Perrysburg's Sarah Baer takes a shot against Sylvania Northview's Maddie Cole.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
One undefeated state championship season down, one to go?
Those extremely lofty ambitions actually seem attainable for the Perrysburg girls basketball team.
The Yellow Jackets feature a roster loaded with players from the soccer team that went perfect and claimed a Division I state title in November.
With depth, athleticism, and plenty of confidence, Perrysburg is off to an 11-0 start on the hardwood. Half of the team's players also were members of the soccer team that went 23-0-0.
Junior Sarah Baer, a 6-foot-1 center, leads the team with 13.1 points per game. Baer is one of six players from the first girls soccer team from northwest Ohio to win a state title.
“Winning is fun,” Baer said. “We all know what it feels like to win and we love it, so we work as hard as we can. Half of our team are soccer players, and most of our confidence comes from that. We've brought that to basketball. We want to go undefeated in basketball as well. That would be amazing.”
Perrysburg, which has an 8-0 record in the challenging Northern Lakes League, is ranked No. 6 in the first D-I state poll.
The Jackets have won district titles in two of the three seasons that coach Todd Sims has been in charge.
“Obviously the soccer team has helped us a lot in basketball — confidence-wise,” he said.
Baer, Abby Sattler, Mollie Whitacre, Maddy Williams, Lindy DeLong, and Allex Brown, all played soccer.
“Everyone of them contribute,” Sims said. “They have that chemistry. They played 23 games together on the soccer field. They were exciting. People say we are fun to watch, too. It's a different venue but it's the same idea. They're fast and athletic and play hard.”
Sims said although he doesn't bring up matching the soccer team's run, others do.
“People in the community have mentioned it to me. And of course that would be cool,” he said. “But I don't think about that stuff at all because it doesn't do any good to think about it.”
Brown, a 6-1 sophomore forward, has averaged 9.6 points per game. Brown shares the team lead in rebounding with Baer. Both are pulling down 8.0 boards per contest.
“It's great coming off the soccer season and bringing it to the basketball court,” Brown said. “Coming off that soccer season lifted everyone's confidence.”
Sims said the team's goals every year are to win the league, then go one step further in the tournament.
The Yellow Jackets, who were picked to finish second behind three-time defending league champ Northview, have already defeated the Wildcats twice.
Perrysburg faces another stiff league test Friday at Southview (9-3 overall, 7-1 NLL). Perrysburg defeated the Cougars 55-32 earlier this season.
The Yellow Jackets have good point-guard play, size inside, depth, and players that can shoot.
“On paper we have everything. We're not trying to mask something,” Sims said. “We have everything to be a very good team.
“The first thing is that we have some really good athletes that are very good basketball players,” he said. “That's a lot of it. Athleticism has been the key. That is definitely our strength.”
Brown is among five players who are averaging 5.5 points or more per game.
“We have another player on the bench that can step up if someone's having a bad night,” Brown said. “I love that about my team. We are able to step up and be a productive team. We understand what to do. It's not just one player, everyone steps up.”
Williams was clearly the go-to player in soccer. The senior forward scored 48 of the team's 108 goals and scored in every game but one.
Williams, who will play soccer at Purdue University, is averaging 8.6 points per game. The guard also leads the team in assists (3.4 per game) and steals (4.3).
Sattler, the team's 5-4 point guard, is second on the team with 32 assists. Sattler scores 6.2 points per game. She has connected on 10 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
DeLong, also a sophomore, averages 5.5 points per game.
“We are actually young,” Sims said. “If you look at our leaders in minutes we have a couple sophomores (Brown and DeLong) and juniors (Baer and Sattler). We have a lot of youth.”
Senior Katie Dunphy has hit 12 shots from 3-point range, while senior Maddy Perry averages 3.7 rebounds and 4.5 points per game.
Those players were part of the recent postseason runs. Williams, Baer, and Perry all saw significant time in the district final.
Last year, Perrysburg won a district championship, beating Mansfield Senior to reach the reginal semifinals, where it fell to Notre Dame.
The furthest a Perrysburg team has ever gone in the tournament is a regional final — in 2009 and again in 2010 (Sims' first season).
“They have big-game experience,” he said. “I'd like to get us back there because when you get there, then you never know, maybe something really special happens.”
Depth and chemistry may be the difference makers, according to Baer.
“The second string off the bench fills in perfectly. We don't skip a beat,” Baer said. “We're all pretty much equal. They all know how to play and we all know what we're doing.
“This team has the greatest chemistry,” she said. “We feel like all we can do now is keep improving. After we won state in soccer our confidence went up like crazy. It's a different sport but it has made us mentally ready.”
Sims said the key to winning the NLL is to not overlook any team.
“We have some really good teams in this league that are well coached,” he said. “No one will lay down. We will get everyone's best shot. And that's a compliment.
“You have to understand we are playing girls high school basketball. This isn't brain surgery — that's pressure. Before every game, I say, 'Let's go out and have some fun and play basketball with your friends.' That's all we're doing.”
“You just have to be the best team in the gym for two hours."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.