At first glance, finishing second in a league may not seem very exciting. After all, everyone wants to be No. 1, right?
But for the boys basketball team at Maumee Valley Country Day School, tying for second in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference was a big deal. A very big deal.
Why? Well, it's a matter of perspective. And in recent years, the Hawks' perspective was to look up at the rest of the league from the basement.
Maumee Valley's 8-4 TAAC record is a big deal when you consider the Hawks' league victory total this season equaled the team's number of wins for the past five seasons combined.
And MV's 14 regular-season victories are more than double the number of wins the Hawks have earned in any of the past five years.
Those 14 wins were a dream come true for coach Jim Robinson, the long-time Maumee High School coach who just finished his second year at Maumee Valley.
"Before the season began, my hope was that we would win 10 games," Robinson admitted. "I thought we should really push our kids to do that."
So there might have been cause for concern when the Hawks started the season 2-4. But Robinson said he wasn't concerned.
"I thought we were developing a good chemistry," Robinson said. "We lost a couple of close games in that period - for example, I thought we played Ottawa Hills tough the first time.
"On any given night, I felt we could play with anyone on our level."
Then Robinson made a key lineup change, inserting freshman guard Davey Brown into the starting lineup. And from that point Maumee Valley took off, winning its next six and 12 of its final 14 regular-season games.
Robinson said this team's formula for success was simple: individuals bought into the concept of playing as a team.
"We used nine players regularly, and we subbed liberally," Robinson explained. "And we followed [former Michigan football coach] Bo Schembechler's old adage: 'There's no player more important than the team. There's no coach more important than the team. The team, the team, the team.'
"You often read about kids 'buying in' to a program. In our first year, we had some kids who bought in, and some who didn't. This year, I believe we had about 90 percent buy in."
One of the most important "buy ins" was senior guard Carter Bayer, an All-TAAC pick the previous year. The Ottawa Hills native accepted a move from point guard to shooting guard to allow Brown into the lineup.
While Bayer finished second on the team in scoring at 9.8 points per game, he also contributed 2.9 assists per contest.
Senior Henry Beausejour developed into an all-around threat. Beausejour, who lives in Monclova, led the team in scoring with 10.0 ppg while adding 5.4 rpg, including 46 offensive boards.
Close behind in the scoring race was sophomore center Jared Sturt, a Swanton native who averaged 9.4 ppg while leading the team with 7.2 rpg.
Other key players for the Hawks included seniors Jangus Whitner and Lee Bigelow as well as sophomores Frederick Deichert and Jonathan Krueger.
Robinson said the group responded well to a more demanding summer schedule that included playing against larger City League schools. He was especially pleased with the way his team managed its academic and athletic commitments.
"Maumee Valley is considered the premier academic institution in this area," Robinson said. "The faculty has been supportive of what we've been doing with the basketball program, but I've tried to prove myself and not dilute the academic culture.
"We've worked on time management, and we've worked on accountability, on trying to fulfill all of our responsibilities."
Early in the season, when the team needed a nudge, Brown's move into the starting lineup provided a spark. Brown finished as the team's leader in assists with 67, with Bayer close behind with 61.
"Even though Davey stands just 5-0, he's not afraid to penetrate, and he's a superb ball-handler and leader," Robinson said of the North Toledo native. "He's no stranger to playing against older, bigger players. And people had a tough time pressing us because he and Carter.
"I know there are a lot of good freshmen in this area, but if I could only choose one for my team, I'd choose Davey."
While Robinson was pleased with his team's performance this year, he's also excited about the possibilities for the Maumee Valley boys basketball program.
"Everyone did what they needed to do to get this program turned around," Robinson said. "While we will lose some good players, we have a JV team that won 12 games and our eighth graders won the league title.
"Best of all, our kids have aspirations for more - and they have a belief that they can play with anyone. We may have lost a few battles, but I believe we have won the war."
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com,