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Dream Team Boys Coach of the Year: Elwer led Blue Jays to historic season

Mar. 26—DELPHOS — Delphos St. John's coach Aaron Elwer called his team's season one of the best in school history.

His numbers back up that claim. The Blue Jays went 22-3, including an unbeaten mark of 9-0 in the MAC, ranked No. 6 in the final AP poll of the season, and finished as district runner-up.

That, along with several individual accomplishments from his players, makes Aaron Elwer the 2024 Coach of the Year on The Lima News Dream Team.

Just four seasons ago, Delphos St. John's was a six-win team that finished at the bottom of the conference standings. It's been a steady climb back to the top of the league, especially for seniors Austin Moenter, Collin Feathers, Joel Schraeder, Aaron Monter and Grant Ulm, but the experience of his veterans is something Elwer pointed to as a major reason for his team's outright conference title in 2023-24.

"I think any time you have a successful season like we did, it starts with leadership, and that came from our five captains and our five seniors," he said. "Whether they played one minute or 30 minutes, those guys had great body language and were locked in at practice trying to make us better."

Elwer used two words that coaches love, culture and chemistry, to describe why his team gelled on the court. He said the fact that his players spent time together away from school and the court spoke to how much they genuinely liked being around each other.

On Thursday nights after team meals, the players took part in a weekly pool tournament. They'd post about it in the locker room during the week and even had a traveling trophy for the winner.

Elwer said that those competitive moments at the table were definitely filled with some smack talk, but he always viewed it as something that brought the team closer together.

"They built chemistry on nights like that because they genuinely liked being around each other," he said. "Our parents would host (the Thursday night dinners), and they talked about how much they loved to have the guys at their house. For them to hang out with each other outside of school and practice, I think that played a big part in why we had so much success."

For Delphos St. John's, chemistry led to a strong culture, and that translated into wins on the court.

"We had a group of guys that completely bought in," Elwer said. "The word culture is thrown around a lot, but the culture of our team was as strong as we've ever had, and it started with each one of our guys' mindsets. For them to embrace their roles and put other things to the side for the betterment of our team, it was so much fun to watch them grow and trust the process."

The Blue Jays started the season with a pair of wins over Van Wert and Kalida before suffering a loss to Elida on Dec. 9. They won six straight games before falling to Shawnee on Jan. 6. That was the beginning of a 14-game winning streak that lasted until their loss to Pandora-Gilboa in the district finals.

While winning its final 12 regular season games, Delphos St. John's beat five MAC opponents, including a pair of one-possession victories over Versailles and Coldwater on buzzer-beaters from Cameron Elwer. The Blue Jays' win over Marion Local on Feb. 23 completed the four-year journey from worst to first in the MAC standings.

"We always talk about how tough the Midwest Athletic Conference is and how difficult it is to win on Friday nights," Elwer said. "It's something I learned as a player, and it's continued through my coaching career.

"When Versailles had us down late, and we were able to fight back and win the game at the buzzer here at home, that kept our chance of winning the league alive. And then obviously the night in Coldwater where both teams were undefeated and we played in front of a sold-out crowd. To win those games the way we did, that makes them stick out above the rest for me."

Two wins on two game-winners, and both of them from one outstanding player.

Cameron Elwer, the MAC Player of the Year and statistically the third-best three-point shooter in the state of Ohio, was at the forefront of every important moment for Delphos St. John's this season.

The 6-1 sophomore finished with averages of 27.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, hitting threes at a clip of 53% and free throws at 85%. Those numbers earned him a long list of honors, including the Division IV District Player of the Year.

At the conclusion of his second season, Elwer has already scored more than 1,000 career points and left his imprint on the record books at Delphos St. John's.

"He had one of the best seasons in Delphos St. John's boys history," Elwer said of his son. "I know everyone gets caught up in points per game, but I get caught up in his efficiency level and the fact that he only shot the ball 15 times per game. His ability to affect the game in multiple ways, whether it's to rebound, assist or contribute to our defensive game plan and make other guys on the team better, that's what's most impressive to me."

Cameron Elwer and his younger brother, Andrew, a 5-11 freshman, were both top five in three-point percentage for the 2024 season. As a team, Delphos St. John's was the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the state of Ohio at 42.5%.

The Blue Jays also finished fourth in free throw percentage (78%) and sixth in two-point field goal percentage (58%).

"Historically it was one of the best seasons in Delphos St. John's history," Elwer said. "It's one thing to talk about what we did, but to go out and hit shots on Friday and Saturday like we did is another. To be 22-3 and 9-0 in our league and win the MAC, and to beat the number of good teams that we beat, it was one of the best seasons I've even been a part of as a coach or a player."

Reach Chris Howell at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @Lima_Howell