Evarts reflects on program-defining season at Gibsonburg

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

When Bo Evarts took over as the girls basketball coach at Gibsonburg, it was done so with an understanding that it would take some time to turn things around.
It’s safe to say that’s happened as the Lady Bears won 17 games in 2023 and claimed a sectional title for the first time in many years – a sign of the effort put forth by Evarts, his staff and, most especially, the players.
The defining moment of the season was a 46-31 victory over Maumee Valley Country Day, which came in a Division IV sectional final. It was the defense that won the game for Gibsonburg, along with Sophia Simmons and Sam Deininger scoring 12 and seven points, respectively.
In the district semifinals, the Bears, who went 16-51 in Evarts’ first three years as the coach, fell 56-32 to Toledo Christian, which won a regional title and is two wins away from a state championship.
“We wanted to prove ourselves. We had such a good record, but the postseason is a whole different ball game,” Evarts said of the sectional final. “We had a great regular season; we had the better team going in, I thought. We struggled early on and then came on and won it pretty easily.
“It was rewarding to cut down the net,” he said.
Evarts talked about the mindset when he took over as the coach.
“The administration was great. They said, ‘We’ll give you the time.’ We got girls playing in the summer — we knew we could see the progress coming. We started winning games, and it gave us confidence,” Evarts said. “We excelled and exceeded our expectations. I knew they worked hard and came out in the summers. When you have good kids to coach and we could see it building, and going into this year, we came in confident. We started to get some good athletes, and on any given night, we could have six girls that might lead us in scoring.”
Evarts, who works as a math teacher at Rossford High School, credited his team for getting off to a 6-2 start, something that gave it a heavy dose of confidence.
“We got off to a good start for the first time in a while. Our schedule was pretty tough at the beginning of the last two years,” said Evarts. “I think we started 6-2 or something like that, and it gave us a lot of confidence. We beat Old Fort and Hopewell-Loudon, those were good teams we hadn’t beaten in a while.”
Gibsonburg, which went 12-4 in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division, good for second place, had some impressive wins. In a normal season, the Bears might’ve won the league title had it not been for Lakota, which won the River Division and lost to Tiffin Calvert in the district finals. Hopewell-Loudon won a district title, and Danbury, another good team in the division, was a district finalist.
The most exciting win of the season was a 45-44 triumph over the Lady Chieftains, which came when Simmons hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Gibsonburg rallied from a 4-point deficit with 18 seconds to play. Deininger had a game-high 16 points and Simmons finished with 11 in the victory.
The Bears swept H-L and Old Fort with the second win over the Stockaders coming by four points, 35-31. In that victory, Simmons scored nine points, Sophia Paul had eight and Deininger chipped in with seven.
The seven-player rotation featured Paul, a 5-3 guard, Simmons, a 5-5 guard, Deininger, a 5-10 forward, 5-2 guard Ellie Stout, 5-9 forward Jenna Bloomfield, 5-7 forward Jazmyne Morant and 5-7 forward Kira Fox.
Four players averaged between 6.4 and 10.9 points per game. Deininger averaged 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds, Bloomfield averaged 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds, Simmons averaged 7.5 points and Morant averaged 6.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals.
Evarts had high praise for Morant.
“Jazmine Morant does everything. She led the league in steals, was second in rebounding, was the best defender on our team and averaged seven points,” said Evarts. “I have some girls that did score more. (Morant) was on the second team in the district and first team in the River Division. She was shutting down the other team’s best player. She was our best all-around player.”
This group was led by a quintet of seniors in Bloomfield, Stout, Simmons, Fox and Mel Otermat.
“Mel didn’t get to play a lot, but she was a great teammate. She did a lot of things in practice and was a leader for the younger girls. She knew her role,” said Evarts. “Those five seniors have been together since ninth grade, except for Simmons, and then she came out in 10th grade. She turned it around. When they got here, they were struggling for a while. Those five helped turn it around.”
What does the future hold for the program?
“We’re excited because we have Jaz, Sam and Sophia coming back. Our eighth-grade girls haven’t lost a game in middle school. We have good groups coming up; we think we’re going to be just as good, if not better next year. We’ll miss those seniors. Our JV team could compete with our varsity in practice. I think we’re going to be solid for the next four to five years.
Evarts has a special connection to the community. His sister, Erica (Foster) Montgomery, was the varsity softball coach when the Bears won three straight softball state titles from 2001-03.
“You see how they traveled and supported the softball program. It’s been great. The small-town community, we had an uptick in attendance at most of our home games, and it gave us a huge advantage. I know a couple of years ago, it was tough to fill the place. If you put out a good product, people will come out,” he said.


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