ARCHBOLD Doug Krauss couldn t help but chuckle.
He was on the team bus with his Archbold boys basketball team, coming home from his team s victory over Johnstown-Monroe in the Division III regional final last Saturday. The Blue Streaks had earned a berth in the state tournament, and all Krauss could do was laugh.
One of my coaches asked, Why are you laughing? Krauss said. I told him, I remember going to a summer camp at Toledo and not winning a single game. When practice started this year, going to Columbus was not on our radar. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this.
And yet, here they are. The Blue Streaks (21-4) having earned a trip to Columbus for the state semifinals to play tomorrow against Cincinnati North College Hill (24-1). Krauss said Archbold s second straight state tournament appearance, and third in the past four seasons, is partially the result of the success of previous years, starting with the state run of 1996.
That 1996 trip was Archbold s first since 1979 and just the second since 1924.
When our 1996 team broke down the door and got us back to Columbus, we ve had a couple of opportunities, and our guys have seen that it s possible [to get to state], he said. Until you break down that door and get to the next step, how can you get there?
But last year s title run wasn t unexpected, since the team was ranked seventh in the state and featured an All-Ohio performer in Dan Borcherdt.
Last year [going to state] was one of the goals we had at the start of the season, said Gene Goering, a 6-2 sophomore. A lot of those guys had been there [two years earlier], and we had Dan. This year that was out there as a goal, but it wasn t the same as last year.
Senior Josh Johnson agreed, adding, At the beginning of the year, with all of our underclassmen, I was just focused on winning a fourth straight [Northwest Ohio Athletic League] championship. I didn t think of a tournament run.
Archbold did have the pieces in place to be considered the preseason favorite to win the NWOAL. Johnson and fellow senior guard David Borcherdt, Dan s brother, had tournament experience, and Goering returned after starting for the Blue Streaks as a freshman.
Archbold finished second in the NWOAL behind Patrick Henry.
We knew we had a decent nucleus, but we didn t know how everybody else was going to fill in, Krauss said.
Those three leaders have delivered. Goering leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game, while Borcherdt added 11.7 points per contest.
Last year Dan [Borcherdt] was getting most of the shots and I was basically picking up garbage, Goering said. When you lose a guy who s scoring 23 a game, you need guys to fill that spot up.
I really enjoy [being featured in the offense], but it s not all about me. There s a lot of open areas, and both David and Josh Wyse are great shooters.
Johnson s scoring average is only 3.1 points per game, but his contributions in handling the ball at the point and in spearheading the defense go beyond points.
There s no way we would have made it this far without [Johnson], Goering said. He plays with such intensity it s unbelievable. This is his senior year, and obviously this is very important to him.
Much of Johnson s ferocity is fueled by opportunities lost. A severe knee injury late last season caused him to miss last year s tournament run as well as the Archbold baseball team s push for a state crown last spring.
A lot of times I heard from other people that this [basketball] team could win without me, and that bothered me a little bit, Johnson said. My freshman year we made it to state, so my senior year I wanted to get back and feel what it feels like to be on the court and playing for a championship.
But both Krauss and the players agree that the key to this year s performance was the development of the rest of the squad. The team s two other starters are juniors Josh Wyse, who averages 12.0 points per game, and Tyson Fruth, who adds 3.1 points as well as providing muscle in the low post and in rebounding.
Especially in this tournament run, Tyson Fruth has done an outstanding job, Borcherdt said. He not only is a presence down low, he s been making the 10-foot corner shot that s been huge.
And Josh Wyse has played outstanding. He s another guy we can rely on to shoot the outside shot.
The Blue Streaks variety of scoring options and willingness to share the scoring unselfishly have fueled the offense.
Any of our starting five can lead this team in scoring, Wyse said. Tyson had a big game against [Patrick Henry], Josh and David have had some big games, and Gene has been consistent all season.
Krauss felt last year s state tournament run helped quicken this year s learning curve.
One thing that has helped us as we ve progressed through the season is that guys like David and Josh have been through the wars, Krauss said. Josh is a four-year letterman for us, and David is a three-year letterman, so they know what it takes to succeed at a higher level.
Once other guys started understanding we had to get better at things like ball movement, guarding people or checking out, then we started to see some improvement.
And, believe it or not, there were lessons learned from that winless summer league effort which, it must be noted, featured a team playing without Borcherdt, Goering and Johnson.
We learned that we just have to compete, Fruth said. There will be times when those guys will be in foul trouble or they won t be playing, and we all needed to step up and play.
The tournament road certainly hasn t been easy. The Blue Streaks first opponent, Delta, had beaten Archbold by 14 points during the regular season on the Streaks home floor, no less.
There also were victories over Patrick Henry, which had beaten Archbold during the regular season, and over Johnstown-Monroe (ranked third in the final state poll) in the regional final.
As a result, the unranked, unknown Blue Streaks are back in Columbus a thought that surprises even the team itself.
I can honestly say I never thought about [another state tournament run], Borcherdt admitted. But if you re playing your best basketball during the tournament, anything can happen. For us, [our best basketball] happened to come at the right time.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.