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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The key to being a great program is consistency. 


Consistently means competing for league titles and consistently playing at a high level in the tournament while establishing an identity and churning out all-league performers on a regular basis.

Oak Harbor girls basketball has done that in the last five years, going 97-25 (.795). Coach Tom Kontak’s teams have won four sectional titles, the program’s first district championship in 25 years and a Sandusky Bay Conference title while finishing second in the league twice.



In that span, Andrea Cecil, who is now playing collegiate basketball at Bowling Green, earned

Pic LoganHarris
Oak Harbor's Logan Harris. (Press photo by Scott Grau)

All-Ohio honors three times and the Rockets had seven representatives on the SBC's first team while Kontak twice earned Coach of the Year honors in Ohio, once by the Associated Press (Division III, 2014) and another time by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association (D-II, 2016).

That doesn't mean Kontak inherited a program in crisis.

The team had success under Dick Heller and Brad Hemminger in the 11 years before Kontak arrived, accumulating a 139-97 (.589) record that included two undefeated regular seasons in 2003-04, including a No. 2 ranking in Div. II in the second year plus two league championships and multiple sectional titles.

Currently, Oak Harbor finds itself 21-3 following one of the biggest wins in the program's history, a 56-55 overtime victory over Rogers in the D-II district semifinals Thursday night at Anthony Wayne’s Dick Albaugh Recreation Center.

The Rams, who had advanced as far as the regional finals in each of the last four years, highlighted by two appearances in the state final four, including a trip to the state championship game two years ago, are one of the best programs in Ohio.

But they were undone by a gritty, resilient group of Rockets that was led by 6-foot-1 sophomore center Logan Harris, who had the game of her life while scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds, including the game's final rebound with 17 seconds remaining and the Rockets holding a one-point lead. She took control from the outset and would not be denied, scoring 10 points in the first quarter and had 18 at halftime.

It was an exciting game from start to finish. Oak Harbor jumped out to a 15-5 lead and held an advantage for nearly the entire four quarters, only to see Rogers hang around before tying the game at 43 on a 3-pointer by Zia Cooke with 2:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. A runner by Abby Dornbusch was answered with two free throws from Cooke, and after both teams failed to score, the game went into overtime. In the extra session, there were two ties and six lead changes with the Rockets, who were 9-of-12 from the charity stripe in the game's final four minutes, taking the lead for good on two free throws by Dornbusch with 26.1 seconds left.

Sweet reward
Cooke, who is only a sophomore, is said to be on the University of Connecticut's radar. The 5-9 guard was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring 33 points and was as good as advertised. She could be destined for a spot in the WNBA someday.

The victory was a reward for a group that persevered after two of its top players — Dornbusch and Emma Barney — suffered torn ACLs playing other sports during the offseason, putting the season in jeopardy. Plus, the group would have to replace Cecil, the most decorated player in the program's history, and three other players, and had four new starters. And though Dornbusch and Barney did return midway through the season, they are not 100 percent and are somewhat limited.

"I'm not sure people outside of Oak Harbor know what this group has done in getting to 21 wins and playing for a district title with our graduations and our injuries early (in the season). To be with these kids everyday and see what they do, that's what high-school athletics is all about. We're fortunate to be representing our school," said Kontak. "I thought we did a great job of taking the fight to Rogers. We talked about that in practice."

Harris' front court mate, Maddy Rathbun, who stands just 5-8 despite playing in the post, had another workmanlike performance. She scored 10 points to go with 11 rebounds and five assists. Freshman guard Sophie Eli, who opened the game with a 3-pointer, scored nine points — all on shots from beyond the arc, plus she played tough defense throughout the game.

"Logan was determined to put the ball in the basket tonight. She got us off to a great start," Kontak said. "Maddy is pound-for-pound the toughest competitor I have seen. She's outsized and determined and we needed every bit of that. Fortunately, Sophie doesn't listen to her coach. When she did listen, she's not been more conservative. No great player is conservative. She was fearless, she was clutch."

Since losing to Clyde, 49-40, on January 21 in a game that knocked the Rockets out of the league race, the club has won 10 consecutive games. That run has included some dramatic wins, one coming against Elmwood, a victory that came on a 3-pointer in the closing seconds by Dornbusch, a come-from-behind win over Perkins, a game that saw Barney return from her injury and score eight points while Harris (32) and Rathbun (17) combined for 49, and a close victory against Margaretta that saw Barney (14) and Harris (24) take over to score a combined 38 points.

Whether it's been the stellar inside play of all-league and all-district selections Harris (19.1 pts.) and Rathbun (11.1 pts.) in the post, the driving ability and shooting of Eli (9.1 pts.), who earned second-team honors in the SBC, and Ashley Riley (7.4 pts.) or the long-range shooting from Emma Bergman (7.1 pts.), this group has brought a variety of skills to the table. And Emily Lenke, Jill Thorbahn and Makayla Wagner have provided some valuable depth off the bench as well. And the return of Dornbusch and Barney has only added to the club's skill set, specifically when it comes to shooting and ball handling.

Plus, the defensive intensity and the trapping that has become synonymous with the program has helped the Rockets to limit their opponents' offensive execution while also forcing turnovers and creating opportunities on the offensive end.

Rathbun, who only played in one game last year after tearing her ACL during soccer season, talked about what it meant to her and the team to see Dornbusch and Barney work so hard to come back in time for the season, even though their injuries have left them limited.

"I know how hard I worked (to come back)," said Rathbun. "We see them working that hard, and we don't want to let them down. They've been so important to the team."

Kontak, who now has a career record of 187-69 (.730), had this to say about his seniors.

"These kids have meant the world to us," he said. "Each and every one of them in their own right. It's a special group. You could write a whole story about them."

Regardless of when it's finished, it's been quite a last ride for the senior class of Rathbun, Barney, Bergman and Wagner. During their four years, the team has gone 81-18 (.818) while winning four sectional titles, a district championship and a league title.

In fact, the entire Class of 2017 has done great things for the school, both academically and athletically in sports like basketball, swimming, soccer, track and softball, helping those programs claim six league championships while winning a number of big tournament games.

"Playing with people who have that sort of competitive drive means you'll get better by competing against better athletes," said Rathbun, who is tied with four other students, including Bergman, for second in the class with a 4.2 GPA. "The competition (amongst) this class has made everyone better."

 

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