LOUDONVILLE — Rebuilding is a necessary evil for most high school basketball coaches, especially at the small-school level.
But Loudonville’s Tyler Bates has discovered a cheat code. The Division IV Redbirds, it seems, only reload.
Loudonville is 9-1 at the midway point of the regular season and alone atop the Mid-Buckeye Conference standings at 5-0. That the Redbirds have just one loss after graduating the most successful senior class in program history last spring is a testament to Bates’ next-player-up approach.
Loudonville’s four-person Class of 2021 was a combined 84-15 in four seasons, including a 25-1 mark last year. The Redbirds were a perfect 21-0 during the regular season — the second undefeated regular season in program history and first since 1976 — and won just the second district title in program history and first since 1992.
“We will never be able to truly replace the contributions of our class from last year. They were a hard-working group with a lot of big-game experience,” said Bates, who took over at Loudonville in 2013. “With that being said, we always have high expectations for our program.
"We don’t expect our team this year to be last year’s team. We want each kid to have her own identity and each group to build their own legacy.”
The 2021-22 team boasts two of north central Ohio’s most prolific scorers in do-it-all sophomore Corri Vermilya and senior sharpshooter Shalen Guilliams. Loudonville’s dynamic duo combine for 48 points a night, far and away the highest scoring tandem in the area.
The 5-foot-9 Vermilya, whose older sister Grace graduated last spring with 1,392 career points and 710 rebounds, averages a jaw-dropping 27.4 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.7 steals a game.
The younger Vermilya was an All-Ohio special mention selection after averaging 15.6 points a game as a freshman.
“There aren’t many kids who earn All-Ohio honors as a freshman on a 25-win team and there are probably even less who do so and then understand that they still have a lot of work to do,” said Bates, who graduated from Smithville High School in 2009 and played one year at Marietta.
“Corri is one of the hardest workers that I have coached. She doesn’t miss a skill-session or a strength and conditioning session — and she does so while also performing at a high level in track and earning all A’s. She has made herself a better shooter from the perimeter and is also getting better on the defensive end as her career progresses.”
The 5-foot-8 Guilliams is among the best shooters in all of Ohio. She averages 20.6 points a night and has connected on a stunning 46 percent of her 3-point field goal attempts (51-for-112) after sinking a school record 92 treys last year.
Guilliams, who singed with Huntington (Indiana) University in the fall, was an All-Ohio honorable mention selection last year and needs just five points to become the newest member of Loudonville’s 1,000-point club.
“It takes a lot of hard work to become a good shooter of the basketball,” Bates said. “Shalen has put in thousands of hours in the gym and she is certainly one of the best shooters that I have ever seen in high school basketball.”
As a team, Loudonville averages 65.6 points a game while holding opponents to 37.9 points a night.
The Redbirds, who have scored 70 or more points in three of their last four games, have gotten big contributions from a talented supporting cast that includes junior Jalyn Johnson (6.5 points a game) and junior post Maddie Kline (7.5 rebounds a game).
Since the 2016-17 season, Loudonville is 113-20.
So what is Bates’ secret formula?
“We are lucky to have an outstanding youth program at Loudonville, as well as some great junior high coaches,” he said. “Our girls begin to learn about Loudonville basketball at a very young age.
"They have frequent interactions with the high school players, who become role models for them, while also becoming comfortable with our high school coaching staff. So the transition to that level is relatively easy.
“Although we expect a lot out of the kids, our community does an incredible job of supporting our teams and making our student-athletes feel special. If the girls are willing to put in the time and sacrifice to be a part of a special group, playing in our program can be a very rewarding experience.”