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December 11, 2018

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Boys' bball preview: Taller, improved Bulldog cagers look improved

Girls' preview: Lady Bulldog cagers young, scrappy

By Cort Reynolds
The rebuilding Ada boys basketball team has the size and experience to surprise this winter under second-year head coach Dre White.


The young Bulldog mentor endured an occasionally trying initial campaign on the sidelines, but the experience should pay dividends down the line.

Ada finished 4-19 overall and 0-8 in Northwest Conference play in 2016-17. Their top two scorers graduated - second team All-NWC big man Owen Conley and honorable mention all-league wing Jordan Bailey - but the Bulldogs return enough talented lettermen and size to provide optimism for an increased win total.

"We lost 61 percent of our scoring and 53 percent of our rebounding, but my expectations are much higher this year," said White. "The big difference is we have guys who are genuinely excited to be in the gym. We had a good summer and good open gyms.

"We want to run more, to utilize our quickness and speed to push the ball up the floor," he continued. "Our guards and our big men can run, so we want to get easy baskets. We want to apply more pressure and create offense from defense.

"We also have some good size with Connor Frazier and Seven Williams, when he gets eligible."

With those two tall posts on the roster, Ada will be less perimeter-oriented this season.

"We were too reliant on the three-pointer last year, and I want to establish an offensive identity inside this season," said White.

Junior post Connor Frazier, a promising 6-5 scorer and rebounder, leads five lettermen back on the roster. "He came a long way last season after sitting out a few years," said White. "He put in a lot of off-season work, is leaner and a little taller. I am hoping he will have a big impact."

Frazier has a soft inside touch and is also a good shot-blocker. With increased playing time and experience this year, he should learn to stay out of foul trouble. Ada needs to have him on the floor as much as possible to be successful.

High-energy senior Ethan Swaney returns after starting most of last season at point guard. "We are asking Ethan to step into a leadership role; he is a natural leader," said White of his most experienced returning backcourt man.

"Ethan will play more off the ball this year. We hope he can be a more consistent scorer, and get the ball to others to score as well."

Quick 5-9 junior Cade Mullins will be asked to take over the starting point guard duties after serving mostly as a backup last season. "He is our hardest worker, he just has to relax (on the floor) and get more confidence," said White

"Cade has improved his ballhandling and has a quicker shot release. He can apply defensive pressure with his quickness."

Physical 6-1 senior Jackson Conrad "rebounds well, is strong and physical," White noted. "He will play mostly in the post. We hope he will get healthy from a long football season." The hustling Conrad is the fourth Bulldog letterman back.

Promising senior transfer Seven Williams, a 6-7 post, will be eligible to play after the first half (11 games) of the season. Williams attended Ada through junior high, then moved to Texas before coming back to town just before the school year. He played enough at a big school in Texas to earn a letter.

"We are excited to have him once he gets eligible," White said. "We plan to play Seven and Connor together some to give us an inside identity (and presence) at both ends."

Senior wing Seth Conley returns to the hardwood after a two-year hiatus. "He plays extremely hard," said White of the four-year Bulldog starting quarterback. "He is smart, has a high motor and crashes the boards. Seth is a good athlete and a leader."

Sophomore wing Phillip Coulson will provide solid guard depth after podting a good JV year amid minimal varsity action last winter. "Phil is athletic with a high motor," said White. "He is a driven competitor who hates to lose.

"He finds ways to score and can knock down shots or get to the basket. He just has to fine-tune his game."

White feels 5-8 freshman Zac Swaney, a good shooter with quickness, will eventually work into the backup point guard role behind Mullins.
Rounding out the roster are 6-2 junior post Ethan Hall, 6-1 sophomore post Kyle Zimmerly, junior guard Miguel Jordan and junior wing Xavier Hollinger.

Hall, Zimmerly and the quick 5-9 Jordan will primarily play JV, while White says the 5-10 Hollinger will play JV and varsity.

As far as the league race goes, White is hoping Ada can finish at or above .500 in the nine-team standings. "We want to compete better on the road in the league, and take care of our home court," he said.

"Crestview will be really good and I anticipate Delphos Jefferson will be good," he continued. "Paulding, Grove and Lincolnview will probably be in the middle of the pack. Hopefully we can be in the middle or top half of the league."

Overall, the outlook looks promising with the return of Frazier, Swaney and three other lettermen, plus the eventual eligibility of Williams.

"We have a positive vibe going and I hope to keep it going into the season," said White. "We have to be able to put four good quarters together consistently. The guys are working hard and we have a lot of excitement."

Defense and rebounding burned the Bulldogs last year, as did a tendency to struggle in the middle quarters.

"We allowed 62 points a game last year and got out-rebounded mightily, so we have to do better on defense and on the boards," White admitted. "We will mix our defenses up more."

Former Allen East head coach Rick Sherrick returns to the Bulldog staff, with his son Jacob serving as the junior varsity mentor.

The season opener is December 1 at home vs. county foe Ridgemont. Ada beat the Gophers in White's coaching debut last year. The NWC season tips off Dec. 15 at home vs. backyard rival Allen East.

Ada also will participate in the first-ever Border Battle tournament Dec. 29-30 at Waynesfield along with the host Tigers, and local rivals USV and AE.

Lady Bulldog cagers young, scrappy   

ADA - For the second consecutive season, the Ada girls basketball program will be challenged with a largely unproven and small roster.

Thirteen players make up the entire varsity and JV program, with three seniors, two juniors and eight newcomers (seven freshmen) comprising the roster.

The 2016-17 Lady Bulldogs finished 7-16 overall (1-7 in Northwest Conference) under veteran head coach Bill Taflinger.

Ada started out a surprisingly solid 7-9 before a tough late schedule and lack of depth led to a season-ending seven-game losing skid.

Fourth-year Bulldog mentor Taflinger (42-29 at Ada), who won over 300 games in 24 seasons at LCC, has two starters and five letter winners back for the 2017-18 campaign. He will, however, have to replace a solid starting backcourt, one of the team's strong points last winter.

Starting guards Haley Wyss and Alyssa Vore graduated, and the long distance-shooting Wyss was named first team All-NWC. Her experience and perimeter sniping will be missed, as will the defense and ballhandling of Vore.

"Our older girls will have to be good leaders," said Taflinger. "The younger girls will be thrown into the fire pretty quickly, and will have to contribute. Hopefully our younger girls will improve and give us a chance to win some games.

"We will have to play hard for 32 minutes every game."

Senior 5-7 wing Maddie Gossard is the leading scorer (10.8 ppg) back in the fold. She is a solid long-range shooter who leads the returnees in three-point field goals made.

"She is one of our two players who just can't come off the floor without (being in) foul trouble," said Taflinger. "She can shoot the three pretty good, and has improved at driving off the dribble."

Another competitive senior backcourt returnee, quick 5-3 Teara Coulson, will handle the point guard duties. "She is a pretty good three-point shooter and has done a good job for us in the past," said Taflinger.

Speedy senior guard Anney Archer also returns boasting plenty of starting experience. "She is a defensive spark, we are counting on her and Maddie," said Taflinger. Archer showed flashes of offensive driving ability and improved shooting skills last season.

Rilan Conley, a 5-7 junior post, is the team's top returning rebounder. "We have to keep her out of foul trouble," noted Taflinger. "She really goes after the ball off the boards. She has done well in pre-season."

Junior Raina England is an athletic 5-3 guard, "another good defender who can shoot it," he said. England was a streak-shooting plus off the bench last year with her high-arching shot. "We just need her to be more consistent," said the coach.

Megan Light, a slender 5-10 freshman post, is the team's tallest player and could play a key role inside. "She does a good job defensively," noted Taflinger.

Feisty freshman Miranda Wills, a 5-6 wing, will likely serve as the first player off the bench. "She is very competitive, a scrapper who listens well and wants to get better," said the coach.

Program newcomer Ashleigh Rush is a 5-9 sophomore who will provide low post depth.

Three-point shooting is a strength of the team. "We have a couple of girls who can shoot it," said Taflinger.

A lack of depth and overall size are areas of concern. "Our scrimmages were kind of rough, we have little bench at this point," he said.

Taflinger's son Billy will serve as JV coach for the second consecutive season, but due to low numbers the reserve team is likely to play two-quarter half games all year. Wills, Rush and Light are expected to play both varsity and JV.

As for the NWC race Taflinger says, "I am sure (defending champion) Columbus Grove will be good, although I heard their good big girl tore an ACL. Crestview and Bluffton should round out the top three.

"I hope to do better than one league win," he continued. "I don't think any NWC team is great, or bad. I hope to get into the middle of the pack in the NWC."

Although Ada is bigger than it was last year, size is still not a strength, which can lead to rebounding and interior defensive issues.

"We want to be a better rebounding team this year," said Taflinger. "We really preached blocking out and rebounding in pre-season.

"We also want to play more halfcourt defense. We had to play a lot of zone last year," he added.

Ada tipped off its campaign Nov. 28 at home vs. local non-league foe Cory-Rawson. The conference opener is Dec. 7 at home vs. tough traditional rival Bluffton.

The Lady Bulldogs will also compete in the inaugural Border Battle tournament at Waynesfield Dec. 28-30. Ada, the host Tigers, USV and Allen East will vie for the first title among the four local area rivals.

Returning Ada varsity girls basketball letter winners, from left: Rilan
Conley, Raina England, Teara Coulson, Maddie Gossard, Anney Archer.

The returning Ada boys basketball lettermen, from left: Cade Mullins,
Ethan Swaney, Seven Williams (from Texas), Jackson Conrad, Connor Frazier