MG Indians celebrate Blue Division title with win
By ROB HAMILTON
When the Mount Gilead boys’ basketball last celebrated a league title, the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference had not yet been created.
In 1983, while the Indians were in the now-defunct Mid-Ohio Conference, they took the title with a 12–2 record. Members of that team were on hand Friday as this year’s Mount Gilead team pounded Ridgedale 65–32.
After the game, the school recognized their ‘83 champs while celebrating this year’s Blue Division championship. The team finished 18–2 overall and 12–1 in league play to easily win the Blue by six games over Pleasant. They also had the best league record of any of the 10 teams, as Red champ Buckeye Valley finished one game back at 11–2.
“This is a special night for the community, school and kids,” said Indian head coach Tom Cooper. “We’re very proud of this year and believe this is the best regular season record in history. That’s something these kids can be proud of their whole lives.”
Before the celebration, the Indians had to contend with the Rockets. For the first quarter, Ridgedale stuck with Mount Gilead, with the Indians taking a 13–10 lead at the very end of the quarter on a Jake Sturges three-pointer.
“The guys were so excited, they came out a little tight,” said Cooper of the slow start.
After the first quarter, though, it was all Mount Gilead. Kolby Snyder scored four straight points to open the period and later, with the score at 18–14, Mount Gilead picked up nine in a row to go up by 13.
The Indians led 29–18 at the half and then outscored the Rockets 22–9 in the third quarter to move in front by 24 points in a game they would win by 33.
Ethan Harris finished with 21 points to lead Mount Gilead, while Sturges scored 19 and Snyder added 10.
After the game, the team cut down the nets in celebration. Cooper felt his team, who had suffered through some growing pains over the years, had earned this night.
“We knew this junior and senior class was special, so we played them (varsity) young — a trial by fire — and let them learn,” he said.
The coach felt that a dedication to defense was what allowed them to claim a league title. Cooper noted that this group of players has always shown offensive talent, but needed to exhibit that skill on both ends of the court.
“They’ve come a long way defensively,” he said. “We were very good offensively last year, but not defensively. This year, they’ve taken that step.”
Cooper isn’t planning on simply being happy with a league title, as he’s hoping for a good postseason run this year. While the team has an extended break before playing their first playoff game on Feb. 29, this isn’t the first time they’ve gone 10-plus days between contests this year.
After going from Jan. 14 to Jan. 24 with no games, the Indians didn’t lose a single game after that break.
“Hopefully, it works out again,” said Cooper. “We’ll give them a couple days off and let them enjoy this weekend and then go back to work and get ready for the second season.”