By Chris Chaney
The Batavia Bulldogs’ style and level of play to kick off the 2012-13 season would lead onlookers to believe that they have outperformed their 2-5 overall record.
However, the team’s inability to string together solid offensive nights to go along with their quality defense has allowed their opponents to escape with victories in games in which Batavia has outplayed them.
“We haven’t taken care of the ball very well,” head coach Mike Hatfield said. “We’re averaging 20 turnovers a game, so we’re making really hard for ourselves and we’re shooting poorly. I thought we would be a decent shooting team — and I still think we can be — we’re getting great looks and we miss and miss. A combination of those two things is not really helping. We’re playing pretty good defense, we just can’t score enough.”
Perhaps the Bulldogs’ offensive struggles were foreshadowed in the opening game of the season, a three-point loss to St. Bernard, 50-47, on Nov. 30.
A close game throughout, the Bulldogs held a one-point lead heading into the final quarter, but couldn’t muster more than eight points in the final frame. Overall, the Bulldogs shot 19.6 percent from the field on 10-51 shooting, with nearly half of their shots coming from behind the arc. Batavia only made one of their 22 three-point attempts, in a sense, letting St. Bernard off the hook.
Things didn’t get much better for Batavia in their next couple of games as they were beaten by Mariemont and Williamsburg by a combined 44 points.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs kept chomping at the bit, playing hard-nosed defense and despite splitting the next four games, the signs of a winning team emerged.
Beginning with a Dec. 11 showdown with Southern Buckeye Conference foe Georgetown, the Bulldogs began imposing their will defensively in order to aid their struggling offense. Keeping their first opponent since the season opener under 60 points, the Bulldogs took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter.
To that point winless on the season, the Bulldogs showed their inexperience closing games as the Broncos forced overtime and went on to win by four.
“We had Georgetown until very late,” Hatfield said of their fourth loss of the season. And although Batavia was 0-4, the writing was on the wall that the Bulldogs would be a tough beat.
Batavia got their first win of the year against conference opponent Felicity in another close game. Paced by senior Dillon Gilbert’s 20-20 night, the Bulldogs defeated the Cardinals 40-38.
Gilbert’s 23 points and 21 rebounds were both season highs for the 6-foot-3 senior, and something Hatfield hopes to see more often.
“I expect Dillon Gilbert to be a force,” Hatfield said. “He had 14 rebounds against Georgetown and then 21 against Felicity. I’m hoping for him to rebound right at that 14-a-game level.”
Along with Gilbert’s ability, Hatfield is hoping to have Alex White step up and be an impact player for the Bulldogs.
“We’re expecting a big year out of (White),” the coach said of his 6-foot-2 senior forward. “He hurt his ankle during game one and did not play any significant time until (Dec. 18 against Clermont Northeastern), so that was kind of a blow.”
While White and Gilbert are pegged as the senior leaders, juniors Austin Sammons and Kyle Schmitgen are two of the top three scorers on the team heading into the New Year.
Following the win over Felicity, Batavia lost to CNE by 12, but bounced back to defeat Blanchester 56-40 in their most impressive win of the season, giving Hatfield aspirations of competing for the league title.
“I think our league is very competitive,” Hatfield said. “We’ve made it really hard, but (beating Blanchester) put us at 2-3 in our first time through (the league) and if we can run the table (in conference), we certainly have a shot.”
Sitting in a tie for third in the league and with no games until Jan. 4, the Bulldogs have plenty of time to sharpen their offense for a late-season run.
Batavia will play their next five games out of their division before they begin their second run through the SBC-National with Williamsburg on Jan. 25.