Posted On: 11/20/17 8:10 AM

The Western Buckeye League has always been one the premier conferences in Northwest Ohio.  If your team is fortunate enough to win the W.B.L. in any sport, you know that you’re going to be in good shape heading into tournament play.  Here is a little preview on the teams in the W.B.L., key players and marquee matchups.  What can fans of teams in the league expect this year?

  1. Ottawa Glandorf

Ottawa Glandorf has a good nucleus coming back from last year’s team that won the W.B.L. including the Player of the Year Jay Kaufman. Jay suffered a knee injury during a summer AAU game and his return should be sometime in January. Hiegel is a good point guard, possibly the best point guard in the league and Jake Dibel provides a big body down low that can score on the block while also being a threat to shoot the 3. White is another solid wing player that’ll be one to keep an eye on this year. O-G also has a favorable schedule with many of their big games coming at home. The community really gets behind their Titans and they may have the best home court advantage in Northwest Ohio.

The only concern with O-G will be their depth, but they have really good coaches who always have always been able to plug kids into their system and those kids fulfill their roles to the best of their ability. This is why they’re so good from year to year without taking steps back.

Key Games: (** League Game)

Home:                Archbold                    Dec. 23

Home:                Van Wert  **              Jan. 12

Home:                Lima Senior              Jan. 20

Away:                 Wapakoneta **         Feb. 16

Home:                Elida **                      Feb. 23

 

  1. Elida
Dan Unruh

Elida made it to the division 2 regional finals last year and was just a couple plays away from making a state appearance. The Bulldogs return 6 of their top 8 players from last year. Dan Unruh averaged 17 points per game last year and was 1st Team All-League and could be a potential Player of the Year candidate this year. Along with Unruh, Elida has Smith, McAdams, Johnson and Henderson that will make up the core that will see most of the minutes. Losing Stinson from last year’s team
may hurt as he provided a post presence and it’ll be interesting to see whom Coach Thompson wants to play point guard position after the graduation of Sarno. Elida will need to knock down outside shots to and rebound well for a guard-oriented team in order to contend for a league title.

Elida will also have 2 tough league gams on the road in February.  Elida will need a win at Van Wert to set up a league championship game against O-G on Feb. 23rd.  Coach Thompson has had some success against O-G over the years including a win in the district tournament last year.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 Lima Senior                 Dec. 30

Home:                Wapakoneta **            Jan. 19

Away:                 Van Wert  **                 Feb. 2

Away:                 Ottawa Glandorf **     Feb. 23

 

  1. Van Wert

Van Wert returns an impressive core group that has a lot of experience. Van Wert finished around .500 last year, but was close in a lot of games. They started playing really well late in the year and they’ll look to carry that momentum into this year. The Cougars have pretty high expectations this year, as they should. They return Jakoby Kelly at point guard for the 4th straight season.  He’ll be playing alongside athletic wings Henry and Place. Bagley will patrol the paint as he has really put some time in the weight room.

Last year, the Cougars were young and had nothing to lose. This year, with high expectation, can the Cougars live up to those expectations will be the question. Also, having a lot of experience will be key as they play many key games on the road this year.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 Crestview                      Dec. 1

Away:                 Wapakoneta **             Dec. 15

Away:                 Ottawa Glandorf **       Jan. 12

Home:                Elida **                         Feb. 2

 

  1. Wapakoneta

Wapak is an interesting team coming off a 2nd place finish last year and because they’ve already lost 2 players already to potential season ending injuries. Copeland, being one the 2 players was a guy that did a lot of things for Wapak and it’ll be interesting to see how they play without him. They bring back point guard Schoonover, who earned 1st Team All League honors last year. Good is another player to keep an eye because he is long, athletic and can shoot the 3. Scott will provide a big body in the paint. Wapak will set a lot of ball screens, slip some of those ball screens which is always keeping the defense on their heals. Coach Davis has a team that will shoot a lot of 3’s and if they’re hitting, they’ll be able to play with any team in division 2.

The Redskins will also have to replace Huffman and Schroer from last year’s team. Wapak has a favorable schedule though with 3 of their toughest 4 games being played at home.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Home:                Van Wert  **                  Dec. 15

Home:                Shawnee   **                 Jan. 5

Away:                 Elida **                          Jan. 19

Home:                Ottawa Glandorf **       Feb. 16

 

  1. Shawnee

Shawnee is looking to bounce back this year from a disappointing end to their 2016-17 campaign where they were knocked out of the tournament in the first round. The Indians will have an athletic team led by Rosato. Caprella and O’Neal should have big years as their minutes will increase because of the departure of McDonald and Manley.

If Shawnee wants to finish in the top 3 in the league, they’re going to have to win some big games on the road and protect their home court. One of the biggest matchups of the year will be a home game against O-G, but the Indians will travel to Convoy to take on a tough Crestview team earlier that week.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 LCC                                Dec. 30

Away:                 Wapakoneta **              Jan. 5

Away:                 Van Wert  **                  Jan. 19

Away:                Crestview                      Jan. 23

Home:                Ottawa Glandorf **     Jan. 26

Away:                 Elida **                         Feb. 9

 

  1. Celina

Celina returns 4 starters from a 6 win team last year. Much of their struggles were at the beginning of season getting off to an 0-6 start. Celina started playing much better late in the year including a couple of good wins on the road over LCC and Shawnee. Celina returns Murlin, who earned 2nd Team All-League last year, as well as Flaute, Briand and Schweiterman. Celina is also looking for Yenser to have a big year.

In order to finish in the top half of the league, Celina is going to need these 5 to play well and have a role player or two play well in big games. This isn’t a far stretch because Celina is a tough place for opposing teams to win. Over the years, they’ve always had an X factor: a player that plays above expectations or a player that plays their role perfectly for the team to win games.

Key Games: (** League Game)

Away:                 Versailles                     Dec. 2

Home:                Toledo Bowsher           Dec. 9

Away:                 Elida **                        Jan. 5

Away:                 Ottawa Glandorf **     Jan. 19

Home:                Wapakoneta **           Feb. 2

 

  1. Defiance

Defiance is always well coached and they’ll be in games because of Coach Lehman. Replacing Menendez at point guard will be a big question for Defiance as well as the youth. Defiance only has 1 senior on the 2016-17 roster so a lot will be asked by the underclassmen. Lammers is only a sophomore but he got a lot of minutes last year and he can really shoot the 3. Goings, Kline and Gerken will be a trio of guys to keep an eye on this year as their minutes and expectations will grow.

The schedule can be favorable for Defiance as they start league play with Shawnee and if they can get a win there, they won’t see the “heavy hitters” of the league until later in the season. Building up wins with a young nucleus early in the year can build confidence heading into those big games later in the year.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 Shawnee **                  Dec. 15

Home:                Elida **                         Jan. 12

Home:                Celina **                       Jan. 26

Home:                Ottawa Glandorf **      Feb. 2

Away:                 Wapakoneta **            Feb. 9

 

  1. Bath

Bath is looking to bounce back from a disappointing last place finish in the WBL last year. The Wildcats have some pieces and experience to be a team that could realistically finish in the top half of the league. Bath returns Gough who is 6’8, Frey who is a 6’2 point guard and Clark a 6’3 wing and all three have all played varsity for the last 2 years. Kinyon should also see a lot of minutes and be a key contributor.

Harrison Gough

A major concern for Coach Allen will be bench play. The bench will consist of a lot of younger players who are inexperienced at the varsity level. Getting off to a good start will be key for the Wildcats who have struggled the last couple of years. The schedule doesn’t do any favors for the Wildcats, who will play 4 of their first 5 games on the road.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 LCC                                    Dec. 1

Away:                 Tip Off Classic                  Dec. 2

Away:                 Bluffton                             Dec. 8

Home:                Columbus Grove              Dec. 9

Away:                 Elida **                              Dec. 15

Away:                 Wapakoneta **                 Jan. 26

 

  1. St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s is coming off a year where they finished below .500 and they lose only 2 seniors: One who was a 1,000 point scorer and 1st Team All-League player in Jay. They also lost Grannan who was Honorable Mention All-League. St. Mary’s also faces a similar battle as Kenton in which their athletes prefer to play football over basketball. St. Mary’s will return a core group of players in Dunlap, Wilker, Jacobs, Clements and Young. With this group of athletes, St. Mary’s could finish in the middle of the W.B.L. but it’ll depend on the growth these players made in the off-season.

The schedule is favorable for St. Mary’s because they’ll most likely play O-G without their best player and it’s a home game. If they can win that game, it could build a lot of confidence heading into the new year.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Away:                 Fort Recovery                     Dec. 1

Away:                Troy                                      Dec. 2

Home:                Ottawa Glandorf **            Dec. 15

Away:                 Van Wert **                         Jan. 5

Away:                 Shawnee   **                       Jan. 12

 

  1. Kenton

Kenton finished above .500 last year for the first time in awhile and had 5 games they lost decided by a single possession. The Wildcats lose the Phillips’ twins but will return Sharp who had a pretty good campaign last year and the addition of freshman Cornell should give Kenton something to be excited about.

Kenton has always been a school where football is a priority over basketball so their athletes spend most of their off-season in football workouts. The schedule is a favorable one, beginning the season with Indian Lake, who will have had limited time to practice because of making the football playoffs and a game on the road the Wildcats will be favored in at Waynesfield. The Wildcats even begin league play with 2 winnable games.

Key Games: (** League Games)

Home:                Indian Lake                  Dec. 1

Away:                 Waynesfield Goshen   Dec. 2

Home:                Celina **                       Dec. 15

Away:                 Defiance **                   Jan. 5

Home:                Wapakoneta **            Jan. 12