Lisa Ogi’s Lady Knights crew would make Michael Stanley and his band so proud. The lead singer of Cleveland’s favorite home-grown rock group Michael Stanley Band, MSB prided itself on being one of those working class Northern Ohio types that simply strapped on their work helmets, grabbed their lunch boxes and went to work each day.
That pretty much defines this group of Ogi’s Lady Knights.
Some may say after seven straight years of winning a league title that it might get to be the same old song and dance, nothing special, just another league crown. Those who say that after watching West Holmes carve up the Ohio Cardinal Conference this season for its seventh straight title and ninth in the past 10 years would be oh-so wrong.
Lisa Ogi has been at the helm for all nine of those Ohio Cardinal Conference championship seasons, and in that stretch she has seen some incredible talent and some gifted athletes come through the system. Players like Sarah Hammond, Laina Snyder, Paiten Strother, Emily Molnar, Hannah Clark and Brittleigh Macaulay have made life grand for West Holmes fans over the past decade.
However, unlike the towering Hammond, the all-around athleticism of Clark, or the sheer raw talent of Snyder, this year’s team does not possess those qualities. That is not to belittle this year’s group, but rather to praise it for its incredible work ethic, desire, ability to listen to their head coach as a team, and to play the kind of basketball that won West Holmes its seventh straight OCC championship. It has led to another great year, with West Holmes going 18-4 in the regular season.
This year’s team is not blessed with height. It doesn’t have any uber-athletes, nor is it lightning-quick. Instead it has dug in its heels in the half-court defensive set, sunk its teeth into its opponents ankles like a pit bull and not let go, forcing its opponents into some ugly nights from the floor. In its 14 league games in which West Holmes won 13 times, the Lady Knights gave up 29 points per game. They did so by working extremely hard on the defensive end of the floor, and making opponents work for scores on every single possession.
Was West Holmes a thing of beauty on offense? Ogi will be the first to admit that they were not going to score a ton of points, but when you give up less than 30, you simply don’t have to score a lot.
That is what happened in the Lady Knights’ regular season capper, when they traveled to Clear Fork and doled out a 50-10 defeat to the Colts. One had to only look at the end of the first quarter to figure things out in this contest. When the clock showed 0:00 after one period, West Holmes held a 16-0 lead, and it never looked back. That lead ballooned to 28-6 at the half, then West Holmes nearly duplicated its shut-out in the third period, outscoring the Colts 12-1 to forge a 38-7 lead. The rest of the night was one of satisfaction and joy for the Lady Knights, who knew they had sewn up the league title.
In the game West Holmes created a whopping 24 thefts as they forced Clear Fork into 34 total turnovers. Taylor Yerian, Kaylor Perone, Kylie Leppla and Celeste Ryman all had four steals, while Maddie Woods and Sammie Hall each recorded three. Hall was the stalwart on offense, pouring in 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Kacie Leppla continued her late-season surge with a 12-point effort. Kylie Leppla added eight points while Ryman and Jess Marmet scored four and three, respectively, Charlotte Brown added two and Kaylin Martin pitched in with one point.
One odd statistic in the game was that West Holmes actually got out rebounded 17-16 by the Colts. However, upon closer inspection, there was good reason for that anomaly. West Holmes allowed a mindbogglingly low 11 shots from the floor to the Colts, meaning that Clear Fork hoisted less than three shots per period. That meant not a lot of rebounds were to be had on the defensive end for West Holmes, who in comparison got off 44 shots, or 11 per period.
It was just another workman-like night at the office for the grinding Lady Knights, who could well adopt Michael Stanley Band’s “Working Again,” as their theme song which perfectly defines this West Holmes team with the lyrics,
“But not tonight,
Tonight I’m gonna try a little harder,
But come the light I’m gonna be working.
But not tonight,
Tonight I’m gonna try a little harder,
But come the light I’m gonna be Working again …
I’m gonna be working again…
I’m gonna be working again…”
That is why this Lady Knights group should cherish and celebrate this great accomplishment. It isn’t just another league title among many. It is one that was earned through diligence, commitment and teamwork.