A banner in Rossford’s gym clearly shows 1993 as the last time the Bulldogs’ boys basketball team won a league title.
Rossford made an initial step toward putting up a new number on the banner at Joe Stalma Court as the Bulldogs got contributions from many players at different points on Friday night.
In a Northern Buckeye Conference season opener, Rossford downed Eastwood 53-42. Eight players scored, and eight grabbed rebound for the Bulldogs, who were tabbed preseason favorites to end a 21-year title drought.
Mack Miller, Ryan Niese, and Derek Mack each scored 12 points for Rossford (2-1, 1-0 NBC).
“We preach team,” Rossford coach Brian Vorst said. “It’s not about one person. It’s about collectively. It could be any player. We expect all of our guys to step up.”
Miller, a senior guard, scored eight of his points in the opening quarter as Rossford never trailed.
“We plan to win the league this year for the first time in awhile, and this was a big step,” he said. “We clicked when we started being unselfish. That helped us progress as a team. Once we started doing that things fell into place. It’s not about getting your own points.”
The Bulldogs held Eastwood’s outstanding guard, Jake Schmeltz, to just seven points. Schmeltz led the NBC in scoring last season, averaging 18.0 points per game.
But on Friday, he made just 2 of 21 shots, including 0 of 5 on 3-pointers, for Eastwood (1-1, 0-1).
“Our guards [Miller, Mack, and Niese] did a great job defensively,” Vorst said. “[Schmeltz] is a great player. They were struggling because our guards did a great job. They made it tough on [Schmeltz]. I don’t think he got many easy looks.”
Grant Peters and Steven Bradley each finished with 10 points for Eastwood.
The game looked like a season opener and was sloppy at times. Rossford committed 23 turnovers and Eastwood had 21. The Eagles made just 14 of 47 shots (29.8 percent). The Bulldogs connected on 18 of 50 (36 percent).
“It was a rough game,” Vorst said. “Nobody could get in the flow. We will spend time on the film. These kids want to get better.”
Rossford led by just four at the half. But the Bulldogs went on a 10-2 run to take their biggest lead, 31-19. Miller had a 3, Erik Davis added two inside buckets, Nate Childress had a basket in the paint, and Mack had a free throw.
However, Eastwood closed the third quarter with a 7-1 run to make it 34-28.
Niese then hit a 3 to push the cushion to seven points.
Eastwood pulled within five points with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left. But Rossford responded with a 7-0 run to take a 46-34 lead with 1:58 left. Mack and Brian Burks started the spurt with inside baskets. Davis hit a free throw, then Niese nailed a jumper with 1:58 to play.
Eastwood hit two of its three 3-pointers in the final 1:46 on buckets by Peters and Flipse. But Rossford hit 5 of 6 free throws to salt away the win.
Rossford hit three straight 3 pointers to take an early 9-2 lead. Miller opened the scoring with a 3, Niese followed with another trey, and Miller knocked down another with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles countered with six unanswered points to pull within a point. At the end of the first quarter, Rossford led 11-8.
The Bulldogs went on a 5-0 run toward the end of the first half to lead 21-12. But the Eagles closed the second quarter with a 5-0 spurt of their own. Flipse, who had nine points, hit a a three just before the buzzer to make it 21-17.
Rossford held a 34-27 edge in rebounds. Schmeltz led his team with eight boards and three steals. Davis had a a team-high eight for the Bulldogs and Mack had four steals.
Eastwood, which was picked to finish third, plays Northview today. Rossford plays today at Perrysburg before resuming NBC play on Thursday at Otsego.
“You have to start out with a win if you want to win the league,” Vorst said. “The hardest win to get is the first one. You don’t want to start behind the eight ball. This is a place we haven’t been.”