Wauseon coach Chad Burt and the Indians have reached the regional round for the first time since 1994. THE BLADE/LORI KING
The last time Wauseon played in a boys basketball regional, current head coach Chad Burt was a senior forward on an Indians team that would ultimately end the 1993-94 season as the Division II state runner-up.
Burt, a four-year varsity starter at Wauseon, ended his prep career with a 73-59 loss to favored Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
That was in the midst of what was arguably the greatest time for sports in Wauseon’s history — between a Division III state football championship in the fall of 1993, and a D-II baseball state semifinal appearance in the spring of 1994, and a state baseball championship the following year.
Flash forward to 23 years after his last appearance in a high school game at St. John Arena in Columbus, and Burt is now in his ninth season as head coach. He is guiding the best Wauseon basketball team since his time as a player.
The Indians (24-1), who were ranked No. 8 in the final Division II state poll, face a huge challenge in today’s 6:15 p.m. regional semifinal. They play Northern Ohio League champion Sandusky (21-4) at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena.
Wauseon, riding a 23-game winning streak, is led by 6-foot-9 junior center Austin Rotroff, who is averaging 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocked shots per game.
Joining Rotroff in the Indians starting lineup are seniors Carter Bzovi (14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Brendan Britsch (3.6 points, 3.1 assists), and juniors Brooks Gype (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists) and Owen Newlove (4.9 points, 3.8 rebounds).
The top subs for the Indians have been sophomore Levi Seiler (3.7 points) and junior Dawson Rupp.
Having the best possible perspective to compare the 1994 state runners-up to today’s version of the Indians, Burt suggested he would need more evidence before drawing any firm conclusion.
“It’s hard to say where we stack up,” Burt said. “This team still has some work to do to give direct comparisons. The 1994 team was a lot more up tempo. This team relies more on the defensive end.”
There is statistical evidence to support that assessment.
The Indians are outscoring opponents by an average of 56.8 to 38.1 per game this season, having allowed 50 or more points just four times in 25 games, with three of those coming in Wauseon’s first five games.
In winning all seven of its games in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, Wauseon yielded just 30.1 points per game in league contests.
The Indians have advanced by beating Maumee (61-40) in a sectional final, surviving for a 59-57 double-overtime win over Napoleon in the districts semifinals, and ousting Woodward 57-45 in last Saturday’s district final.
In Sandusky, the Indians face a program that is hungry to advance to Saturday’s 2 p.m. regional final at Savage Arena.
The Blue Streaks have won 10 district titles, but have yet to win a regional semifinal.
The Streaks are led by two-time D-II district player of the year Jayrese Williams, a 6-0 senior guard who is averaging 23.1 points per game, with 1,714 total points in his career.
Joining Williams in the starting five are senior Cavon Croom (5-11 G, 12.1 points, 3.4 assists), Jamonte Alexander (6-2 F, 5.1 points, 5.4 rebounds) and Brent Hanson (6-2 F, 4.8 points, 4.6 rebounds), and junior Keith Williams (6-1 G, 12.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists).
The Blue Streaks’ top subs are juniors Ja’Vez Alexander (4.6 points) and Keijan Newell.
Sandusky, which has won back-to-back NOL titles and is 61-13 overall the past three seasons, is outscoring foes 64.3 to 53.6 per game.
“He is impressive with the ways in which he can score,” Burt said of Jayrese Williams. “He can shoot the deep 3, and get to the rim.
“As a team, they are very good in transition. They want to push and create scoring opportunities off of makes, misses, and turnovers, and they pressure the ball very well as a team.”
Burt sees some definite keys for his team’s reaching Saturday’s regional final.
“We must be able to take care of the ball and limit our turnovers,” he said. “Our one-on-one defense must be very good. We have to limit them to one shot on the offensive end, while attacking the offensive boards on our end.”