NBC girls cage teams are loaded

J. Patrick Eaken

This may be the most depth the Northern Buckeye Conference has ever seen in girls basketball. 

If you saw Elmwood’s 89-76 overtime win over Eastwood to open conference play, you would think both of those teams are contenders, and they are. However, with just one senior, Lake is the preseason favorite to win the league and Woodmore is a close second. 

Now, Woodmore coach Kyle Clair says, his team has to prove the coaches’ preseason poll wrong.

“Our expectations are at the top with a league championship in mind. We have the tools in place and if we can continue to be mentally tough and disciplined through this season we will be in a position to make it happen,” Clair said. “I love the competition in our league and it will be tough again like in years past. We have a great group of coaches in our league and we all know that you have to show up and be ready every single night.

After reaching the Division III regional tournament last year, Lake garnered 58 points, including five first place votes, but Woodmore was just one back at 57 and got the other three first place votes from the league’s coaches.

Lake coach Joe Nowak has the program on the rise, arriving at Lake after being the boys basketball coach at Seneca East for two years. Along with last year’s district championship, the Flyers won a Northern Buckeye Conference championship in 2018-19. Last year, he was the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Coach of the Year because of the team’s incredible tournament run.

“The NBC has proven year after year to be competitive, and I don’t think this season will be any different. Teams are all competitive and that makes each game important,” Nowak said. “Guard play is going to have to be a consistent strength for us throughout the season. Our potential balance offensively is also a potential strength. This is also potentially the deepest roster we have had in the last several years.”

Nowak is mostly pleased to get his team on the floor.

“I am looking forward to a fun year with this group. I know that our returning players are looking to extend the late-season success of last year. So far this preseason, they’ve done a great job working to improve each day. Just hope to keep all our kids healthy to ensure we’re able to play a complete season,” Nowak said.


Don’t count out Eagles, Comets

Eastwood won back-to-back Northern Buckeye Conference championships in 2017-18 and 2108-19, but could not quite seal a title last year. Despite the graduation of Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Player of the Year Jamie Schmeltz, now playing at Walsh University, her brother Nick still has eight lettermen, or what he calls “a lot” of experience returning. Besides the usual suspects of top players, there are a lot of newcomers to the Eastwood program who are contributing.

“Incoming freshman Kayla Buehler will help us out. Kayla has a great skill set and has superb knowledge of the game,” Schmeltz said. “Another freshman, Amelia Ward, plays extremely hard and is an absolute monster on defense.”

Schmeltz says he wants his team to finish “hopefully near the top” of the NBC, but found out against Elmwood how good the league is. He adds that his team “needs to stay healthy and safe,” too.

“I feel this will be the best the league has been in my six years here,” Schmeltz said. “There are four really good teams at the top in Woodmore, Lake, Elmwood, and I would like to include us in that group. Then there is Genoa who is rapidly improving. Fostoria is getting better as well. Lake will have a very, very good team. They have a ton returning from their regional last year and it appears they will be the team to beat.”

Schmeltz says his team’s “depth, quickness and cohesion” should play a role.

“In the preseason we are currently evaluating and looking at 13 to 14 girls that can make varsity contributions to our team this year. We are extremely deep, which bodes well for our strategy of running and gunning for 32 minutes,” Schmeltz said. “We are also extremely long, athletic, and fast. From an athlete standpoint, we are very blessed. And so far this year’s squad is one of the best we’ve had in terms of them getting along and solidifying roles early on. 

“Outside shooting could be lacking at times early on. A deep soccer tournament run meant that we just got 10 girls back to practice the week of November 9. They missed 12 practices and are playing catch up a bit. We also will need to find a true point guard and ball handler. Jamie Schmeltz did that for us the last four years. Now it is someone else’s turn to step up and take the reins,” coach Schmeltz continued. 

“We are very much looking forward to the opportunity to play basketball this year. We know how quickly that can be taken away from us and we are grateful for every day that we get to play together. We are going to do everything in our power to ensure a full and complete season can take place.” 

Genoa started with a 37-17 win over Maumee, 48-26 win over Northwood, but lost 45-44 to Oak Harbor. The Comets are hoping to surprise league opponents. 

“Right now we are picked middle of the pack of the NBC,” Genoa coach Laura Pierson said. “On any given night we could break into those top three teams if we use our chemistry and knowledge of the game well. The NBC has always been a very competitive league and this year will be no different.”

The Press basketball previews are included as a special insert in this week’s paper, covering 20 teams — boys and girls.







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