A coach can measure his team's progress not just by the outcome of contests, but by how close it comes to reaching its potential.
Such is the case with Groveport Madison High School boys basketball coach Ryan Grashel, who is pleased with his team's progress this season despite the fact that it was 4-10 overall before playing Whetstone on Jan. 22 and is 1-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
"We're getting better and more mature," he said. "We're becoming smarter basketball players and we have a desire to get better, which is something I absolutely love. We're worrying about ourselves and what the benefits will be for us down the road."
After beating Pickerington North 62-47 on Jan. 4 and defeating Jonathan Alder 52-45 the next day, the Cruisers lost their next four games, all in league play. They fell to Pickerington Central 60-57 on Jan. 8, Reynoldsburg 85-35 on Jan. 11, Newark 58-40 on Jan. 14 and Gahanna 67-43 on Jan. 18.
Against Reynoldsburg, two of Groveport's starters missed the game because of illness and another player was sidelined with an injury.
"Reynoldsburg is a game you just have to throw out because we were so short-handed to begin with," Grashel said. "The good news is that we went toe-to-toe with Newark the next game for close to three quarters. (Newark is) a program that applies the type of defensive pressure and discipline we'd like to have, and I thought (freshman point guard) Ty Ferguson handled it well and got us in our offense."
Grashel has been impressed by Ferguson's play all season.
"You have to give him some credit for what he's done," Grashel said. "It's a long season battling against older and stronger guards. He has shown good leadership skills and is becoming more vocal. His knowledge of the game is at a very high level for a young kid. He's going to be a great leader for this program for a long time."
Ferguson said it took awhile to adjust to playing at the varsity level, particularly the mental aspect of the game.
"It was intimidating at first, without a doubt," he said. "But when the coach puts his trust in you and gives you the ball and tells you to run the team, it's a special feeling. He told me he saw something in me and wanted me to gain the (varsity) experience right now."
Ferguson entered the week having averaged 9.7 points in his previous six games. He had 16 points against North, 13 against Central and 12 against Reynoldsburg.
"The older guys welcomed me and accepted me quick, but I felt like I had to earn their trust and respect," Ferguson said. "Once they saw how I play and saw my tendencies, I think I earned their respect. But they're always on me. I am still a freshman, so I have to pick up the jerseys off the floor after the games and stuff like that."
The Cruisers also have gotten contributions from three sophomores in 6-foot-6 center Carmearl Thomas, guard Tyrone Cherry and forward Markel Davis.
"Carmearl Thomas has really stepped in and done some great stuff for us at the No. 5 spot lately," Grashel said. "I've been real happy with the young guys and their attitudes and a lot of that is coming from the leadership of (senior guard) Mark Reed. He shows up every day ready to play hard or practice hard on both ends of the floor."
Girls basketball team continues to struggle
The girls basketball team fell to 2-13 overall and 0-8 in the OCC-Ohio Division with a 68-31 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 18.
The Cruisers entered their contest against Bloom-Carroll on Jan. 23 on a seven-game losing streak. They lost to Newark 71-28 in a league game Jan. 14 and fell to Jonathan Alder 66-49 on Jan. 15.
Senior guard Brittany Morgan had 12 points against Newark and scored 11 against Jonathan Alder. Junior forward Hayley McKinney also had 11 points against Jonathan Alder and senior guard Arkeysha Williams scored nine.
Morgan had 13 points against Gahanna.
Wrestling team preps for Cruiser Invitational
The wresting team will play host to its annual Cruiser Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Competing in the event are Beachwood, Dresden Tri-Valley, Licking Valley, Logan, New Albany, Olentangy Orange, Pickerington North, Ready, Teays Valley, Troy, Westerville Central, Whitehall and Worthington Kilbourne.
In the area coaches poll last week, Orange was ranked eighth and Teays Valley was ninth in Division I, Whitehall was first and Licking Valley was fourth in Division II and Ready was fourth in Division III.
Beachwood was 10th in the Division III state poll last week.
The Cruisers faced Hilliard Davidson in the first round of the inaugural Division I state team tournament Jan. 23.
Groveport was seeded eighth and Davidson was the top seed in Region 6-A of the dual-format tournament. The winner faces fourth-seeded Grove City or fifth-seeded Westland in the second round Wednesday, Jan. 30, at a site to be announced. The regional semifinals will be held that same day at the same site.
The regional final will be Feb. 6.