GIBSONBURG – The quest for perfection is not a new pursuit for Gibsonburg High School.
The Golden Bear football team won its first eight games of the season in convincing fashion last fall and had designs on running the table into the playoffs.
But a Week 9 loss to Northwood not only ended Gibsonburg’s unblemished record, it also cost the Golden Bears a postseason berth, as they were the only team in Ohio to go 9-1 and miss the playoffs.
While Gibsonburg’s postseason destination is secure as the No. 1 seed in its Division IV district tournament, the Golden Bears are eager to finish the job they started in the fall.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Gibsonburg’s 19-0 record has them within reach of an undefeated season.
“When you set a goal for yourself, and that goal is perfection, when you come so close to perfection and fall one game short, that’s a heart-breaker. It was in football and it would be a heart-breaker for this team,” said senior forward Derek Angelone, who also played wide receiver during football season. “I think we’ve all worked hard enough and we all want it bad enough that we won’t let that happen.”
While Gibsonburg began the season as one of the favorites in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, with every win the target on the Golden Bears’ back has grown in size. Gibsonburg has taken the best shot of every team it has faced and come out unscathed. The Golden Bears’ narrowest margin of victory, seven points, came all the way back in the season-opening win over Toledo Christian. Gibsonburg has played just four games decided by 10 points or less.
“Everybody is out to get us right now,” senior forward TJ McGough said. “But that’s why we’ve prepared. We worked all summer for this. We’re ready for it.”
Powerful offense, suffocating defense
Behind the outside-inside scoring duo of Jordan Kreglow and Bryce Ernsthausen, Gibsonburg has scored an average of 70.4 points per game. While Kreglow is the area’s leading scorer, averaging 22.2 points a night, and Ernsthausen ranks third in scoring (16.5) and first in rebounds (8.2), Golden Bears’ coach Brent Liskai said his team is yet to lose because of its depth.
“Throughout the season, we’ve had different people step up at different times in different games,” Liskai said. “Marcus Tille, Mateo Flores, Josh Dyer, Derek (Angelone) hitting four (3-pointers) against Stritch. I can go down the roster and we have so many who have had a moment. That’s what needs to be if you’re going to have a great season.”
As impressive as the offense has been, so too has been the pressure from the defense. The Golden Bears’ high-energy, pressing and trapping defense has limited opponents’ scoring (just 41.8 points per night) and is forcing 23.4 turnovers a night.
Cardinal Stritch coach Jamie Kachmarik said if a team is going to beat Gibsonburg, it needs to withstand the Golden Bears’ pressure.
“Someone with a couple good point guards and someone who can handle the ball is going to be what it will take,” Kachmarik said. “That’s the key. The key is you have to have guys who can handle the ball and not turn the ball over.”
The home stretch
The biggest remaining obstacle between Gibsonburg and perfection comes to town Friday night.
The Golden Bears play host to Ottawa Hills (14-5, 11-3) at 7:30 p.m. While Gibsonburg defeated the Polar Bears 73-62 on Jan. 16, it had to rally to do so. Gibsonburg trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before mounting a second-half comeback.
“We had to handle adversity there,” Kreglow said. “We started moving and played our own game. We let them play their pace. We didn’t make them play our tempo. We want to make them play fast.”
If Gibsonburg is able to get past Ottawa Hills, its last two games, both at home, are against Elmwood (9-7) and Hopewell-Loudon (6-11) next Tuesday and Friday.
While the ever-nearing prospect of achieving a perfect season may make some teams anxious, Liskai isn’t concerned about that being a problem.
“Pressure comes from when you haven’t put your time in and these guys have put their time in,” Liskai said. “In the summer, when other kids are out swimming or golfing and having fun, they put their time in. I don’t think they feel the pressure. If they do, they do a good job of hiding it from me.”