PETTISVILLE It s not unusual to find a successful basketball program at one of this area s smaller schools.
But to have success in both girls and boys basketball in the same season? It s an unusual double taking place in Pettisville, a Fulton County community roughly 45 miles west of Toledo.
Both the boys and girls teams have perfect records, with the boys at 8-0 while the girls are 7-0. Coaches and players on both sides agree that those records are a tribute not only to two talented teams, but to this small farming community shoehorned between Wauseon and Archbold.
Pettisville is a basketball community, said girls coach Jason Waldvogel. When wintertime comes around, that s what draws the people together.
It s neat to see our girls back our boys, and our boys back our girls. But it s good to see the community back our boys and our girls and our school, really.
Boys coach Greg Nofziger, a Pettisville graduate, added, I feel a strong community really gathers around the school. And this community has backed this school, not just in sports, but in musical endeavors and FFA and other extracurricular activities.
They really stand behind [the school], and they really want their kids to succeed in a lot of different areas.
The boys teams at Pettisville have experienced a lot of success through the years. The Blackbirds have won 15 Buckeye Border Conference titles, including the last six in a row, and claimed 15 Fulton County League titles before that.
This year s team already is 3-0 in BBC play heading into tonight s game against Fayette. And one reason for the team s success is the bond that is formed by mixing nine seniors together over a long period of time at the same school.
Our team chemistry is amazing, senior Quinn Nofziger said. As seniors, we ve played a lot of basketball together. But we ll also hang out off the court, doing stuff together.
[The chemistry] gives us a lot of confidence on the court. We know that no one will let us down when we re on the court.
Another key ingredient is the Blackbirds depth. Quinn Nofziger and Michael Deffely, who lead the team in scoring with 17.2 and 16.7 points per game, respectively, have started every game along with fellow senior Michael Haase, who averages a team-best 8.0 rebounds per game.
But the other six seniors Jared Avina, Michael Burkholder, Jordan Klopfenstein, Harris King, Jordan Lemley and Lucas Nofziger all have started at least twice so far this year.
When the coaches are watching a game, they often think, I wish I could get a little more offense on the wing, or a little more defense in the post or something like that, Greg Nofziger said. As soon as we say something like that, we look down the bench and can find someone that fits that bill.
We have struggled at times on offense or defense, but all it takes is a change here or there to fix that. Our kids understand their roles, and certainly fill the voids.
That depth has allowed Pettisville to use an up-tempo style that eventually wears down opponents, allowing the Blackbirds to outscore opponents by more than 16 points a game this year.
We want to keep this tradition [of winning the BBC] alive, Deffely said. The seniors found out what it took to keep the tradition alive, and this year we re trying to put that work in.
Since we re a solid team, we know we can count on each other. We can go out and play, and everything turns out all right.
The Pettisville girls are hoping to add to the school s basketball history by winning its first girls title since 2002.
But we don t look or compare ourselves to the boys program, Waldvogel said. Our goal is just to compete for the top spot in the BBC year after year, and we ve been in the thick of things the last few years.
After a 15-8 record and a runner-up finish in the league a year ago, the girls look to take the next step this season.
We brought a lot of people back from last year, senior Alexa Short said. I just wanted us to work hard, be the best that we can be, play together play as a team.
With four seniors leading an otherwise young team, Waldvogel felt the Blackbirds were capable of challenging for the title.
Some of these girls have played [varsity] since they were freshmen, so they ve taken some beatings, he said. But they are successful kids in school, they had some success in the summer and they had some success in volleyball [advancing to the regional level].
Now they understand the game better, and understanding the game brings them confidence. I m a smarter coach in people s eyes this year because I can just let the girls play. We can do some things that aren t as structured, but they can make the cuts and reads on their own, and that can be fun for them.
The high-flying Blackbirds, who average nearly 60 points per game, are led by junior Erica King (20.2 scoring average), with senior Haley Nofziger (10.8) and Short (10.0) also in double figures.
But the team s seniors said Pettisville s success is due as much to the work it puts in off the court as itspractices.
We spend a lot of time together outside of practice, senior Katie Weber said. We re great friends to start with. We ll go out to eat together, talk, spend time at each other s houses the things that girls do together.
Haley Nofziger agreed, adding, Half of these girls I could tell anything to. We ve been together in sports for a long time, and we do a lot of things together outside of sports. If you have good team bonding, you can do anything.
Pettisville opened the season with wins over Wauseon and Evergreen, two of the top teams in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League. That early success has helped the Blackbirds as they prepare for future challenges.
I looked at these girls and knew they could be successful, Waldvogel said. But I think the early success has given the girls some confidence in the way they look at themselves.
Win or lose, though, both teams enjoy the special bond they have with one another and with their community.
Just knowing that you go out and play hard for the people in this town, and that they believe in you, no matter what, feels really good, Deffely said.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6481.