The Cagers Basketball Club finished the 2017-18 hardwood campaign with a five-game win streak. As a matter of fact, it was the second five-game win streak of the season for the locals who posted a fine 12-4 overall record. One could argue that for the Cagers it was a tale of two seasons.
As has been the custom since the inception of the Cagers three years ago, the team starts out slow. Coach Doug Hamsher said there are various reasons why the team has a hard time getting out of the gate. “We form the team in December, which is late for any team to come together. This year we had all of two practices before we played our first game. So we had zero chemistry, and I really had no idea what I had or what the players could do offensively or defensively. It takes time to figure it all out.”
After an 0-2 start, the Cagers would go down and win the Blazer Invitational Tournament and even up their record. A loss to their arch rival, Reimer Road, put the Cagers under .500 at two wins and three losses. It was then that the first five-game win streak started. Even though the Cagers would get key wins over solid opponents in the streak, they were not playing the Cager Way, and according to Hamsher, that is more important than the win/loss column.
“We do things a lot differently than a lot of teams, partly because the importance I put on commitment, character implementation and playing by The Code. Even though we were winning, we weren’t doing it the right way, and we weren’t having any fun doing it. To top it off, I wasn’t having any fun coaching.”
That all changed after the streak ended with an embarrassing loss to Community Christian, a team the Cagers easily beat a few weeks earlier.
“That was the low point in the season,” Hamsher said. “We were in position to make a case to go to the NCSAA National Tournament, and that loss hurt our chances, but it was not about the scoreboard as much as it was about playing the right way. I knew I had to make some changes.”
Within the next two days personnel decisions were made as well as some offensive and defensive adjustments. All it took was one practice, and the ship righted itself. The Cagers abandoned a more complex offense and opted to simplify things using their huge size and tremendous athleticism. Defensively, the Cagers, who have been known in their circles for playing tough half-court man-to-man defense, went to a 3-2 zone. Both adjustments paled in comparison to the choice the team made to play the Cager Way.
“I know we made adjustments, but it was the choice of the players to play the way I envisioned them playing from the very beginning that was the difference. The last five games were a ton of fun, let me tell you,” Hamsher said.
The Cagers would start off their streak on the road by dismantling Reimer Road, a team the Cagers have never beaten. Then they would rattle off wins over Gospel Haven Academy, Vineyard (Columbus), Hearts for Jesus and Medina Christian to round out the season. Their last three opponents would go on down to the NCSAA National Tournament and place in their respective divisions. Hamsher points to the final game versus Medina Christian as the climax of the season.
“We came out against Medina Christian, on their home floor, and put it all together: offensively, defensively, and more importantly we hit every character goal and we played by The Code. I just sat there in amazement and watched with enjoyment these guys play at a very high level and have fun doing it. You know it’s fun when high fives are flying around, the guys are smiling and I don’t have to say a word. That’s the way it was the last five games; that’s the way sports should be.”
Individually the Cagers were led by super quick guard Kristian Scalf, who fired in 14.8 points per contest. Next in line was 6-10 center Eric Fairhurst with 12.5 ppg. Rounding out the point leaders was forward Da’Vay Meeks, who pumped in 10.5 ppg. Other members of the team were Dylan Money, Jason Suppan, Ben Otto and Jesse Evans.
The Cagers would like to thank the following people for their support this past season: Pastor Mulpas and Lynda Holmes of Orrville Christian Church for allowing them to utilize their facilities for practices and games, Ohio Sports Ticket for covering some of the games, and OrrViews for putting in updates throughout the season.
For more information on the Cagers Basketball Club and the book, “Character, The Code and the Cager Way,” written by Coach Hamsher, go to www.cagerhoops.com.