The Canal Winchester High School boys basketball team lost six of its top eight players from a year ago to graduation, including four starters in center Joe Collier, point guard Sam Jones, forward Kyle Schriml and guard Michael Walker.

The Canal Winchester High School boys basketball team lost six of its top eight players from a year ago to graduation, including four starters in center Joe Collier, point guard Sam Jones, forward Kyle Schriml and guard Michael Walker.

The Indians finished 14-7 overall and tied Teays Valley for first in the MSL-Buckeye Division at 11-3, marking their first league championship since 2008. Seeded fourth in the Division II district tournament, they lost to Watterson 39-37 in overtime in the second round after having a first-round bye.

Walker averaged 13.5 points and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district, and Schriml averaged 10.5 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Jones was honorable mention all-league and Collier averaged a team-high seven rebounds.

Despite losing so many key players, 25th-year coach Kent Riggs is optimistic that the Indians will reload rather than rebuild this season.

"We lost a good group of seniors, but we're fortunate to have good senior classes come through here just about every year," said Riggs, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 2, at home against Pickerington North and begins league play Dec. 10 at Bloom-Carroll. "Most of our seniors didn't get to play much last year, but we've been fortunate enough to have four or five seniors from each class step forward and play well for us each season, and that's what we're expecting again this year."

The Indians return one starter in 6-foot-5 senior forward Austin Whitlatch.

Senior forwards Connor Barber (6-0), Zach Cowan (6-2) and Alex Fox (6-4), senior guard Zach Petty (6-2), junior guard Dave Hawkins (5-10) and sophomore point guard Shemar Waugh (5-7) also are returning letterwinners.

Rounding out the team are junior center Zach Morehead (6-5), sophomore center Brandon Manley (6-5) and sophomore guards Daltyn Colley (6-2), Jalen Smith (5-8) and Landon Yeartie (5-5).

"We lost so much of our scoring, so we're looking for consistency and guys who we can count on," Riggs said. "We have pretty good size and length. We're athletic and our team speed is a little bit above average. We're going to play the same style of man defense that we've always played to create pressure and take teams out of their rhythm."

The Indians are aiming for an outright MSL-Buckeye title, but Riggs knows that will be a daunting task.

"Bloom-Carroll is probably the team to beat because they have most of their kids back," Riggs said. "Logan Elm has always been good the past several years and Fairfield Union has a lot of kids back as well. We want to keep improving so we can stay in the mix with those teams."

Canal Winchester has moved up to Division I this season.

"We're going to be one of the smaller Division I teams in the tournament, but I feel like we already play a lot of Division I teams in our non-league schedule, so we're ready for the move up," Riggs said. "We just need to hang our hats on playing good defense."