Everyone likes an underdog. Northwood boys’ basketball is always the underdog — every single game.
Not a single Northwood player is among the Toledo Area Athletic Conference leaders in scoring, rebounding, and likely not in any other category, either.
Heading into last Friday’s contest against visiting Maumee Valley Country Day, the Rangers were 0-10 overall, 0-6 in the TAAC. They are losing by an average of 44.4 points per contest.
They scored 30-plus points just once, their closest loss — a 58-31 loss to North Baltimore. Five times Northwood did not even score 20 points, and in the season opener at Evergreen, scored just eight points.
|Northwood sophomore guard Joey Woody (5)
passes to a teammate. (Press photo by
There is only one senior and one junior in the entire program, and when the season started, there were 16 sophomores and freshmen.
Yet, second-year coach Jim Scharer likes what he’s seeing. While driving to Northwood from his day job at Fremont City Schools, he is looking forward to practice.
“I have to be truly honest — I’m very pleased with where we are in the process. I told my kids early in the year that this is a process. They will be put in the fire and fire can do two things — it can destroy you or it can bond you. I think it’s having a bonding effect,” Scharer said.
“I’m extremely proud of them. The (opposing) coaches after every game say, ‘Just hang in there,’ and I say, ‘I don’t have to hang in there, Coach. Let me tell you something, I have great kids. I wish you could come to one of my practices because the kids are trying to learn and they are trying hard on a nightly basis to get better, and that’s all I can ask.’
“They are in a very good place where they want to learn and every kid who wants to learn is fun coaching. It’s one of those things where it’s not been a grind at all.
“I get calls from coaches who are in the stands who say, ‘I can’t believe how hard your kids are playing, especially when I look at the scoreboard.’ I just tell them, ‘That’s because these kids understand that this is part of life. If you experience adversity and if you fight through it, you are going to be better on the other side. If you just walk through life in a situation where everything comes easy, then when things do get difficult, that’s when people become quitters and the one thing I don’t have is quitters.’”
Now, mostly because of injuries, Scharer’s program is down to 15 players. Freshmen and sophomores on the varsity, including starters, often play a quarter of the junior varsity game, and the coach moved two more freshmen to the varsity because of injuries. There are six freshmen (Gavin Fritz, Evan LaPlante, Austin Krueger, Nick Bonnette, Donnie Nino, Caleb Price) and five sophomores (Dillan Cathers, Joey Woody, Scott Slater, Jacob Vickers, Jayson Johnson) who have gotten varsity experience this year.
The junior varsity and freshman teams are garnering wins, the seventh grade team was on a three-game winning streak, and a clinic is set to run twice weekly for grade schoolers.
Meanwhile, Scharer says 5-foot-6 senior Dustin Sigurdson and 5-10 junior Stephen Sutton are setting a positive example for the younger varsity players.
“They’ve really been leaders. They’ve worked really, really hard and they’ve almost had to model the hard work that it takes to be a varsity basketball player,” Scharer said.
“The thing is, both of them, coming into this year really had no experience doing that, either. It’s been even more difficult for them, but they’ve both stepped up. The other kids had not even experienced the intensity and the difficultness of playing in a varsity competition.”
Scharer, who starred at Clay during his playing days, believes he knows what it will take to bring the program back.
“We’re trying to establish a little continuity throughout the entire school. It’s one of those things is it’s going to have to be a culture change,” Scharer said. “It’s going to have to be an understanding that basketball is one of those sports that is fun to play, yet it takes a lot of skills for it. It’s one of those sports where you can’t just be a great athlete.
Scharer, who has coaching help from former Northwood players Erick Scharer (JV coach), his son, and Louis Farhrbach (varsity assistant), believes this year’s varsity may not finish the season winless, either.
“I firmly believe that there is a chance to win a couple, or three games. In fact right now, we have to shoot the basketball better. When you’re shooting 20 percent, you’re not going to win basketball games,” Head Coach Scharer said.
The head coach plans on doing what he can to keep interest high in the offseason.
“If we can get them to realize that basketball is not just November through February, I really believe that if we have some kids who are committed to the game, that in a couple years we are going to be approaching where we are competing with every school in our league,” Scharer said. “I mean, I really believe that, and it’s a very good basketball league.”