Coach Dave Gustin said the Bexley High School boys basketball team made strides over the holiday break even though it won only once.
The Lions fell at Watterson 52-51 on Dec. 22, defeated visiting Hamilton Township 73-35 on Dec. 27 and lost at home against Columbus South 55-45 on Dec. 28. They also lost at Granville 52-50 on Jan. 4 to fall to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Whitehall on Jan. 8.
"I would say we're still on course, but what we want to do is we're playing a challenging non-league schedule and now we're going to get into the thick of the league," Gustin said. "I liked the holiday break as far as practices and games. We dropped a close one to Watterson and we played well against South. We didn't win, but we did the things we needed to do to have an opportunity to win the game."
Junior guard/forward Sam Nolan averaged 21 points in the final three games in December, including a 24-point performance against South.
Nolan entered the new year averaging 17.7 points, and he has done it by becoming more diverse.
Following his lowest two outputs of the season -- 10 and 11 points, respectively, on Dec. 8 and 11 -- Nolan began changing his approach.
"He's (still) shooting the ball well, there's no doubt about that," Gustin said. "What he's adding now is he's going to the rim off the dribble. He's not just a one-dimensional player. He's going to get more shots now and that's going to help the cause."
Senior point guard Ethan Knisley was averaging more than five assists through nine games, and that has helped Nolan, according to Gustin.
"(Nolan's) teammates are getting some of the shots for him because of their unselfishness," Gustin said. "It's really an unselfish team."
The Lions also have been getting contributions from senior guards Josh Hoffman and Tyler Kondracke. Hoffman was averaging 6.6 points through nine games and Kondracke has become "our best off-ball defender," Gustin said.
The MSL-Ohio race will begin to take shape in January, as the Lions have five of their first six games of 2013 against league foes.
"After the holidays the league heats up," Gustin said. "We have to just take them one at a time. Things will start adding up as to who's on top and who's on bottom. You start to see who's going to be there in the league."
Girls basketball team seeking consistency
The girls basketball team dropped both its games in the Lady Cats Holiday Tournament at North Union, but both were by close margins.
Bexley lost to Marysville 33-31 on Dec. 28 despite 18 points from senior point guard Lydia Lake.
Losing by two points against a Division I team might not seem bad for the Division II Lions, but the loss showed what has been going wrong this season, coach Jim Strode said.
"We had a nice eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and we couldn't put our bunnies in," he said. "We also missed free throws. To Marysville's credit, they played hard and came back, but we didn't get the job done."
Bexley then lost to Marion Harding 42-39 on Dec. 29 as senior Bri Stewart scored 14 points.
"That game was the opposite," Strode said. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first half and we had to spend the entire second half chipping back.
"We fouled out two or three of Marion Harding's players, but we left 12 points on the floor at the free-throw line."
Getting better in the second half of the season is a goal for Strode.
"What we need to do is individual players need to focus on eliminating one or two mistakes from their game," he said. "We practice well and we tend to buy into wanting to be better on the court, but when the lights turn on and the game starts, we're not going to continue to improve unless we commit to eliminating those mistakes and be more fundamentally sound."
Bexley, which played Amanda-Clearcreek on Jan. 8, improved to 6-7 overall and 3-4 in the MSL-Ohio with wins last week over Whitehall (49-29 on Jan. 3) and Columbus Academy (47-12 on Jan. 5).
Lake made six 3-pointers in a 74-33 win over Whetstone on Dec. 22 and was averaging 12.5 points through 12 games. Stewart was averaging 11.1 points during that span.
"Lydia can carry us with her shooting and Bri is a scorer," Strode said. "She has reckless abandon getting to the hoop.
"Offensively, as long as everyone else chips in a few points here or there, we should be competitive."
Olivia Riley has impressed Strode on defense.
"She did a great job shutting down Marysville's point guard," he said. "As a sophomore, I'm excited for her to develop her offensive game, but defensively she has that mentality. She has a quick memory and if she gets burned she's not going to allow that to happen again."
Wrestling team 'making progress'
Coach Edward Cruz said the wrestling team was "making progress" even though recent results might not show it.
On Jan. 3, the Lions lost to Hartley 78-0 and to Watterson 36-18. In the 19-team Ready Winter Classic held Dec. 27 and 28, Bexley finished last (8) behind champion Whitehall (342.5).
"Overall, while we are making progress, we still need to work harder to improve so we can get to the level we want to be," Cruz said. "In the Centennial match (Dec. 21), although we lost, we actually outscored them 18-12 in the matches wrestled.
"However, we can't be satisfied with just making progress. We are still losing some individual matches because we put ourselves in a bad position."
Among those making improvements, according to Cruz, are freshman Dylan Cramer (152 pounds), junior Daniel Lee (220), junior Craig Music (heavyweight) and freshman John O'Toole (120).