BELOIT — A new era dawns Friday night for the West Branch boys basketball program, albeit with a familiar face to Warriors’ fans.
Scott Loudon, one of the principal stars on West Branch’s district championship team in 1992 and one of the program’s four 1,000-point career scorers, assumes his first head coaching position when the Warriors play host to Beaver Local.
Loudon, 50, has been an assistant coach for over 20 years while also working full-time at CTM Labeling Systems in Sebring as Controller. He was the head junior varsity coach at Minerva for the past eight seasons and prior to that, served as a JV and freshman coach at West Branch for 18 years.
“The administrative part of it is the biggest difference,” said Loudon. “You do little things but you don’t realize the whole picture. The basketball stuff has been even more enjoyable than I thought it would be.”
The Warriors are coming off a 13-10 season, their lowest win total in six years, before previous coach Michael Brown accepted a similar position at Hudson. Brown was 65-28 in four seasons at West Branch, which included a school-record-tying 18-win regular season in 2020. Prior to Brown, Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame member Randy Montgomery went 52-41 in four seasons on the Warriors’ bench.
For Loudon, this was the only head coaching job he was going to consider.
“If I turned down this opportunity, it was not going to happen again,” he said. “I would not be coaching anywhere else as a head coach, I can say that.”
Loudon’s goals are ambitious.
“I want to win tournament games,” he said. “We’ve struggled to do that, forever. Our last district title was all the way back in ’92 and I think we’ve played in one or two district games since then and those might have been semifinals. I think we’ve had teams that should have won sectional titles and didn’t. I want these kids to experience that. I’ve got to think, with the group of kids we have, that we’re going to be disappointed if we don’t get an opportunity to play at least into the districts. We have guards and we have size and that’s a good start.”
West Branch has three returning starters, including junior Joey Jackson, last season’s leading scorer, and sophomore point guard Jeremiah Thomas. Both players, listed at 5-foot-10, were outstanding wide receivers on the Warriors’ football team that captured the Eastern Buckeye Conference championship.
The third returning starter is 6-foot-4 junior Cooper Anderson, also a member of the football team. The first five will be rounded out by 6-foot-3 senior Jaxon Robb and 6-foot-7 sophomore Gavin Gregory.
Senior Riley Hendershot (6-foot), junior Camden Lane (6-1) and sophomores Zach Coffee (6-4) and Kasen Weaver will be the key players off the bench.
“Coach Loudon has brought a lot of new fundamentals and basic stuff back to the gym, so it’s kind of refreshing,” said Hendershot. “We’re really buying in to all the new stuff he’s brought.”
Hendershot said the players really want to return to contending for the EBC title.
“Alliance has kind of had our number the last couple of years,” he said. “Coach has talked about winning sectional, so that’s on our mind, too.”
Loudon said he is inheriting a squad with talent and potential.
“Hanging around the team, it was easy to see that they had been well-coached,” he said. “They knew to do things so it takes some of that ‘starting from scratch’ right off the table. A lot of things we wanted to do they were already doing on their own.
“Sometimes they fail, like all kids do, but man, the effort is there. They play hard. Some of the drills we do, I sit there and go, this is the best I’ve seen kids do these drills because they’re focused on doing the right things.”
Loudon believes there is no clear-cut favorite in the EBC.
“I would lean towards Alliance; they have a nice player in [J.R.] Jackson and some good size and strength,” he said. “I would love to win the league title; it’s good for the kids. [But] a league title doesn’t win them tournament games. We’re certainly not going to shy away from trying to win it.”