The Groveport Madison High School boys basketball team posted its first OCC-Ohio Division win in nearly two years and only its second league victory in the last four seasons when it beat Pickerington North 62-47 on Jan. 4.
The Cruisers' previous league win occurred Feb. 11, 2011, when they defeated Lancaster 51-44.
Groveport entered its contest against Pickerington Central on Jan. 8 with a 2-42 record in its previous 44 OCC-Ohio games.
The Cruisers finished 0-12 in league play in the 2009-10 season, 1-13 in 2010-11 and 0-14 last season before losing its first three games this season.
"(The win over North) was huge for us because of the way we've struggled in the OCC the past three years," first-year coach Ryan Grashel said. "Every win in the OCC, especially our division because it's the toughest, is a big step in the right direction. Now the boys have the understanding that they can play with anybody on the schedule."
Evidence of that came the next day when the Cruisers beat Jonathan Alder 52-45, marking the first time they have won consecutive games since the 2008-09 season, when they went 8-13 overall and 5-7 in the OCC-Ohio.
Groveport was 4-6 overall before Jan. 8, matching its combined win total from the past three seasons. It finished 1-19 last season, 2-19 in 2010-11 and 1-20 in 2009-10.
The Cruisers had won three of their previous four games before facing Central. They defeated Central Crossing 51-48 on Dec. 28, with C.J. Crowder making a 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired.
Their loss in that span came against Briggs, 56-48 on Jan. 2.
"We're coming together as a team, getting closer," senior Mark Reed said. "I think we are being prepared well and coach tells each one of us before every game what he expects from us that night. We've got good scouting reports and I think we're playing to our strengths."
Against North, Ty Ferguson had 16 points, Crowder scored 13 and Tyrone Cherry and Carmearl Thomas both scored 10. The Cruisers outscored the Panthers 20-9 in the fourth quarter.
"We made nine 3-pointers and we just made a lot of jump shots," Grashel said. "I thought the guys executed very well on defense and offense. Ferguson had nine points in the fourth quarter, Thomas played a lot of minutes and rebounded well and we shared the ball extremely well. Ferguson had nine assists and Crowder had seven assists.
"That's the difference between this year and maybe the last three. We're working as a team, trying to perform as a team. Then they see the unselfishness paying off. That's why Mark Reed is a great leader. He doesn't have to score and lead us in anything. But he defends and rebounds and is very unselfish. He's a lock-down defender and is becoming a more vocal leader. He doesn't have to score, although he had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) against Briggs."
Markel Davis and Crowder added 14 and 10 points, respectively,
Against Central Crossing, Crowder and Reed both had 13 points and Ferguson scored 11. Cherry led the way against Jonathan Alder with 13 points.
"It's been awhile since we've won this many games and won a conference game," Reed said. "It's been absolutely wonderful and we want to continue it. We had a crowd that went wild against Pickerington North. We've got good support from the community, the student section and the cheerleaders. We need to continue with our effort and energy and hopefully the support will continue."
Girls basketball team making progress
The girls basketball team also has surpassed last season's win total, as it was 2-8 before playing Pickerington Central on Jan. 8 after finishing 1-20 a year ago.
"We've definitely seen progress from last year to this year as well as from this preseason until now," coach Tirrell Sturdivant said. "But as a coach, you never think it's fast enough or good enough. It's a learning process for the girls.
"We understand the offense better and we're playing a lot more under control than we did earlier this year. It's a huge improvement even if it doesn't show in our record."
Groveport defeated Horizon Science Academy 72-18 on Dec. 11 and beat Briggs 57-46 on Dec. 27. Against Briggs, Tisha Lane had 18 points, Brittany Morgan scored 13 and Dai'jah Frazier scored 11.
"Of our eight losses, three or four have been by under 10 points and that's a good sign," Sturdivant said. "The first step is becoming competitive with some of these teams on a consistent basis. From there, you learn how to win, so we're headed in the right direction.
"We still need to work hard and remember our defensive principles. We're reaching too much and not taking that extra step to get into position. Our rebounding and our transition offense and defense are hit-and-miss. Sometimes we do fine and sometimes we don't. It's one thing to learn the game (and) it's another to consistently apply what you've learned. That's where we need to be."
Bowlers continue to adjust their games
The girls bowling team entered the week 3-5 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Cruisers are led by Anna Barndollar and Callie Smith. Also on the roster are Alizabeth Clements, Elizabeth Moore and Tewana Smiley.
The boys team was 2-7 in the COHSBC-South and 0-4 in the OCC-Ohio entering the week.
Leading the Cruisers are Tyler Brown, Brendon Klentz and Devon Stepney, with Billy DeMatteo and Conner Lindsay rounding out the roster.
"The girls have a little better record than the boys at this point, but both teams are working hard to improve," coach Shon Jenkins said. "They're all listening and trying to make adjustments to their game."