Rockets girls basketball riding balance, defense to first place

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Oak Harbor girls basketball might be the epitome of what it means to be a team.
No Rocket is averaging more than 10 points per game; the starting lineup changes with some regularity and the team’s foundation is built upon an unselfish, defensive mindset that has allowed only three opponents to score at least 40 points against them.
Dick Heller, one of the most successful coaches in program history, is back leading Oak Harbor after leaving two years ago following a stint with Danbury.
The last two victories for the Rockets were a 48-32 win over Maumee and a 32-27 triumph in overtime against Vermilion. Oak Harbor rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit and scored all five points in the extra session. Brooklyn Tabbert scored nine points to lead the Rockets.
Following a 49-41 loss to former Sandusky Bay Conference rival Port Clinton, Oak Harbor has won seven straight games to get to 13-3 and 8-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, good for a first-place tie with Genoa. (The Comets and Rockets meet on Feb. 10 in Genoa.)
But there’s a long way to go when it comes to winning a league title and getting a high seed in the tournament. “We’re not looking at our record –– that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t come out and play hard. When you start winning a lot of games, you sometimes start getting complacent, and then it’s hard to get back into the groove,” said Heller. “We’re working on staying focused and keeping that hunger alive.”
Heller talked about what the team learned from the losses to Fostoria (35-34), Eastwood (37-34) and Port Clinton.
“We learned that we could compete against those teams. We didn’t win those games, but we knew we had to keep developing and growing as individuals and as a team. Coming in, they weren’t sure what to expect, but by being in those (close) games, and winning a lot of them, and knowing that things are changing a little bit, they’ve learned to adapt and grow with it,” said Heller. “The ability to hang in there with those teams is important. It’s a tribute to the character of our kids, who want to win, and they try to make things happen.”
The winning streak has seen the Rockets win ugly over Lake (28-19) — a game in which Karder Haas scored 16 points; win in dramatic fashion — Vermilion (32-27, OT); and outscore a quality opponent — Fostoria (49-44). The other wins during the run were a 40-24 defeat of Clay, a 44-19 win over Otsego and a 48-32 victory over Maumee. The win over the Redmen, which avenged an earlier loss in the season, saw Camdyn Fauver score 14 points and Haas finish with 12.
The biggest victory of the season was a 43-40 defeat of Genoa. In the win over the Comets, Fauver hit a 15-foot jumper with 17 seconds to play to give the Rockets a 1-point lead before they held on for the win. Sami Tack had a team-high 12 points in the game, and Fauver and Tabbert scored eight points apiece.
Fauver and Effie Schulte, both of whom are 5-4 guards, are mainstays in the starting lineup, with Haas, a 5-6 guard who leads the team in scoring with 10.1 points per game. Senior posts Nora Schmidt (5-9) and Megan Rife (5-9) have started their share of games, as have Tack (5-9) and 5-9 Elise Mollison. Senior Porter Gregory (5-8) has seen some action off the bench, too.
“Those three guards have started for us. Our posts, sometimes we interchange, depending on who we’re playing. Sometimes it’s based on how they practiced the night before,” said Heller. “We might be doing that with our perimeter players as well.”
Tabbert, a 5-3 guard; Hollie Robinson, a 5-7 guard; Kaitlyn Meloche, a 5-7 guard and Laney Schmidt, a 5-6 guard, have also seen action.
Tabbert is second on the team in scoring, averaging 6.7 points and Fauver is scoring an average of 5.3 points. Tack is averaging 4.0 rebounds, Mollison is putting up 3.8 rebounds per game and Rife is averaging 3.6 rebounds.
Heller talked about his coaching staff, which includes one of his former players, Megan Maguire, fellow Rocket alum Josh Dusseau and Kate Gephart.
“I’m just getting to know Josh. But he loves basketball, he’s very analytic, he likes trends, he likes numbers. Before his accident [Dusseau suffered severe burns on his hands], he was going to be our main stats person and figure things out for us. He’s got one of those kind nature to him, kids respond,” said Heller. “Sometimes I get on Josh and Kate for the need to get tougher (on the players). As for Megan, what can you say? She’s one of the people who approached me about the job when it became available. We stayed in touch after she graduated and got married and had kids. She’s a lot of fun to have around. She’s a special person; she works together with the kids, and it has an effect on them, a positive effect.”
Maguire, a 2004 graduate of Oak Harbor, was part of two teams that went undefeated and won two Sandusky Bay Conference titles.
“Focus is the most important part. We definitely have the athletic ability to do well and finish high (in the standings). You have to have the mental ability to stay strong throughout the entire season,” she said. “The key to that is being competent.
“I feel like our defense is the reason we’re winning the games we have. We have a very intense defense, which led to some easier scores, some layups, which led to the victory for us.”
Could the Rockets be returning the greatness it experienced in Heller’s first stint with the team or with Tom Kontak’s tenure, who is responsible for the program’s only district championship?
Only time will tell.


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