OTTAWA – Taking care of business.
Ottawa-Glandorf has been doing that throughout the tournament and the Titans are taking one more “business” trip when they head to the final four and face Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (14-3) in the Division III state semifinals at the University of Dayton at 8 p.m. Friday.
“I think the most important thing is that you have to keep things in perspective,” Titans head coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “The most important thing is you have to enjoy yourself and I think our guys are going to do that. We are going to embrace this moment and we are going to have a lot of fun but at that same time getting there is not the ultimate goal. That is not the end goal.
“We got to understand that it is a business trip and we have been keeping that mantra all year. It’s a business trip. We are going to have fun. We are going to enjoy it but at the same time we are there to win games and kind of reiterating that to our guys is very important.”
The Titans’ road to state has not been the easiest. Sure they were motivated early after being denied an opportunity last year to compete for a possible state title but that incentive only takes you so far and McGlaughlin said it is this team’s competitive fire and toughness that carried them through a season filled with injuries, the pandemic and some big losses.
“I think at the beginning of the year I think our guys really thought about ‘Man, remember last year. Remember last year,’ but as the year went on it was about this group. It is about this current group of players and you don’t forget about that because it was such an unfortunate circumstance but we can’t control what happened in the past. We can control of what is happening right now and I thought our guys did a really good job of being able to multi manage and it has just been a crazy year so for them to be able to handle these crazy situations and to look forward has been huge for our team.”
The Titans had some setbacks with losses to Lima Central Catholic, Shawnee, Rossford and a late loss to Van Wert but since that defeat to the Cougars, Ottawa-Glandorf has not lost.
“We have tough kids,” McGlaughlin said. “I don’t have a great answer for that other than that we have tough, competitive kids that expect to win and they expect to play for championships and that is kind of what we base our program on is developing what I call boys and turn them into men and then winning championships and that is all our kids really know and that is something we take a lot of pride in.
“When they get beat or get knocked off or don’t play well they use that as motivation to not let that happen again and that is a credit to our kids.”
In the postseason, the Titans have exhibited this by finding ways to win and McGlaughlin said it is getting contributions from different players at various times.
“I think Brennen (Blevins) and Owen (Nichols) have asserted themselves when we have needed them but our complementary players have done a fantastic job,” the Titan head coach said. “I think that is really important when you get into the postseason because at each level you go to you are playing more talent and you can’t rely on just one or two guys. We have been fortunate to have guys step up and when they step up, it gives an opportunity to somebody else so it has been a collective effort and something we are going to need to continue to move forward.”
McGlaughlin added that this team is a collection of gamers who have formed a great bond and chemistry.
“I think we have a lot of different personalities on this group and sometimes that makes it hard to understand where we are at ,” McGlaughlin said. “Sometimes I look at them and say ‘are we engaged,’ and then all of sudden they go out and perform at a really high level. It is a lot of different personalities gelling together and at the end of the day they game. They are just gamers. That is all you want. You want guys that are going to compete and no matter who we put in there I know those guys are going to compete for 32 minutes and that is the thing I love about this group. Good or bad they play hard and as a coach that is all you can really ask for.”
Ottawa-Glandorf faces a perennial powerhouse in Cleveland Heights. The Falcons, riding a six-game winning streak, are averaging 78.2 points a game and giving up an average of 55 points a contest.
In their four postseason games, the Falcons are scoring an average of 88 points a contest and yielding an average of 47.25 points a contest. Cleveland Heights average margin of victory has been 40.75 points.
The Falcons won the Division IV state title in 2017 and lost in the Division III state championship game to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep. This is the Falcons’ fourth state semifinal berth in five years.
“Our goal is to play in the state Final Four every year,” Lutheran East head coach Sam Leggins said in a teleconference Monday. “These kids understand the moment they walk in these doors it’s about going to state and trying to win a state championship. We’ve had a lot of kid who have been here four years and three years and understand the culture and are ready for the opportunity Friday night.
“They have the experience, they’re hungry. We think we’ve got a shot at it this year. We thought we had a shot at it last year.”
The Falcons tout four starters from last year’s team that include Jalen Knott, Sirr Hughes and Jalin Billingsley, 6-8, forward who has committed to Georgetown University.
“We just need to continue to do what we do and preach to our guys about controlling the things that we can control,” said McGlaughlin about facing the Falcons. “We have to rebound. We have to value the basketball and we have to defend. That doesn’t change on who we play. We might have to crack down and adjust things here and there but if we do those three things we are going to put ourselves in a position to be there at the end and that is what we want.”