The 2012-13 basketball season had a little bit of everything for Tony Stockman.
The first-year coach at Ohio Christian University not only taught a young team the meaning of hard work, he found his own way in his first head coaching gig.
In the end, Stockman’s Trailblazers came away with the school’s first National Christian College Athletic Association national title with a 73-62 win over Arlington Baptist University on Saturday.
“Man, it was a roller coaster,” the 2000 Medina High graduate said of the season. “We had 43 players try out for the team and got it down to 17. A couple of guys quit and we ended with 12.
“I’m just amazed with how well they came together. They were not used to working hard, but they bought in and it brought them closer together — like a family.”
Not too shabby for a squad that opened the 2013 calendar year with a 109-60 drubbing from Pikeville, dropping OCU to 6-7 and leaving its rookie coach searching for solutions.
After revamping the offense and establishing a different philosophy on the defensive end, Stockman’s team won its next nine en route to ending the campaign with a 27-8 mark, which included 12 straight victories to close the season.
“I was defining myself throughout the year because I hadn’t coached before,” said Stockman, who had just ended an eight-year professional playing career that included stops in Brazil, Mexico, France and Germany.
“After the loss (to Pikeville) we changed everything we did on offense and our defensive philosophy. We got tougher and when our roster went to 12 guys, I said, ‘This is the team,’ and those guys stuck through it.”
The Trailblazers, who finished third in the country a year ago, went 22-0 against teams in their division and made their fifth consecutive national tournament appearance.
Stockman’s program made the most of its trip to Springfield, Mo., as it rattled off wins over Manhattan Christian (94-75) and Florida Christian (69-64) before taking the national title against Arlington Baptist.
“I knew (coming in) that we had athletic kids and the talent level, but I was a first-year coach,” Stockman said. “The question was how to get them tougher and at first that was tough.
“Shortly after that our roster fell off to 12 and they started liking each other. It was great to see them come together.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.