Girls basketball: Kaufman, Erford dominate as Titan twosome

OTTAWA — When you’re 6-foot-1 like Katie Kaufman, it’s hard to not attract attention on the basketball court.

The Titans’ senior leader found a good way to take the focus off herself this year — a quick bounce pass to sophomore teammate Karsyn Erford once opponents try to double-team her. It works just as well the other way around when people key in on the 5-foot-7 guard Erford.

“It just makes the job easier having Karsyn there, knowing there’s someone who can do the work just as well as I can,” said Kaufman, a second-team all-state selection last year.

It’s been a recipe for success for the Titans (17-2, 7-0 Western Buckeye League). Erford averages a team-high 13.4 points and has 4.2 rebounds per game, while Katie Kaufman puts up 13.0 points and pulls down a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game.

The defending league champs are within three wins of their 11th-straight 20-win season. They can clinch at least a share of the WBL championship with a win at home against Shawnee on Thursday, after already beating second-place Bath earlier in the year.

The Titans, ranked No. 2 in the state in the most recent poll, have a certain pedigree on the court.

Kaufman’s older sister, Katie, was the WBL player of the year and District 8 player of the year in 2021-22. She scored 1,124 points in her high school career. Now, a sophomore at Malone University, she leads her team with 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Erford’s older sister, Kelsey, was the WBL player of the year in the 2019-20 season and a WBL first-teamer in 2020-21.

“Our coaches remind us every day that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the teams before us definitely got us to where we are,” Kaufman said. “We want to hold up their legacy and make them proud. Working as a team is something that we built as a program, so we just have to keep doing that.”

Both are accomplished in their fall sports too, with Erford a third-team all-WBL selection on the Titans’ state runner-up girls soccer team and Kaufman a third-team all-WBL choice for volleyball.

A selfless attitude permeates the Titans. Beyond Kaufman and Erford, it seems a different player steps up each night with a clutch shot for the Titans, who average an 18-point margin of victory.

“None of us are really selfish,” Erford said. “Our goal is to get the ball to the open player. If that’s me, fine, but my goal is to get everyone else open. If I score, I know other people will be open for a pass. It makes life a little easier.”

Erford is a “very unselfish player,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Troy Yant said.

“We need Karsyn to almost be more selfish,” Yant said. “She’s really good at finding the players; she’s really good at passing up shots for someone else to get a shot. But she’s also one of our best players, and she’s got the highest shooting percentage. You want her taking the bulk of those shots.”

Working off Erford’s strengths helped change how Kaufman plays the game.

“I would say it makes me focus more on seeing the whole floor on offense, passing the cuts and not just trying to drive as hard as I can,” she said.

Over the summer, Kaufman added a new skill, the block. Kaufman joked she’d finally found a way to use her long arms to her benefit, and she enjoyed the emotional punch it offered the Titans when she recorded a block. She frequently records two to three blocks a game, and she had four last week against Toledo Central Catholic.

Yant said that’s not a statistic he keeps or necessarily encourages, for fear of getting fouls on his four-year letterwinner.

“I would rather she stay on the ground and go for the rebound,” Yant said. “But she has been able to get some blocks that have saved us some possessions in the last couple of games. At this point, we’re going to live with it.”

Ottawa-Glandorf has high hopes for the remainder of the year, possibly adding a 15th league championship to its banner in Hermiller Gymnasium and maybe bringing home the girls team’s first state championship.

“We have players from past years come into practice, and they make us better,” Kaufman said. “I know my sister played in the program, and so did Karsyn’s, and we want to be better for them. They worked hard so we can put a state banner up there some day. I think that’s something we work towards every day.”

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.