BLOOMDALE - Depth, balanced scoring and solidarity propelled Elmwood's boys basketball team to its first undefeated march through the Suburban Lakes League in 31 years.
The Royals fought through adversity with teamwork to go 14-0 in the SLL for the first time since 1976.
That '76 team was coached by Charlie Reynolds, father of current Elmwood coach Doug Reynolds.
Four Elmwood players average in double figures in scoring. That balance helped the Royals overcome two significant injuries and win their third straight league crown.
Senior Dustin Reynolds, a
6-foot-6 forward, leads the team with 295 points and 137 rebounds despite missing four games with a hand injury. Reynolds averages 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
"We knew if we played as a team we could do what the 1976 team did," Dustin said. "Our goal always was to go undefeated in the league and we knew we had the team that could do it. It's pretty cool. It's definitely something to be proud of."
Senior guard Ryan Rothenbuhler is second on the team with 208 points in 20 games (10.4 points per contest).
"It's unbelievable," Rothenbuhler said. "We'll remember it for the rest of our lives. When we get older it will be nice to see that banner on the wall."
The Royals (18-2) capped the undefeated run with a dramatic comeback win over Otsego last Friday. Elmwood trailed by 11 points with 3:36 and rallied with a 12-0 run to win by two.
"It shows that when we're down, we won't quit," Doug Reynolds said. "That's what they've done all year. The kids know they won't always be on top and they just need to keep playing. It's not always going to go the way you want it to and you have to fight through it. Their attitude has been fantastic."
After playing five games in eight days last week, Elmwood does not play until Friday. The Royals will play the winner of tonight's first round playoff game between Gibsonburg and Seneca East at Old Fort.
"Any time you run the table, you have to beat every team twice. That was a big accomplishment," said Reynolds, who is in his seventh year. "That says a lot for these kids. They've worked their tails off."
Junior Ben Hammer, a 6-1 wing, averages 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Junior Preston Shank, a 6-4 center, has scored 10.6 points per game, while junior guard Cory Stewart averages 9.5 points.
"This team plays so well together. Everybody can put the ball in the basket," coach Reynolds said. "You can't just guard one or two people on this team. In different games, different kids have stepped up. We've even had guys come off the bench and give us what we needed."
That depth was severely tested when Dustin Reynolds hurt his nonshooting hand early in a game against Eastwood on Jan. 5. After shooting a 3-pointer, Reynolds was boxed out and fell into the bleachers where his hand got caught and was broken.
Reynolds, who is the coach's son, missed the next four games. But the Royals won three league games without Dustin in the lineup. They lost just once while he was out- to top-ranked Liberty-Benton. Elmwood's other loss was to Van Buren.
"They definitely rallied together," Dustin said. "They played tough and we needed to do that. We play well as a team. You can't just focus on one person every night. We're seven deep."
Rothenbuhler said there was no team meeting to discuss who needed to step up.
"If one goes down another will be there to step up," he said. "The core of this team is really close. We hang out all the time. We're all in it together."
Dustin returned against Genoa on Jan. 27 and promptly scored 19 points. But Shank sprained his ankle in the game and missed the next six contests.
Coach Reynolds said the injuries may help his team in the long run as Nathaniel Finch and Adam Sheline got valuable playing time.
"When Dustin got hurt, other kids stepped into the starting role. It made us stronger," Reynolds said. "The kids just kept playing. This team has a great mental attitude. To go through undefeated, you have to come to play every night."
Rothenbuhler said the balanced scoring attack takes pressure off.
"If you miss a few, you know someone is right behind you to make it and have a good night," he said.
Reynolds still must wear a soft cast and admits the injury still bothers him at times. But Shank also is back and the team is 100 percent healthy, according to coach Reynolds.
Dustin, who plans to play at the college level, said the team's focus has moved beyond the undefeated run through the league.
"We're not looking at that right now," Dustin said. "We still have a lot to accomplish. We're firing on all cylinders. We hope we have seven games left and we hope the road ends in Columbus with a win."
Contact Mark Monroe at:
or 419-724-6110.41.17009 -83.55434