The Groveport Madison High School boys basketball team has shown growth under second-year coach Ryan Grashel, but perhaps the truest measuring stick of its improvement will be how well it fares in the OCC-Ohio Division.
The Cruisers have struggled in the league in recent years. In fact, since tying Gahanna and Lancaster for the OCC-Ohio championship in the 2004-05 season, they have not finished with a winning record in league play, going 16-84 against league opponents over the past eight seasons and 3-53 over the past four.
"We haven't had much success in our division of the OCC in a long time, so that is one of the areas we're concentrating on this season," Grashel said. "It takes playing some good basketball to win in the OCC-Ohio Division. You've got a number of traditionally very strong programs."
Groveport finished 6-17 overall and 2-12 in the OCC-Ohio a year ago in its first season under Grashel after going 1-20 and 0-14 in the 2011-12 season.
The Cruisers entered a league game against Newark on Dec. 20 with an opportunity to match their overall and league victory totals from last season, as they were 5-2 and 1-2 after beating Lancaster 76-53 on Dec. 17.
Eleven players scored for Groveport, which outscored the Golden Gales 25-12 in the second quarter and 18-13 in the third.
C.J. Crowder led the Cruisers with 15 points. Tyrell Carter scored 12 points and 6-foot-7 forward Carmearl Thomas had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"Getting improvement throughout the program is the key," Grashel said. "We're trying to build depth. We only have one true presence in the paint in Thomas and we're trying to play an up-tempo style, which means using a deeper bench.
"To play our style, we've got to become a deeper team and use more guys. We've got a lot of guards who can play and we want to use them. Plus, the more experience you get the guys on the roster, the easier it is for them to sub in. It gets you ready for future games and also future seasons. We're trying to have success now but also have an eye to the future."
Groveport, which has picked up three of its last four OCC-Ohio victories against Lancaster, plays host to Central Crossing on Saturday, Dec. 28, before returning to league play Jan. 3 at Pickerington North.
The Cruisers split their two league contests against North a year ago.
Girls basketball team struggling for wins
The girls basketball team entered its game against Newark on Dec. 20 still looking for its first victory.
Groveport dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Ohio with a 63-30 loss to host Lancaster on Dec. 17.
Cheyanne Bowman had 12 points to lead the Cruisers, who trailed 30-2 after the first quarter, and Hayley McKinley scored 10.
Groveport's lowest margin of defeat was 13 points, which came against Watkins Memorial (55-42 on Dec. 2).
The Cruisers will compete in the Whetstone Winter Classic the next two days. They will face Briggs in the event opener at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, followed by a matchup between host Whetstone and Whitehall.
The consolation game will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, followed by the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
Groveport's return to league play Jan. 3 at Pickerington North.