The East Tartans shined bright during the 2015-16 high school basketball season. Led by coach Adam Bailey, the Tartans returned several offensive threats to their squad for this season, as well as bringing on some very talented freshman to join in the tradition of East Tartan basketball.
Like every team, the Tartans had several goals they hoped to reach by their season’s end.
“At the beginning of the year, we wanted to be competitive in the SOC,” Bailey said. “We wanted to compete for a league title, and as always, we wanted to make it back to Athens. Our third goal, would have been to win a district championship.”
Through a lot of hard work, and excellent play on the court, Bailey’s team would nearly reach all three goals, falling just a few seconds and points shy of taking home a district championship.
East had a relatively young team comprised of juniors, sophomores, freshman. They started the season without any seniors on the team, and would rely on the the leadership of the juniors on the team, like Akia Brown and Drew Lowe.
Although East lacked seniors, the team matured at an accelerated pace this season, according to Bailey.
“A couple of our juniors are three-year players now, and even Blaine (Scott) had a full season of basketball under his belt,” Bailey said. “We were fortunate with some of our younger kids, as they dedicated themselves and worked really hard over the last several years to help early on. I think the other thing too, was our team chemistry with all of our kids. They all just got along so well with each other.”
There was plenty of offensive production for the Tartans this year. As the early weeks of the season rolled on, the Tartans weren’t shooting as well as expected, but as some of the younger Tartans were given the opportunity to contribute, and as the players got in the groove of the season, the points began to pile up.
“I thought most nights we were pretty good offensively,” Bailey said. “We went on a stretch there in the middle of the season, where we were averaging in the high 70’s to low 80’s night in and night out. In high school basketball you don’t see that a lot.”
While the Tartans improved in overall shooting, they were also able to rack up such high point totals by having multiple offensive threats, and by not having to rely on a single individual.
It wasn’t just the offense that propelled the Tartans to a district championship game this season. The team’s defense continued to improve throughout the season, and became a pivotal point of success on nights shots weren’t hitting as often.
“I think we did get better as the year went on defensively,” Bailey said. “It’s something the kids, as they get older, they kind of understand the scheme of things a little bit better the older they get.”
The Tartans reached their first goal, a league title, on February 12th, when they traveled to Symmes Valley, and defeated the Vikings 68-54.
“It was just an exciting night,” Bailey said. “Just seeing the kids prepare for that the couple days before, and knowing that it hadn’t been done at the school for 12 years, it was just exciting to see how the kids prepared and how they handled the game.”
Another goal was reached by East 11 days later, as the Tartans defeated Leesburg Fairfield, 83-76, at Northwest High School to advance to the district round and play at the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University in Athens.
East would take on the Golden Eagles of Belpre High School at the Convo on March 1st. The game was as hard fought a basketball game could probably be, as both teams exhausted themselves to gain a victory.
“The last three or four weeks of the season there were just so many great things that happened,” Bailey said. “You go to the Convo and you’re excited about being there, and it was a dogfight for pretty much the whole game, especially the last three quarters. Then, to win it the way we won it; it was just pure joy to see the kids execute a play that they know that pretty much has to go perfect, or we’re going home and not going to play another game.”
Unfortunately a few days later, the Tartans would see their season come to an end, as they lost to fellow SOC I team, the Western Indians. The loss was a tough one for Bailey and the Tartans to take, as they battled to an overtime finish, and lose by a single point, 70-69.
The Tartans will return their entire team for next season, and the end of this season will be a motivating factor for the successes of next year.
“I think the way we got beat at the end of the season, I know for myself, for the kids, and this coaching staff, we weren’t ready for it to end,” Bailey said. “I think it left a sour taste in our mouth that we got that close.”
Next year isn’t a given according to Bailey, as he believes the SOC I and the rest of the teams in the sectional bracket will be greatly improved.
“It’s going to come down to who outworks who from now until November,” Bailey said. “That’s the thing that hopefully the kids take to heart and I’ve got faith in my kids that they’ll have a great summer, and a great fall. We’ll work as hard as we can to improve in the areas that will make us better as a team and individuals.”
East Tartan junior Drew Lowe (5) looks for an open teammate Saturday afternoon in the OHSAA Division IV Southeast District Championship game against the Western Indians.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.