BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Since Ryan Osier took over as the varsity boys basketball coach at Maumee five seasons ago, there is a spot in the locker room where every past player is recognized.
Even when seasons ended with one or two wins, Osier knows those players are part of a foundation that’s been built to help lift the Panthers to new heights.
Maumee recently ended its season with a loss in the Division II sectional tournament, but a season shouldn’t be judged on just one game. The Panthers finished with an 8-15 record, the most wins in a season since the 2012-13 campaign.
“When I took over the program, we had to build,” Osier said. “You can see the structure.
“When you look back at those kids working as hard as they did and being a part of the foundation that you didn’t always see, but it’s there. I’ll never forget those guys.”
For this year’s team, the Panthers only returned two players who had significant experience at the varsity level – senior Cole Graetz and junior Jaden Walker.
Graetz averaged 10 points per game this season, while Walker was a consistent contributor in his third varsity season.
Maumee also had breakout years from senior R.J. McCoy, the team’s leading scorer at 10.2 points per game, and a group of juniors – Kyle Arndt, Caden Brown and Jayvon Hutchinson.
The Panthers were picked to finish seventh in the Northern Lakes League this year and, while they indeed finished seventh, Osier knows his team wasn’t an easy mark as in years past.
“I don’t think the NLL thought we were going to be as good as we were,” Osier said. “Top to bottom, the NLL was tough. These are elite teams.
“This was a great league for basketball. There was no night off. The NLL coaches were scouting us like never before; that’s a nice mark.”
Now that Osier has built a foundation for his program, perhaps the most difficult mountain remains to be crested — learning how to win.
Maumee had close losses to Anthony Wayne, Bowling Green and Southview in the league, along with tough non-conference losses to Liberty Center, Eastwood and state-ranked Swanton.
Those close defeats could drive a coach and players crazy in the offseason, playing the “What if?” game. Instead, Osier said thinking of the ‘What if?’ will challenge them.
“We asked so much of our players, we challenged them,” he said. “This season helped us as coaches sharpen our skills, so when we’re in these situations we feel comfortable and we’ve got a lot of information that we can lean on.
“It’s been four years of scraping and fighting and playing and still getting beat by quite a bit in the games. This year was different. This year, we were in games.”
The Panthers also had successful seasons at the junior varsity and freshman levels. The freshmen won four of their final seven games, and the JV team notched wins over Eastwood, Southview, AW, Otsego and Northwood.
Coming off of their most successful season in Osier’s five years, this offseason figures to have a different vibe as the Panthers prepare for their final NLL season before joining the Northern Buckeye Conference.
“It’s a fun place to be,” Osier said.