Hartley High School girls basketball player Jaana Motton takes time at least one day per week to work on her outside shooting.

Hartley High School girls basketball player Jaana Motton takes time at least one day per week to work on her outside shooting.

Any help in that area from the drastically improved 5-foot-11 junior would be an unexpected bonus for a Hawks team eyeing a run in the Division II district tournament.

After she averaged 9.2 points and made honorable mention all-district a year ago, Motton has blossomed into one of central Ohio's top inside threats.

Before Hartley's game Feb. 1 against Whitehall, Motton had scored at least 20 points in four of the Hawks' previous nine games to increase her season average to 16.1.

"I'm actually doing a lot more moves down in the post, making counter moves and reading the plays better," Motton said. "I'd like to be able to shoot it more from the outside."

Motton's development helped Hartley take a 12-4 record into the Whitehall game.

During a 51-37 victory over Utica on Jan. 26, Motton scored 20 points and junior forward Jyla Hicks contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Taylor Kilgore-Barr and freshman Marissa Brown have provided depth inside.

Although seniors Michelle Summers and Jackie Russell haven't been among the team's top scorers, coach Mike Lanza believes their leadership has helped the Hawks remain on pace for a strong finish.

A year ago, Hartley earned the sixth seed for the district tournament and was on a 10-game winning streak when it lost to Lakewood 47-39 in its postseason opener.

The Hawks had been district semifinalists the two previous years, and they are hoping to get to that level and beyond this season. They were second in last week's area coaches poll behind Jonathan Alder.

"I'm excited about the way (Motton) has developed as a basketball player, but I'm even more excited about her development as a person," Lanza said. "Her mannerisms, the way she interacts with the team and the way she's trying to lead - she's good. She can (shoot) over both shoulders, has a nice little drop-step (move) and can put the ball on the floor from the high post.

"We feel very fortunate to have the post play that we have now. Our guards have all done a good job of being unselfish and they really need to be complimented."

•Although the boys basketball team is more than halfway through its season, it feels to coach Randy Kortokrax as if the Hawks are at a new starting point.

During a 26-24 victory over St. Charles on Jan. 20, senior forward Joe Brown was lost for the remainder of the season with a fractured vertebra in his lower back.

The 6-3 Brown, who missed the final 11 games of last season with an ankle injury, was averaging 11.4 points and providing a key presence inside.

On the positive side of a season filled with adversity for the Hawks, senior Jordan Fair and junior Jacob Matuska returned last weekend.

Fair, who was ineligible for the first 10 games, is expected to be a key ball-handler and should see some time at small forward.

Matuska is a 6-6 post player who had surgery in late November to repair a torn meniscus and originally wasn't expected to play this season. However, he was cleared for action in late January.

Fair, Matuska and senior Eric Siefert, who played through the season's first month while battling mononucleosis, are the only returning players who saw action in Hartley's 49-44 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II state semifinal last season.

"I'll give the kids credit for hanging tough," Kortokrax said. "We just haven't gotten any breaks. We've got to figure this team out again. (Losing Brown) makes you sick because he was such a leader, and it leaves a big void. Last year, everything went our way. We've done a nice job of figuring things out, but our kids have got to keep fighting."

•Bowling coach Margaret Owens is excited about the future of her program.

Heading into its match Feb. 1 against Northland, the girls team was on pace to qualify for the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference championships on Saturday, Feb. 4, at Holiday Lanes.

The top four teams in the North, Central and South divisions will compete in the event, and the girls were second in the COHSBC-Central at 8-2 behind Ready (10-0) before Feb. 1.

The Hawks will finish the season without junior Melanie Hutton, who was averaging a team-best 149.1 through 10 matches but is no longer with the team. She had bowled two games of at least 200.

Other top players for the girls have included sophomore Molly Stitt (129.1 average before Feb. 1), sophomore Katie Owens (128.9), senior Ashley Garbuglio (124.9) and senior Taylor Carter (121.7).

Junior William Ball (191.5) and sophomore Corey Wilbur are the top players for the boys team.

The boys and girls sectional tournament drawings will be held Sunday, Feb. 5, at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.

"We're going to get better next year because we do have some young bowlers," coach Owens said. "The girls are doing OK, probably better than I honestly anticipated. I think Will Ball has the potential to come out of the sectional as an individual this year, and Corey Wilbur has got some potential."

•WAHLE COMMITS - Senior Brent Wahle planned to sign a letter of intent Feb. 1 to play football and men's soccer for Ohio Dominican.

In football, Wahle earned first-team all-state honors in Division IV last fall as the Hawks were Region 14 runners-up and finished 11-1.

He also helped Hartley win the state championship in 2010 and finished with 214 career points. He holds school records for consecutive extra points (68) and consecutive field goals (12).

Wahle, who lives in Pataskala, also was a four-year starter for the boys soccer team, which advanced to a Division II district semifinal and finished 9-7-2 last fall. Wahle scored a team-leading 13 goals and made first-team all-district and all-CCL.