Oak Harbor gets the big wins they were waiting for

J. Patrick Eaken

Oak Harbor girls basketball got a big win last week, coming from behind to defeat perennial powerhouse Clyde, 46-42, in overtime.
        Senior guard Sophia Eli scored 14 and junior guard Kaitlin Paul and senior post Cora Domanowski scored 12 each to lead the Rockets, which made 12 of 14 free throws, including 7 of 9 in overtime. But it’s been a long road to hoe for the Rockets.
        The Rockets followed that on Tuesday by breaking a game deadlock at 28-all after three quarters and winning 44-38. Eli hit a big fourth quarter trey and finished with 16 points and junior post Auna Tack scored 14.
        The Rockets are 4-6 overall and 1-2 in the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division, but the first five teams they lost to are a combined 30-5.
        “This season has been a great challenge for our players,” said eighth-year coach Tom Kontak. “With the reorganization of several of the league teams, there were voids in the schedule that needed to be filled. Those open dates were filled with high-level programs.
        “The (league) teams we have played had a combined record of something like 23-3. So, right there you find out who you are and what you’re made of. This group has been knocked down, but they have been resilient and steady, and gotten right back up.”
        There have been other big wins this season, like when Eli scored 25, sophomore guard Riley Steinbrick scored 15 and Tack scored 12 to rout Huron, 66-32. The Rockets were in charge quickly, leading 24-11 after one quarter and 41-17 at halftime.
        The Rockets had a not-so-easy win in non-league action, hanging on to defeat a resurging Genoa team, 49-47, despite 16 points from Genoa sophomore Hannah Bradfield and 11 from 5-foot-10 junior guard Caitlin Cruickshank. For the Rockets, Eli scored 16, 5-11 senior post Madison Glaser scored 13 and junior guard Kaitlin Paul scored 11. Kontak likes these games against local teams that bring a stronger fan base.
        “In the first half of the season there have been wins against Genoa, Clyde, and Clay — all local teams which creates a rivalry atmosphere,” Kontak said. “So, those wins are very meaningful.
        “As the season progresses, there will be tremendous challenges with this tough league for sure. We will continue to compete to improve to get ready for the tournament at the end of the season and hopefully have a chance to add another sectional title to this program’s resume.”
        Oak Harbor came into the season with just two returning starters — Eli and Steinbrick. Steinbrick made 4 of 6 free throws in the win over the Fliers for her only points, but she knows her role on defense.
        “Riley Steinbrick draws some defensive assignments. But, overall, we are a defensive by committee team,” said eighth-year coach Tom Kontak.
        Kontak says the challenge is getting everyone to understand their role, and the team will ultimately be alright.
        “The key to this year’s team will be for each player to understand their individual role, accept that role, and then be able to compete within that role at a high varsity level. For the majority of our players, this is their first experience to be playing in a full-time role as a varsity player,” Kontak said.
        “There will be times when our inexperience will show, but there will also be times when you will see the athletic ability this group shine. As a coaching staff, we look forward to this group getting better each and every day of the season,” Kontak continued.
        “The biggest challenge for this group is their inexperience and understanding that when things don’t go as planned, you have to get back up and keep moving forward.”
        “Other challenges include responsibility and accountability to the team — to know that each and every possession matters. To compete every time down the floor on both offense and defense — not just some of the time, but each and every possession for your team and teammates.”
Trying to offset 41-points
        There have been tough losses, too. Oak Harbor was down by 10 to Rossford, 46-36, entering the final quarter, but could not overcome a school-record 41 points scored by the Bulldogs’ Sammi Mikonowicz, losing 58-56. Mikonowicz had 12 field goals and was 17 for 24 from the charity stripe. Tack scored 14, including a fourth-quarter trey that almost got the Rockets over the hump. Glaser added 13 points and Eli scored 12.
        A 48-43 loss to Edison was similar — the Rockets trailed by five entering the fourth and just could not overcome a Chargers team that made 14 of 24 free throws. Eli was the only Rocket to get into double figures with 14 points.
        Then, there was the 69-44 rout by Bowsher over Oak Harbor as sophomore guard Alysia Lawson scored 26. Tack and Glaser had 10 apiece for Oak Harbor. However, that was the season opener and Kontak says his team wants to win, and he’s seeing it come to fruition more and more as they gain experience.
        “This group cares very much about wanting to represent their school at the level of standards they know represents the program. They’ve practiced hard and have been very coachable. We will all continue to work very hard to represent our school and the Rocket logo on the front of our jersey the very best we can every time we step on the floor to compete,” Kontak said.
        In Kontak’s career, his teams have won four sectional championships, his Genoa team won Suburban Lakes League championships in 2007 and 2008, his Oak Harbor teams won an SBC title in 2016 and sectional titles in 2014 and 2015 at the Division III level and 2016, 2017, and 2018 at the D-II level. Oak Harbor also won a D-III district title in 2015.
        He was District 7 D-III Coach of the Year in 2009 at Genoa, and at Oak Harbor, he was the All-Press Coach of the Year for five straight years from 2013-17, AP D-III District Coach of the Year and AP Ohio D-III Co-Coach of the Year in 2014. District 7 D-II Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, and in 2016 was the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association state Coach of the Year.


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