After leading the Oak Harbor Rockets to a 20-5 record, a spot in the Division III District Finals and a second-place finish in the Sandusky Bay Conference, Tom Kontak was named the Associated Press District 7 Co-Coach of the Year.
Kontak, who shared the honor with Liberty-Benton’s Nate Irwin, was joined on the All-District Team with his top player, sophomore forward Andrea Cecil. Cecil, who averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, helped lead Oak Harbor to the district finals, where they fell in heartbreaking fashion, 40-37, on a buzzer-beater to Bucyrus Wynford.
Port Clinton forward Tiffany Colston, with a per-game average of 13.5 points and 8 rebounds, also earned first-team honors at the Div. II level. Colston helped lead the Redskins to an 18-5 record and a second-place finish in the SBC. In her final two years, Port Clinton went 39-9, won a sectional title and twice finished second in the league.
Both Colston and Cecil earned first-team SBC honors as well. “It’s exciting (to receive the honor),” Cecil said. “I was the only sophomore with (a group of) seniors. It’s exciting that people think of me like that.”
The award is a special honor for Kontak, who has a career record of 127-57 (.690), including 36-13 (.735) with the Rockets. In his eight years, Kontak’s teams have won five sectional titles and advanced to the district final four times, falling excruciatingly close in each of the last three tries. He was named the Coach of the Year in 2009 by his fellow coaches, but this time the honor was bestowed upon him by sports writers all over northwest Ohio.
“It’s a great honor,” Kontak said. “For Andrea, too. It’s recognition for our program from a lot of reporters in the area who saw a lot of games from the area teams. (Our district) covers a lot of area.”
That area was home to several fine clubs this year like Archbold and Liberty-Benton, both of whom advanced to regionals, as well as other good teams like Elmwood, Genoa, Ottawa Hills and Rossford.
“This (award) is about the respect that our program has garnered throughout northwest Ohio,” Kontak said. “I think that’s because we win, we win a lot and we do it in a first-class manner. We’re not going to back down, but we’ll be respectful (towards our opponents).”
Kontak credited his players for their work ethic and success this season, a group that included Cecil, seniors Amanda Hetrick and Nikki Weis, Emma Barney, Maddy Rathbun and Athena Eli, Allie Kuhn, Brandy Lochotzki, Oliva Rollins, Alexa Weis and Emma Bergman. He also credited the players’ families for allowing him to do his job.
“I appreciate the families that are supportive of me teaching their daughters,” Kontak said. “They trust me to teach their daughters about the game and some life lessons.”
Kontak also spoke about his band of assistants, a group that’s included Art Eli, Chris Rawski, Ralph Mills, Mark Boukissen and John Kontak, his son.
“We’re all very close,” Kontak said. “Our families all know each other. Art and I were together at Genoa. He’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met. He sent his kids to Oak Harbor (after I got the job here). Chris is like a consultant for us. We teach across the hall from each other (at Genoa) and have coached softball and basketball together. We’re like brothers. It’s like a big brother-little brother relationship. And Mark and Ralph bring a calm, a sense of community to the team.
“You’re only as good as the people around you.”
When Kontak and Rawski coached softball at Genoa, the Comets went a combined 167-52 (.763), won a couple of Suburban Lakes League titles, seven sectional crowns and advanced to the Div. III Final Four in ’06.
“We spend a lot of time together,” Kontak said of him and assistants. “We game plan together, we each have our role. Art looks at the other team and makes our in-game adjustments. Mark and Ralph listen to the girls and talk to them and get a feel for the game. And they work well with our younger girls. You put that together and you’ve got a well-rounded staff.”
As you might expect, Cecil was happy for her coach.
“He deserves (the award),” she said. “(Coach Kontak) works so hard. We can see when he’s been thinking about about what to do for a game.”
Cecil also talked about what makes Kontak such a good coach.
“Every single drill we do, it’s in a game-like situation,” she said. “They all have a purpose.”
“We work on the little things,” Hetrick said. “It’s about making sure everything is done how it’s supposed to be done.”