By DOUG DONNELLY/For The Daily Telegram
ONSTED — Brad Maska and his Onsted Wildcats boys basketball team went to great lengths to help it achieve the success it had this past season — literally.
For the month of June, the Wildcats played a monster of a summer basketball schedule, starting with a summer league in Jackson. They went to Detroit for a weekend shootout and played against teams like UD-Jesuit, recently crowned the Class A state champion. They went to Milford to play Walled Lake Western and Walled Lake Central. They went to Ohio to play Medina, a team that features 7-footer Jon Teske, a University of Michigan recruit. As the hundreds of miles racked up, the Wildcats players kept getting better.
“As coaches, we sat down and talked about it after this season,” Maska said. “We played about eight teams that won district championships and three or four more who made it to the regional finals. We played a really good summer schedule.”
That summer work paid off for Onsted, which finished the regular season 19-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Class B Associated Press poll, won the Lenawee County Athletic Association title, a district championship and advanced to the regional finals. Those bullet points helped Maska win his first Lenawee County Coach of the Year award from The Daily Telegram.
“We got beat up pretty good,” Maska said of the summer schedule. “But we put the work in. The kids played a lot of good competition. They worked so hard this summer. We were primed and ready for the season.”
While expectations were high because Onsted returned 6-foot-10, University of Michigan-bound Austin Davis, Maska said they weren’t quite sure how good the Wildcats were going to be until just before Christmas when the team faced off against Riverview Gabriel Richard at a neutral site in Belleville.
“The way our team played there, up against a pretty good team with a good history, that told me we were going to be pretty good,” Maska said. “I knew we had a chance to do some special things.”
Richard ended up beating Madison in a Class C regional game, before falling in the regional final. Onsted beat them 65-32 in December.
“The thing that most people didn’t talk about or notice was what really good defense we played,” Maska said. “We gave up fewer than 40 points a game.”
Onsted held 11 opponents below 40 points in a game. Two teams scored exactly 40 against them, and only three teams reached 50, including Hillsdale. Onsted beat them 66-62 in their first meeting, a game which ended Hillsdale’s 45-game regular-season win streak.
“That was a really big win for us,” Maska said. “We thought we got one stolen away from us a year ago in overtime against Hillsdale, and that cost us a league title. We played really well and hung tough against them this year.”
Maska said the team’s high GPA, senior leadership and work ethic led them to more than 40 wins the past two years.
“The senior leadership on this team was outstanding,” he said. “Plus, the players got along so well together. People underestimate how important that is. We had great camaraderie on this team.”
Maska is a Britton native who played varsity basketball for the Tories, before they combined with Deerfield, and played football for BD. He had an outstanding Tri-County Conference athletic career. He was first team All-TCC in three sports as a senior and led his team to football and basketball league titles. He quarterbacked BD to the state semifinals as a senior and went on to play football and basketball at Adrian College.
He was hired as the head coach at Tecumseh at the age of 23 and coached the Indian boys basketball team two years before moving to Onsted, where he is a teacher and just completed his ninth season as head coach of the Wildcats. He is 144-92 as a varsity basketball coach, including 135-61 at Onsted.
Maska credited his coaching staff for their help with the program. Kevin Bailey coaches the freshman and Terry Wobrock the JV. Eric Davis and Jerry Sigler are assistant JV coaches, while Phil Servoss and Sigler assist the varsity. Servoss was Maska’s seventh-grade coach at Britton and has coached with him since his days at Tecumseh.
This year’s team tied for Onsted’s best season at 23-1, the same final record for Onsted in 1982-83.
“I’m really fortunate to be here at Onsted,” Maska said. “The following from the community has been unbelievable. It’s a great place to coach.”