Schmeltz’s four-year reign ends, but leaves legacy

J. Patrick Eaken

        Eastwood 5-foot-10 junior guard Jamie Schmeltz came up just a few games short of catching her schools’ all-time career scoring leader, the late Aaron Lawniczak.
        Lawniczak owns the all-time basketball record at Eastwood, boys or girls, scoring 1,635 points from 1993-97, but if Schmeltz did not end up on crutches at the tail end of her senior year she may have gotten there.
        Still, Schmeltz, a second team All-Ohioan, is this year’s unanimous choice for Alan Miller Jewelers Player for the Year and Lake coach Joe Nowak, who led his team to the Division III regional tournament, is Coach of the Year.
        Schmeltz finished her career with 1,572 career points, an Eastwood girls basketball scoring record, and a school-record 131 three-point field goals.
        “It was definitely a good experience. It was cool to walk into a program that hadn’t been doing so well in the past to completely turning it around and making it a successful program again,” Schmeltz said.
        She has single game school records for points (43) and steals (12). Over her four years, she averaged 20.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.5 steals.
        “It’s crazy how fast four years go,” Eastwood coach Nick Schmeltz said. “When you look back at it, you’re like, ‘Wow, that flies by.’ During it you don’t think about it that much, not having time to reflect. The things she was able to do for us, both individually and as part of a team — she came in and kind of blazed a trail for herself.
        “The numbers speak for themselves, of course, but also she was able to help us win some games. We won 67 games over her four years. The four years prior to Jamie and her class coming in, they won like 22, so they tripled our win total, and that was huge to turn our program around and put us back on the map. Now, we’re somebody that when you think of Eastwood girls basketball, you’re thinking of success and a championship-type team. Jamie is a huge part of that,” Nick continued.
        “She made me look like a great coach, even though I’m not really that good of a coach. We had some good girls and Jamie led us in extraordinary ways and we’re going to miss her. My hope is that she was just able to lead the way so some of those underclassmen like (sophomore guard) Aubrey Haas, (sophomore forward) Brenna Moenter and those girls kind of pick up the torch and run with it from where Jamie left off.”
        Jamie added, “I definitely think the future is very bright for them. We have a lot of strong underclassmen and it’s going to be exciting to see what they can accomplish in future years. It was just really cool to work with them and you could just tell that we made each other better on the basketball court.”
Collegiate opportunity is there
        Jamie is the first Northern Buckeye Conference player to receive first team all-conference honors all four years, and she also received first team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press honors four years in voting by 10 area coaches and 10 media members. She is All-Press POY the last three years.
        This year she averaged a double-double 20.7 points and 10.2 rebounds, plus a team-leading 5.4 assists and 5.2 steals. She will play collegiate basketball and, on the table now, according to her brother Nick, are Indiana Wesleyan University, Lourdes University, Walsh College and Tiffin University. Jamie says she still has a few more campus visits and then she’ll make a decision.
        For Nick, Jamie and their other siblings, it all started at home, thanks to parents James, a veteran basketball official, and Tammy.
        “Honestly, it started in the driveway a lot, and when she got old enough she was playing on a boys AAU team with some guys from Rossford like (Ben) Morrison, (Reed) Murphree, (Ethan) Dewese — she actually played with the guys up until about sixth grade,” Nick said.
        “She was actually playing boys basketball and when she got into the seventh and eighth grade she joined a team ran by Jamie Skelton out near Cleveland at his basketball academy and then she went to North Coast Basketball Academy with John Cahill. She was dribbling and shooting a basketball probably ever since she can remember.”
        Nick and Jamie say mom and dad played the biggest role.
        “He (James) was always around. He coached some of Jamie’s teams when she was younger, or helped out,” Nick said. “Between him and our mom, they were always sending her back and forth between the games to different cities and likewise with our other siblings — myself included. They had a huge hand in setting us to be successful.
        “We are very thankful that they were willing to spend the time and money to put us in situations where we could succeed and see certain things that a whole lot of kids don’t get to experience.”
        Jamie says playing for her brother was by far the best part of it.
        “It was definitely a unique experience and he definitely made me the player I am today. I wouldn’t have wanted to play for anyone else,” Jamie said.
        The best part about her numbers, scoring over 20 points per game her sophomore, junior and senior years, was that she did it while being double-teamed or the main focus for a box-and-one defense.
        Oak Harbor senior guard Sophia Eli, a two-time first team All-Press selection, can tell you what that is like.
        “Since last year, I’m kind of getting used to the box-and-ones and the double teams, but the coaches help me out with it. I personally have to move. I can’t just stand still because I have to be a factor in our offense. But, it’s not easy and it does get frustrating because there are teams that will grab you, but it’s all mental. I think you need to mentally stay in the game,” Eli said.
        “There are going to be times where one girl is going to be focusing on you but you have to stay focused and know what you are there for and play for your team, and I know I have to be that leader out there. Truly, I feel like if I’m not a factor in the game and we’re not successful, I have to work harder. If it’s a box-and-one, you have to work harder because it’s not as easy as just man-to-man.”
Introducing the All-Press Team
        Coach Nowak, after his team finished 10-12 during the regular season, saw his team win four tournament games, leading to a district title, and the third trip to regionals in school history, where the Flyers lost to eventual Division III state qualifier Ottawa-Glandorf, finishing the season 14-13. All four tournament wins were over NBC teams that had beaten them twice during the regular season.
        Although Jamie Schmeltz was unanimous in voting for POY, Nowak was not for COY. He received just two more votes than Woodmore coach Kyle Clair, who led his team to a 17-6 season and is set up for next year with 6-1 junior post Brooke Allen set to return. Nick Schmeltz finished third in voting and Oak Harbor coach Tom Kontak also received votes.
        Jamie Schmeltz is joined on the All-Press first team by her teammate, Haas, a 5-8 guard who averaged 15 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1.2 assists. Joining them is 5-6 Oak Harbor senior guard Sophia Eli, 5-11 Lake junior forward Hayley St. John and Woodmore’s two players who dominated in the paint, 5-10 senior post/forward Jordan Nighswander and Allen.
        St. John led the Flyers in scoring, averaging 15.4 points, 7.8 rebounds. 2.7 steals and 2.2 assists. Allen, a first team District 7 selection, averaged 14.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, nearly an assist per game, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocked shots, plus she shot 70 percent from the free throw line and 43 percent from the field. Nighswander, a first team All-NBC pick, averaged 13.6 points, nine rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.3 steals and shot 59 percent from the line and 46 percent from the field.

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