The population of Putnam County is about 34,000. It dropped significantly (temporarily) on Thursday.
It was, after all, Putnam County day at Value City Arena in Columbus where both the Ottawa-Glandorf and Ottoville girls basketball teams appeared in their respective divisions’ final four tournaments.
While the championship quests of each team fell short, both thrilled their fans again this season.
O-G, the No. 1 team in the final Division II Associated Press poll, finished 27-1 after being beaten in overtime by Kettering Alter, 50-43.
Ottoville also suffered a heart-breaking loss, 44-41, on a last-second 3-point shot by Berlin Hiland in the Division IV semifinal. The Big Green, ranked No. 7, finished 24-4.
The fact that two schools from the same small, rural county ended up at state is remarkable, but isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows Putnam County.
Basketball is part of the county’s fabric, not just in places like Ottawa and Glandorf and Ottoville, but in Columbus Grove, Leipsic, Kalida, Fort Jennings, Pandora, Gilboa, Continental and all points in between.
Kids grow up playing basketball with the same friends that they graduate with. Most of today’s players are children and grandchildren of yesterday’s.
Schools like O-G and Ottoville have developed programs that start with elementary school-age-students and eventually produce players who can compete with any in the state. This year, those teams rose to the top again.
Coaches Troy Yant (O-G) and Dave Kleman (Ottoville) are two of the state’s best, and they bring out the best in their players.
Each school will lose valuable senior leadership, but there’s no such thing as rebuilding for either program. It’s a matter of reloading.
Success is expected every season. In other words, no one should be surprised if one or both make it back to Columbus again next year.
Putnam County has long been known as being one of the best in the state for basketball, both boys and girls. This year’s teams only added to its strong tradition and reputation.
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