As the regular season winds down, in what is possibly the toughest stretch thus far for the Bexley High School boys basketball team, the Lions have been getting production from yet another player.
In the four games before the Lions' 52-34 loss at Newark Catholic on Feb. 1, guard Patrick McClendon averaged 15.8 points. That included 21 points in an 83-73 win over Lakewood on Jan. 26 and 20 in a 70-35 win over Wellington on Jan. 29.
Bexley won three of those four games, which included a 60-58 victory over Licking Heights on Jan. 24, during which McClendon scored eight points.
"Patrick's putting points on the board, but he's probably averaging four assists a game the last four games," coach Dave Gustin said before the Newark Catholic game. "He's giving us a scoring punch and as importantly he's involving other players."
Add McClendon's efforts to the fact that four players -- guard/forward Sam Nolan (15.2), guard Ethan Knisley (8.7), guard Josh Hoffman (8.3) and forward Will Gingery (7.3) -- already were averaging more than seven points through 17 games, and Bexley has been giving opponents more to plan for defensively.
"That's definitely going to make it harder for teams to defend," Gustin said. "They have to defend, now, someone (McClendon) who's going to get to the basket. If they don't slow him down he's able to finish.
"We also have our shooters in the corners, and they're able to do their things. It really helps us. It'll open up the lane and some more shooting. (McClendon has) been very good at finding the lane and the open guy."
The win over the Lancers was especially gratifying for Gustin, as he had hoped to see a boost in scoring.
"We shot the ball really well against Lakewood," he said. "It would appear we didn't defend very well (giving up 73 points), but we really didn't defend that badly.
"We needed to come out and score some points in any game possible. We had been stuck in the high 40s and low 50s for a while. And I'm hoping we can continue the scoring as we've done the last few games."
The Lions were 12-6 overall and 6-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Feb. 5 against Granville, which was 8-3 in the league.
Bexley plays at Whitehall on Saturday, Feb. 9, before playing host to Newark Catholic on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and Columbus Academy on Feb. 15. Before Feb. 5, Academy led the league at 10-1 and Newark Catholic was 9-1. Whitehall was 6-5.
"It's going to be a tough stretch," Gustin said. "We can't look at it as a whole. We have to just take it one at a time and see what we can do with our opponents and their weaknesses, and our strengths."
The draw for the Division II district tournament is Sunday, Feb. 10.
"This year there's nowhere to hide in Division II," Gustin said. "It's a very good district."
Wrestlers continue to regain health
The wrestling team split a pair of matches at home Jan. 31, winning 36-12 over Beechcroft and falling 42-21 to Academy.
Against Academy, both Sam Shorr (126 pounds) and Daniel Lee (220) picked up victories -- Shorr by a 7-2 decision over Sam Wittmann and Lee by forfeit.
Lee also won by forfeit against Beechcroft.
Having both in the lineup has been rare this season, as Shorr missed time after suffering a contusion on a vertebra before competing in any matches and Lee injured a shoulder early in the year.
"We have definitely picked up the intensity of practice and we're showing improvement," said coach Edward Cruz, whose team will compete in the MSL-Ohio tournament Saturday, Feb. 9, at Heath.
John O'Toole (120) and Craig Music (heavyweight) each won twice by forfeit Jan. 31.
Jonah Stuber (132) split a pair of matches, defeating Beechcroft's Kasaad Tyree by pin and losing to Academy's Taylor Smallridge by pin.
John Hartshorne (138) pinned the Cougars' Daniel Bishoff and was pinned by the Vikings' Tim Leathery.
Dylan Cramer (145) pinned Beechcroft's Joshua Jamison and was pinned by Academy's Jeremy Schroeder.
Girls basketball team nearing postseason
The girls basketball team improved to 9-11 overall and 5-7 in the MSL-Ohio with a 55-41 win over visiting Whitehall on Feb. 2 as guard Lydia Lake scored 23 points and forward Bri Stewart added 12.
Bexley lost at Granville 57-41 on Jan. 29 as Lake scored 15 points and Stewart added 14.
The pair led the Lions in scoring through 19 games, with Lake averaging 12 points and Stewart averaging 11.3.
The Lions close the regular season with league games at Academy on Friday, Feb. 8, and at home against Newark Catholic on Monday, Feb. 11. The Division II district tournament begins Feb. 16.
The Lions have a first-round bye for the Division II district tournament and will play second-seeded Brookhaven or Linden on Feb. 20.