By MICHAEL BURWELL
Ottawa-Glandorf’s girls basketball team’s main goal at the start of the season was to win the Western Buckeye League title, which the Titans did for the first time since 2006.
Reaching the state tournament for a second straight season despite losing three starters and five seniors, and moving up from Division III to Division II?
“It was in our minds but what we really wanted was WBL,” Kadie Hempfling, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard for O-G and the WBL Player of the Year, said after the Titans’ 48-46 win over Toledo Rogers in Friday’s regional final at Ontario High School.
“Once we got WBL, we really took a step back and did a reality check and was like ‘We could keep going and make some noise in tournament,’ and so then look at us now.”
“Now” includes the second state semifinal berth in school history. The Titans (25-2), who have a combined 73-8 record since the start of the 2013-14 season, will take on Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (17-10) at 8 p.m. Thursday at Value City Arena in Columbus.
“Our hope was to win the WBL. Win the WBL and see where we go,” O-G head coach Troy Yant said on Friday. “We knew if we won the WBL, we could be the best team in the district. Obviously, that would get us — maybe, hopefully — to the regionals.”
Considering the talent that graduated from last year’s team that lost to Versailles 49-46 in the Division III state title game, the Titans’ tournament run back to Columbus has been just as impressive.
Elissa Ellerbrock, who averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a freshman for Division II Gannon University this season, was a first-team all-Ohio selection last season.
Starters Erin Basinger and Danielle Schroeder both averaged seven points per game on a deep O-G team that included eight players playing at least 12 minutes in the state title game.
Four returning letterwinners — Hempfling, Dani Ellerbrock (5-6 senior), Kylie White (5-9 junior) and Lexi Schroeder (5-9 junior) — played significant roles for O-G last season. They combined for 22 points in the state title game.
They’ve had even bigger roles this year.
All four players played the entire regional final against Toledo Rogers, a team that had four seniors who will play Division I college basketball and a fifth who had several Division I offers as a freshman. Hempfling had a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds, White added 14 points while Schroeder had five. Ellerbrock also scored five points and hit the game-winning floater as time expired on a drive to the basket.
“We were all really tired,” Hempfling said on Friday. “We looked at each other, we always kept smiling and we kept each other up … whenever someone got down, they got right back up because each one of our teammates supports each other.”
Hempfling earned first-team all-WBL and all-Northwest Ohio district honors this year, White earned first-team all-WBL honors and second team district honors, Schroeder was an honorable mention all-WBL selection and Ellerbrock, who will play basketball collegiately for Mount Vernon Nazarene University, was second-team all-WBL.
“They’re all great kids with high character,” Yant said during Monday’s teleconference with coaches and media. “They want to win, but more than win, they want to play great.
“They want to have a great team effort and when you have four kids that are willing to do whatever it takes for the team, it makes the team so much easier to coach. It makes it easier to get the younger kids to kind of buy in to what we need to do and play at a high level. When none of them are being selfish, it’s very difficult for a younger kid to come in and be selfish.”
Send an E-mail to Mike Burwell