After going from 7-14 to 16-8 last season, Oak Harbor girls basketball is hoping to take the next step and establish themselves with the elite teams in Northwest Ohio.
Thus far, Oak Harbor is off to a good start, currently holding a 4-1 record with a 2-0 mark in the Sandusky Bay Conference.
Led by sophomore forward Andrea Cecil, who burst onto the scene last year and was instrumental in leading the Rockets to an upset win over Perkins in the sectional tournament, Oak Harbor has been dominant in its four victories, outscoring opponents by an average of 55.8 to 41.3 points per game.
Cecil, who stands 5-foot-11, is averaging an even 20 points this year, highlighted by her 30-point performance in the team’s opening-season road win over Rossford. Her versatile game, which allows her to handle the ball, move the ball up and down the court as well as shoot from the perimeter and play in the post, is the reason defenses have such a difficult time guarding her.
|Oak Harbor sophomore forward
Andrea Cecil. (Press photo by
Cecil, who plays AAU ball during the offseason, feels more comfortable playing varsity ball with a year of experience to fall back on.
“It’s incredible,” she said of the difference between her freshman and sophomore years. “I feel like I belong. Last year, in the beginning, I was timid.”
Cecil hasn’t done it alone. Freshman guard Emma Barney, a second-team All-Ohio selection in soccer, is second on the team in scoring (13.6), followed by freshman forward Maddy Rathbun, who is averaging nine points.
Joining the three of them in the starting lineup is senior guard Amanda Hetrick and senior post Coral Petersen. Athena Eli (4.4 points), Olivia Rollins, Brandy Lochotzki and Emma Bergman are the primary reserves off the bench. Nikki Weis, who started in the post for the Rockets last season, has dealt with constant injuries to her knees and has seen limited action so far in 2013.
A number of these players have had to step up and replace some of the lost production from last year’s seniors. Four key seniors from last year, Abbie Gezo, Maria Boers, Makayla Carpenter and Erin Bryant, graduated. Gezo and Boers were the club’s top-two scorers and Carpenter was the starting point guard.
“Emma has replaced some of the scoring and Maddy has done a nice job in the post,” Cecil said. “And Amanda is doing a good job playing the role of point guard.”
Besides having several capable scorers, the Rockets have four players in Barney, Hetrick, Cecil and Eli that are capable of running the point. That versatility allows Oak Harbor to utilize their players’ talents in a variety of ways.
Second-year coach Tom Kontak, known to many in the area for his success as the former coach of both the basketball and softball teams at Genoa, expects his players to play with passion. He also motivates his players to start each game with high intensity and energy by setting a goal for them to be the first team to score eight points.
Cecil says the players understand how vital that is to gaining a mental edge on their opponents.
“Getting to eight points first sets the tone,” Cecil said. “And we know that if we’re not whole-heartedly (invested) in the game, someone else can come in (and replace you).”
This season, Kontak, who was the Alan Miller Jeweler’s All-Press Coach of the Year last year, has added a new element to his practices by bringing in local fitness instructor Tyson Smith to work on speed and conditioning with the girls. Smith, who owns a home-based fitness system called Fully Committed 5150, has been instrumental in helping to improve the team’s stamina and endurance, something that can prove to be critical in the final minutes of a game.
“Last year we didn’t do the conditioning thing,” Cecil said. “It kicks our butts, and it really helps us. We’re in better shape than our opponents (this year).”
Cecil also credits the coaches with helping to run an offseason program that keeps the girls in shape and helps them to develop a rapport with each other. Kontak, who is 107-52 (.637) in his last seven years as a head coach, built a program at Genoa that won two league titles, not to mention a successful softball program that came just short of winning a state title in 2006. He says that building a strong foundation within the program is the key to sustaining success.
“It’s nice knowing who you’re going to be playing with,” Cecil said, “and getting used to playing with each other. That makes it easier when the season starts.”