know where the ball is supposed to go against each defense we face. We were not known for our discipline and halfcourt sets. We’re more of a running and pressing team. But when the tournament starts everybody knows you have to be able to play halfcourt defense and you have to be able to run halfcourt sets. I’m the kind of coach who is going to do whatever it takes to win that game. If I have to play a different strategy for one game that’s what I’m going to do.”
Glenwood comes into the game averaging 72 points a contest and is giving up an average of 49 points a game.
“You ask any of our kids what travels and they will tell you defense travels,” Sautter said. “You can have a bad shooting night like we did against Lincolnview but when you hold a team to 38 points you are going to win more often than you lose, and it starts for us at that end of the floor.
Sautter added that the focal point will be Sexton.
“They run everything through him and when they need a bucket or a big play he is the one that goes out and makes it for them,” Sautter said. “We have to do a nice job on him defensively and then we have to limit everybody else. He has some guys around him that can shoot. We have to get stops and we have to play fast.”
Setting the tempo is something Sautter looks to do.
“If we can dictate the tempo and make it an up and down game even though we only play six or seven guys I feel our guys are conditioned so that we can play 32 minutes fast,” Sautter said. “If we can get stops and out to a quick start and get the game played at our tempo then I like our chances.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.