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Bulldog boys hoops rebuilding with athleticism, youth

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By Cort Reynolds

Ada High School head coach Vince Halliday enters year three of rebuilding the Bulldog boys basketball program with little returning experience but plenty of athleticism, youth and hope for the future in the fold. 

Nine seniors and all five starters graduated from a 10-14 team that went 0-8 in Northwest Conference play last year.

Two little-used lettermen return to combine with several promising but young newcomers this winter. Ada lost 99 percent of its scoring to graduation, yet could surprise people with its athletic ability.

"Obviously, we are very young and inexperienced," admitted Halliday. "We will probably start two freshmen and two sophomores. But I like the talent.


”We are a lot smaller than last year, but we are more athletic,” he continued. “I have 11 varsity guys so there is a lot of competition. We don’t have a clear number one player, but all 11 can play.

“We have good depth, and there is very little drop-off between our first and second units,” he added.

Senior wing Carson Gossard and senior Gabe Blankenship are the only returning lettermen. The lanky 6-2 Gossard is expected to start at wing.

“Carson is our leader vocally, he is a versatile stretch four type player,” said Halliday.

Promising freshman Kolton Dysert is penciled in to start at the key point guard position. “He is under-sized (5-7) but is a true point guard,” said the coach. “He can create his own shot and has a good floater. He has a good basketball IQ, can handle the ball and is a good decision-maker.”

Carson Conley, a 6-1 freshman wing, is also expected to start. “Carson also has a high basketball IQ,” said Halliday. “He has great natural defensive instincts. He is competitive and tough.”

Zack Zimmerman, a 6-1 sophomore wing, is also projected to start. “Zack is a scorer and wants to be the man,” the coach noted. “He just has to improve defensively.”

Stout 6-2 sophomore post Slade Gossman is expected to be the fifth starter. “Slade is our only true post,” said the coach. “He is competitive and tough as nails.”

The 5-11 Blankenship will serve as a backup wing. “Gabe is naturally athletic and has improved his turnover issues,” Halliday offered. “He will provide leadership and scoring on the second unit.”

Junior guard Levi Green and 5-10 sophomore Kayleb Hickman bring athleticism and defensive ability to the second unit backcourt from the football team. The 5-8 Green is very athletic and quick. 

“Levi is a great on-ball defender, and his natural instincts are good,” said Halliday. “Kayleb is an athletic defender. He is strong and can be a backup point guard.

“We can really press on defense with those two,” he added.

Ethan Lawrence, a 6-3 junior forward, is the tallest player in the program. Halliday said Lawrence will be the backup center.

Junior Ian House, a 5-9 wing, is a “hustle guy reserve who plays with an edge and physicality,” noted Halliday.

Gavin Oldfield, a 6-1 sophomore, is another talented wing. “His potential is unlimited,” the coach enthused. “He can really jump and is a high flyer. He is very athletic and will play JV and varsity.”


Good-shooting 5-7 freshman guard Blake Zoladz will see JV action. Quick and strong frosh guard Andrew Allen will also play JV.

Defending NWC champion Spencerville is the favorite to repeat after going 8-0 last winter, said Halliday. The Bearcats did graduate NWC Player of the Year Josh Henline and fellow All-NWC first teamer Dylan Smith but are simply expected to reload.

“They are the team to beat, I would assume they will win the league,” he predicted. “I would like to win an NWC game before we get out of the league, but we are very inexperienced.”

Ada will join the Blanchard Valley Conference in 2024-25 after 60 years in the NWC.

Crestview finished second in the league at 7-1 last year. Knight junior Wren Sheets is the only returnee from the six-man All-NWC first team. Slick Allen East senior point guard Carson Clum returns after being second team all-league.

2022 NWC champion Bluffton was third (6-2), followed by Delphos Jefferson in fourth at 5-3. DJ improved from one to five wins in league play last season.

Columbus Grove came in fifth at 4-4, with AE sixth (3-5) and Leipsic seventh (2-6). Lincolnview (1-7) came in eighth, and Ada was last at 0-8.

Halliday noted that the biggest Bulldog team strengths are depth and athleticism.

“I feel like with our talent and youth, we can win some games people don’t expect us to win,” he observed. “Our practice intensity is much better. We can be better defensively due to our athleticism and playing hard.

“I think we can win more than four but probably less than 10 games,” he offered, referring to the win totals in his first two Bulldog campaigns. “We can be good when these freshmen and sophomore classes are juniors and seniors.”

He admitted that a lack of size and returning experience are areas of concern. “We lost 99 percent of our points from last season, and we are small height-wise,” he pointed out.

The Bulldogs tip off the season December 1 at home vs. county rival Ridgemont, and then entertain Ft. Jennings the next night. The Bulldogs upset the Gophers on a last-second shot two years ago in the season-opener at Ada, in Halliday’s debut as varsity head coach.

The league opener is December 15 at home vs. fellow Bulldog Columbus Grove, which features a new head coach after long-time former Ada mentor Chris Sautter stepped down.

Five of the first six Bulldog games are at home, but then five of the last six regular season games will be on the road.  The Border Battle tournament has been discontinued after four seasons.

Former Bulldog Josh Lehsten returns for his third season as varsity assistant. Experienced staff newcomer Darryl Gossard will serve as the JV coach.

"We want to win a league game and maximize whatever this team can be," Halliday said of the Ada season goals. “We want to be competitive and play hard.

“The bigger picture is beyond this year, with our lack of seniors and juniors. It is a process that is not just this season,” he noted.

The Ada varsity boys basketball team, from left, front: Kayleb Hickman,
Gavin Oldfield, Cardon Conley.
Middle, seated: Kolton Dysert, Ian House, Carson Gossard, Gabe
Blankenship, Levi Green, Zack Zimmerman.
Back: assistant coach Kyle Francis, assistant Darryl Gossard, Slade
Gossman, Ethan Lawrence, manager Avery Conner, varsity assistant Josh
Lehsten,  head coach Vince Halliday,

The returning Ada boys basketball lettermen, from left:  Carson Gossard,
Gabe Blankenship.