The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


March 8, 2013

Bowler’s bunch striking

Coach’s second time around spared nothing when it came to his team framing 15 victories

For Edgewood boys coach John Bowler, coaching basketball isn’t so much a job as it is an enjoyable passion.

So when Bowler reflects on the 2012-13 basketball season, one word comes to mind — fun.

“It was a great year,” he said. “A lot of good memories, a lot of real close games, it was just a really fun year. I enjoyed the kids.”

As is usually the case when anyone is enjoying something as much as Bowler enjoys coaching, winning follows.

And the Warriors did plenty of winning this season.

After an 8-14 campaign his return to the bench in the 2011-12 season, Bowler nearly doubled that win total as the Warriors went 15-7 in the regular season and received a bye into a Division II sectional final at Lakeside.

For his efforts, Bowler is the 2012-13 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.

“I thought we’d have a better season that we did last year,” he admitted, looking back to the beginning of the year. “I thought we’d win more games, but I didn’t think we could possibly win 15 games and do as well as we did. We beat a lot of good teams.”

A testament to the job that the now two-time coach of the year winner — Bowler last won the award in the 1988-89 season while at St. John — is the fact that he flipped the script from his first season, despite losing four of his five starters.

The lone starter Bowler did have coming back was Andrew Konczal, who he turned into the 2012-13 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year and completely transformed his game from a 3-point shooter to the county’s leading rebounder.

Beyond turning Edgewood into a winner and adjusting Konczal’s game, Bowler also got his team to buy into a team concept rather than focusing on their own individual success.

The Warriors had six players average more than seven points per game, but no player average more than 14 and he heard no complaints from his players as they sacrificied individual numbers for team wins.

This, despite having two of the top scorers in the county in Konczal and point guard Connor McLaughlin.

“Everyone knew on a given night, anyone could score and you can’t be jealous,” he said. “Connor and Andrew knew that assists and rebounds are just as important. I don’t think either came out of the game without foul trouble this whole season, those two probably played more minutes than any two players in the area.

“They knew we didn’t just have any room for jealousy. Part of that is my coaching and my personality and part of that is their upbringing. They’re quality kids.”

Ironically, in many ways, this season was seen as a rebuilding year for Bowler.

“We lost the four starters and I kind of saw it as a rebuilding year for us because we played a lot of juniors,” he said. “They have experience, though, so it wasn’t as bad as you would think.”

One thing that may have helped Bowler’s group on the court was its success on the football field.

While no coach wants to have to delay practice waiting for his players to get out of the previous season’s sport, the success of Edgewood’s football team, which made it to the playoffs for the first time in school history, did seem to carry over to basketball season.

“I think when a school starts winning, whether it’s football, basketball, whatever the sport, it carries over to the other sports,” he said. “Once they think they can win, they start winning, and basketball is such a mental game. Once they start getting a little confidence, part of that confidence is going to come from winning.

“I’m hoping for our guys it carries over to baseball. I already can’t wait to go watch them play.”

Bowler felt the biggest difference between his first season at Edgewood and his second was the unselfish attitude his team showed.

“I think the difference this year might’ve been the kids, I want to say they played very unselfishly, not that we were selfish the year before, but we made that extra pass this year and they really go into playing defense,” he said. “I think they understood my system a little bit better and we had absolutely no trouble. There was no discipline, everyone was at every practice on time. No one was late.

“We stayed healthy, too. That’s always a big thing.”

While there were plenty of memorable games from the 2012-13 season, the one that sticks out in Bowler’s mind is the Warriors’ come-from-behind victory at Conneaut.

“Probably the Conneaut game at Conneaut, we made a heck of a comeback,” he said. “We made a lot of comebacks, like against Fairport. We made some comebacks down 15-18 in the 4th, but the one against Coinneaut at Conneaut was the one I’ll remember the most.

“That’s a big rivalry for us, and I’ve never seen the kids as happy as they were against Conneaut.”

Beating county teams is something Bowler said he takes pride in. Edgewood beat every Ashtabula County opponent it faced (they played all except Lakeside) going 6-1, with its only blemish coming in the regular-season finale at Jefferson.

“We take pride in that,” he said. “We wrote down goals at the begginning of the season and, believe it or not,1 5 wins was a goal and beating everyone in the county we played was a goal. We really wanted to win a sectional, we didn’t get that one, but we got the other two.”

The lack of a sectional title is one of the few disappointments of the season for Bowler.

A season of success ended in disappointment when the Warriors fell to Warrensville Heights in a sectional championship game, 84-49.

While the loss wasn’t the way Bowler wanted the season to end, he did say it helped show him what he and his team needs to do to take the next step in the tournament.

“It really does show me what we need to do,” he said. “I took a lot of mental notes, I wrote down a lot of notes based off what I saw. I’m going to beef up the schedule and try to drop a few Division II teams and try to go to Division I to get better prepared for the tournament. Not being in a league, it’s good to beat the county teams but for me, it’s all about the tournament. Our goal is to stay in it through the district level.”

Despite losing three senior starters, Bowler believes the future is bright for the Warriors.

With junior-varsity coach Paul Stofan and assistant coach Jay Bowler (John’s son), both of whom Bowler gives much of the credit to for his success, he sees plenty of positive outcomes ahead.

“I’m excited about basketball right now, even though I know we lost,” he said. “I can’t wait for it to start. Connor got a taste of basketball success, Matt Fitchet got a taste, some of the JV guys will be ready to step up. I think some of the JV guys were ready three quarters of the way through the season and maybe I should’ve given them more of a chance, but what we’re trying to do is build a program.

“Between Paul and Jay, we’re trying to build a program not for just one or two years, but five, six years down the road. We’re already looking at sixth graders, right on down the road so we won’t have a down year.”

As long as Bowler is at Edgewood and having fun, it’s a safe bet that the Warriors won’t be having many down years in the future.

Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at

Text Only
  • Danielle Zip-ing along

    Just minutes after Geneva’s Danielle Nicholson holed out on the 18th green at the Gray Course at Ohio State University during her freshman year to win the 2011 Division I state championship, the recruitment process of where she would go to college began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Maruna headed for Mount

    LeeAnn Maruna never really expected to play collegiate golf. She was so taken aback when the opportunity presented itself, she didn’t know how to respond. After all, the Grand Valley graduate had only been playing the game for a few years.

    July 23, 2014

  • Crate Late Models featured

    The Evergreen Lake Park Campground Crate Late Models, the premier class at Raceway 7, will be featured Friday night as they race for $1,000 to win.

    July 23, 2014

  • Norm He’s the Norm

    In the early part of the 20th century, as golf was taking off in popularity, it was not uncommon for boys to take up the game after becoming caddies.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don A Don McCormack column: The journey is what’s most important

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard over and over and over how it’s been a half-century since one of Cleveland’s big three professional sports teams have won a championship.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Murdick wins as Big Block Modifieds return

    The BRP Big Block Modifed Tour returned to Raceway 7 with 21 of the region’s fastest Modifieds turning out for the scheduled 35-lap event, the first for the Modifieds at the northeast Ohio speedplant since 2005, an event won by Todd Burley.

    July 21, 2014

  • Dale Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Chances for controlled waterfowl hunting

    Waterfowl hunters are invited to participate in special drawings for controlled hunting opportunities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. The drawing dates and times are as follows:

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingsville gets it done

    In a rematch of a previous softball clash between the Kingsville 9-10-year-olds and those from Conneaut, Kingsville had settled thing quickly and decisively in a mercy-rule triumph.

    July 20, 2014

  • TD Club golf A Chris Larick column: TD Club hopes to score

    Though its life was never seriously threatened, the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club has suffered in recent years.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Don A Don McCormack column: A heartfelt plea to curb violence

    Like everyone who loves soccer — and the rest of us whose interest level rises dramatically every four years when the World Cup comes around — Kevin Meier was appalled at the recent attack of soccer referee John Bieniewicz in Michigan by a player that resulted in Bieniewicz tragically dying.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video