Swanton boys basketball has experienced plenty of success over the past two seasons. A big reason for that success was a strong core group of players.
Among that group was senior guard Bryce McComb, who became just the second player in NWOAL history to win the league scoring title three years in a row. Both he and Evergreen’s Brooks Miller share that honor.
He also capped his career by claiming league player of the year honors for the second straight season.
McComb finishes his career with 1,338 points – which is seventh on the league’s all-time list.
“It is an outstanding accomplishment,” said Swanton coach Matt Smith of McComb winning three straight titles. “People don’t realize how hard it is to consistently score the way he has for the past three seasons, let alone do it with every defense geared toward stopping you from scoring and getting open looks.
However, while McComb was aware of what he could accomplish heading into his senior season, he was more focused on helping the team reach their goals.
“I honestly don’t try to focus on the scoring. It just comes naturally,” he said. “Yea it is a good accomplishment, but it’s not my main focus of the year.
“(My) major goals were more team stuff. Like winning the league, winning the sectional, winning the district. And then came the individual goals. Minor goals like scoring 1,000 points, winning the league scoring title (and) being player of the year. It was there, but it wasn’t my main focus.”
In regards to the work it took to get to where he is today, McComb thinks back to the summer before his sophomore year.
That summer he played for an AAU team and took part in many camps, hoisting up over 600 shots a day on a regular basis.
“I know one day I did get up 1,000 shots. I’ll never forget that day. My arms were sore after that,” said McComb.
Coach Smith knew McComb would be special when he first saw him play in grade school.
“I am not surprised at all that he was able to do what he has done that past few seasons,” said the coach. “When I arrived at Swanton eight years ago he was a 5th grader and you could see that he could be special if he worked at it. He played varsity as a freshman even though he was way under-sized, because he had a good feel for the game and a knack for hitting shots.”
All of that work culminated over the last two years where Swanton had two of its more memorable seasons.
The Bulldogs won their first league title since 1988 last season when they shared the crown with Wauseon and Archbold. Then, they followed that up this season by finishing 20-4, at one point winning 13 straight games.
Swanton added sectional titles in each of the past two seasons as well.
“He impacted our program significantly along with his teammates,” said Smith of McComb. “We have had a good group of kids who stuck together and bought into our system and have allowed us to have a good deal of success. Bryce has been one of the best of that great group.
“The young players who are in elementary and junior high right now were able to see Swanton boys’ basketball teams play and beat anyone they played and not be surprised to do it – you can’t put a price on that. Bryce was a huge part of that. He will go down as one of the best players to play here and will have his name on the wall at some point for what he has accomplished.”
With a slight hesitation, McComb admitted that the favorite moment of his Swanton basketball career was back on Dec. 5 of 2015 when he scored his 1,000th point in a non-league game against Delta. What made it so special, the fact that his teammate and good friend Robbie Gilsdorf assisted him on the bucket.
He even remembered a conversation between him and Gilsdorf in the days leading up to the game where they talked about how “sweet it would be” if he scored his 1,000th point with Gilsdorf’s help.
The 2015-16 campaign was not entirely smooth sailing for the Bulldogs.
Although they entered the season as the league favorites, a lengthy football season gave players who played both little time off in between seasons.
It resulted in them dropping their first two league contests to eventual NWOAL co-champions, Wauseon and Archbold.
“It was definitely odd and different because of our football run,” stated McComb. “Right after the football run, we had I think one or two days off, if that, and it was back into basketball. It didn’t feel right, it felt like we should have been playing football a little bit longer.
“We had I think a week and a half to prepare for Wauseon. They are the real deal. With how young they are, how serious they are. Coach (Chad) Burt just knows how to get them ready for big games and they sure did come (to play) that night. So it definitely did play a big factor in preparing for Wauseon and then Archbold the week after.”
The loss that hurt more was most likely against the Blue Streaks where a buzzer beater three by Archbold’s Kaiden Bedsole lifted them to a 56-55 win.
“They have two really good sophomores – Eli Miller and Bryce Williams,” said McComb. “Those two are gonna be studs. And those two killed us.
“I take responsibility for that last shot going up because I got greedy and tried to get a steal. Then Eli Miller hit Bedsole and he hit the game winning three.”
However, now that their time together is over, Smith and McComb can reflect on the things they achieved.
“I will miss coaching Bryce a lot more for how close we have grown than for the scoring and all of that other stuff,” said Smith. “We have a great relationship and some terrific memories that we can share. Those are a lot more valuable than anything we will lose next year.”
For McComb it is all about the future and how Smith helped prepare him for what comes next.
“He knew I had the capability to play college ball. So he pushed me to my limits,” said McComb on his relationship with coach Smith. “Somedays we were enemies, other days we were friends. But that’s what a good coach, player relationship has. To be willing to push me to be the best I can be.”
McComb is currently undecided on college but is considering Baldwin Wallace and Heidelberg.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010