The Western Buckeye League set a high standard for itself last season when Ottawa-Glandorf won the Division III boys basketball state title, Bath had the best season in school history and Elida’s Dakota Mathias emerged as one of the top players in the state.
Mathias is back for an encore as a senior. But if Bath, which shared the league title with Elida, and O-G are going to contend, they will do it with a nearly new cast.
The Titans have one returning starter, and Bath has two starters back from last season.
Noah Bramlage (11 points, 7.5 rebounds), a 6-foot-7 junior who has attracted Division I interest, is the only returning starter for Ottawa-Glandorf.
The Titans are “a work in progress,” coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “Our expectations will not change, and we feel as the season continues our team will be ready for the tournament.”
“We don’t have a real experienced group of players but we do have a group of guys that are hungry to prove themselves,” he said.
If Ottawa-Glandorf is the team in the WBL playing with a target on its back, then Mathias is the individual doing the same thing.
The 6-5 senior averaged 25 points a game last year while playing against all kinds of special defenses. After Mathias scored more than 40 points in his first three games of the season, teams decided it was unwise to try to defend him one-on-one.
Elida coach Denny Thompson says that strategy might be harder to work successfully this season because of a “much-improved support cast” around Mathias.
Mathias signed with Purdue in November.
Bath’s Taren Sullivan, a 6-5 senior who averaged 16 points a game last season, and Colin Gossard, a 6-3 senior, are the two returning starters for Bath.
The Wildcats won a school-record 23 games and got to the Division II regional championship game, where they lost to eventual state champion Columbus Watterson, last season.
Sullivan signed with the University of Findlay in November.
There are three new coaches in the WBL – Mark Triplett at Shawnee, Mark Bagley at Van Wert and Doug Selvey at Wapakoneta.
Coach: Doug Davis
Years, Record at School: Nine, 88-112
Letter winners: Taren Sullivan (6-5, Sr., F), Colin Gossard (6-3, Sr. F), Hayden Atkins (6-2, Sr., F)
Top Newcomers: Trent Jones (6-5, Sr., C), Andrew Renner (6-1, Soph., G.), Josh Bishop (5-10, Sr., G)
Season Outlook: The hope is that last year’s historic success (23 wins, regional runner-up to the eventual state champion) will lead to more success this season. Two starters, Findlay recruit Taren Sullivan, and Colin Gossard are back from that team.
Coach: Chris Bihn
Years, Record at School: Eight, 88-90
Letter winners: Braelen Bader (5-10, Sr., G), Ryan Hoyng (6-4, Jr., G), Eric Moeder (5-8, Jr., G), Grant Laffin (6-4, Jr., Wing), Mason Ross (6-4, Jr., Wing), Alex Schiavone (5-9, Sr., G)
Top Newcomers: Cole Loughridge (6-0, Sr., Wing), Sean Kirk (5-10, Jr., G), Logan Delong (6-3, Jr., Wing)
Season Outlook: Guard play should be a strength for the Bulldogs. Six returning lettermen give Celina some experience, but four of those players are juniors, including second-team All-WBL guard Ryan Hoyng. The Bulldogs could play as many as nine players.
Coach: Kirk Lehman
Years, Record at School: Eleven, 134-87
Letter winners: Trey Guilliam (5-11, Sr., G), Emilio Pearson (6-4, Sr., F), Will Batt (6-0, Sr., G), Katwan Singleton (6-3, Jr., G), Wes Detter (5-7, Soph., G)
Top Newcomers: Ty Almaraz (5-10, Sr., G), Brady Williams (6-1, Jr., F), Jake Meyer (5-10, Soph., G)
Season Outlook: First-team All-WBL guard Trey Guilliam and guard Katwan Singleton, who was honorable mention All-WBL as a sophomore, will lead the Bulldogs. The big question mark is finding a post presence.
Coach: Denny Thompson
Years, Record at School: Eight, 97-68
Letter winners: Dakota Mathias (6-5, Sr., G), Louis Gray (5-11, Sr., G), Max Stambaugh (6-2, Sr.,C/ F), Clark Etzler (6-1, Sr., G/F), Austin Allemeier (6-2, Sr., G/F), Marquevious Wilson (6-2, Soph., F)
Top Newcomers: Chance Weiss (6-3, Sr., C), Caleb Press (6-3, Sr., C/F), Jamil Johnson (6-0, Jr., F)
Season Outlook: Purdue recruit Dakota Mathias can play anywhere on the floor and will do that. Elida shoots the ball well and is solid defensively but has questions about depth and rebounding. The Bulldogs are aiming for at least a part of a third WBL title in a row.
Coach: Matt McCullough
Years, Record at School: Two, 13-10
Letter winners: Austin Phillips (6-4, Jr., C), Travis Downing (6-0, Jr., G), Trevor Downing (6-0, Jr., G), Seth Kuhlman (6-3, Jr., C)
Season Outlook: Kenton could struggle this year. Austin Phillips is the leading returning scorer at 4.8 points a game and depth is a question.
Coach: Tyson McGlaughlin
Years, Record at School: Three, 45-12
Letter winners: Noah Bramlage (6-7, Jr., F), Alex Schroeder (5-9, Sr., G), Matias Trampe-Kindt (6-0, Sr., G), Cody Alt (6-3, Sr., F), Tyler Zender (6-2, Jr., F)
Top Newcomers: Zack Kuhlman (6-0, Jr., G), Blake Bevins (6-2, Jr., F), Andrew Wischmeyer (6-0, Sr., G)
Season Outlook: Noah Bramlage (11 points, 7.5 rebounds a game) is the only returning starter from last season’s Division III state champion team. Alex Schroeder will take over at point guard. Defense and rebounding could be keys while the Titans develop scorers. Eighty-three percent of last year’s scoring graduated.
Coach: Mark Triplett
Years, Record at School: First, 0-0
Letter winners: Trey Brock (6-4, Sr., F), Thad Vernon (6-3, Sr., G/F), Austin Brachok (6-0, Sr., G), Jaden O’Neal (5-11, Sr., G)
Top Newcomers: Brennan Gaffer (6-2, Sr., G/F), JaQuan Tucker (6-1, Jr., G), Griffin Hites (6-0, Soph., F), Angelo Fox (6-2, Jr., F/C), Alex Roberts (6-3, Sr., F), William Brown (6-3, Sr., C)
Season Outlook: Shawnee has speed and quickness and is looking for improved effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Coach: Dan Hegemier
Years, Record at School: Fifth season
Letter winners: Quinn Zaerr (6-5, Jr., C), Nathan Wilker (6-1, Soph., G), Isaac Fitzgerald (6-1, Jr., F)
Top Newcomers: Derek Jay (6-2, Fr., G), Josh Young (6-0, Jr., G)
Season Outlook: St. Marys is looking for an above .500 finish.
Coach: Mark Bagley
Years, Record at School: First season
Letter winners: Michael Smelser (6-0, Sr, G), Matt Bidlack (6-2, Sr., C), Kyle Keber (6-2, Sr., F), Nathan Stoller (6-1, Sr., G), Joey Moreland (5-10, Sr., G), Elijah Wortman (6-2, Sr., C), Connor Holliday (6-0, Jr., G), Nick Keber (5-11, Jr., G)
Top Newcomers: Cody Keirns (6-1, Sr, G), Brandt Henry (5-10, Jr., Drew Myers (6-4, Soph., C)
Season Outlook: Mark Bagley takes over as coach after 18 seasons as an assistant to Dave Froelich. His first team will attempt to push the tempo and expects to have scoring threats from all five positions on the floor.
Coach: Doug Selvey
Years, Record at School: First year
Letter winners: Alec Temple (6-8, Sr., C), Kodi Morgan (5-10, Jr., G), Adam Henderson (6-0, F)
Top Newcomers: Sam Hinegardner, Zach Schmerge, Jake Bruns, Will Hinegardner, Keaton Metz, Hayden Brandehoff, Jon Eaton, Jarrett Koch
Season Outlook: With only one returning starter, Wapakoneta will be one of the more inexperienced teams in the WBL.