As the result of its OCC-Ohio Division game against Grove City on Jan. 24 being postponed because of bad weather, the Groveport Madison High School boys basketball team had 10 days without a game.
Before taking the floor Jan. 28 against Lancaster, the Cruisers hadn't played since an 84-63 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 17. But beginning with a home game Friday, Jan. 31, against Newark, they will play seven games in a 15-day span.
"We had one full week before we were supposed to play Grove City and we had some real good practices. The kids were focused and we basically worked extremely hard on defense," said coach Ryan Grashel, whose team was 8-6 overall and 2-6 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster. "We (had) lost three in a row and they were eager to get back on the floor. They're thirsty for more victories."
Groveport had lost to Reynoldsburg 59-57 on Jan. 10 and Pickerington Central 98-80 on Jan. 14 before falling to Gahanna.
"We tried to run with Pickerington Central and Gahanna had the ability to shoot over us because they had three to five inches (of height) on us at each position," Grashel said. "But our defensive goal is 60 points. We give ourselves our best chance to win when we limit teams to 60 points."
Groveport has rescheduled its home game against Grove City for Saturday, Feb. 1, and will play host to Pickerington North on Tuesday, Feb. 4. In the first round of league play, the Cruisers lost to Newark (51-43 on Dec. 20) and Grove City (96-66 on Dec. 13) but defeated North (53-45 on Jan. 3).
"We've beaten some of the top-10 type teams in the area in Westerville Central (54-53 on Nov. 30) and Walnut Ridge (67-65 on Dec. 14) and we challenged some other very good teams," Grashel said. "But we're still trying to stress the importance of winning league games. We feel like we let Newark off the hook at their place. We still have a long way to go in terms of our program, but I think we can get there quickly.
"This is a big stretch for us in terms of building some confidence and riding it into the postseason. Some people might think this isn't a realistic goal, but we think we can win the majority of our remaining games, get a good tournament draw and possibly compete for one of the four district championships."
The Division I district tournament draw will be held Feb. 9, with first-round games getting underway Feb. 21. According to guard Raymond Rhone, the Cruisers have set their sights on playing at least one game at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. To accomplish that goal, they must advance to a district semifinal.
"We went over there last year as a team and watched Gahanna and Pickerington Central play and we said, 'That's where we want to be next year,'" Rhone said. "We're putting the work in to try to get there."
Grashel said his team continues to work hard to improve. He's been particularly impressed by the play of Rhone and post players Jake Seipel and Carmearl Thomas.
"Raymond is our best on-ball defender and our best off-ball defender," he said. "He plays with heart and is very versatile because he can guard every position of the floor, except center. He has great leadership and stamina.
"We've also gotten great play from our undersized post players, Jake Seipel and Carmearl Thomas. They're playing within their roles, setting screens and rebounding, and they can defend inside or on the perimeter when needed. I don't know if it's always visible to the casual fan the amount of work Raymond, Jake and Carmearl do."
Regular season winds down for bowlers
The bowling teams will close the regular season Thursday, Jan. 30, against Teays Valley at Eastland Lanes.
The boys team entered the week 11-3 overall and 9-2 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio. The Cruisers were tied with Walnut Ridge for third in the 16-team COHSBC-South entering play Jan. 27, behind Teays Valley (10-0) and Briggs (11-1). They competed against Reynoldsburg and Thomas Worthington on Jan. 27 and Whitehall on Jan. 29.
Groveport entered the week tied with Lancaster and Newark for first in the six-team OCC-Ohio, which also includes Reynoldsburg, Thomas and Worthington Kilbourne.
The girls team entered the week 5-6 overall, 4-4 in the 14-team COHSBC-South and 1-2 in the five-team OCC-Ohio.
Laney wins title in Cruiser Invitational
The wrestling team finished eighth (44) of 10 teams in its Cruiser Invitational on Jan. 25.
Groveport finished behind Hilliard Bradley (233.5), Pickerington North (229.5), Dresden Tri-Valley (191), Ready (144.5) Olentangy Orange (144.5), Whitehall (86) and New Albany (45) and ahead of Westerville Central (36) and Columbus West (16).
Leading the way for the Cruisers was Shakur Laney, who won the title at 113 pounds. The junior, who was Groveport's only placer, went 5-0 in the event, beating Whitehall's Ana Abduljelil 3-2 in the final.
Laney won two matches by pin, one by technical fall and one by major decision.
Struggles continue for girls basketball team
The girls basketball team was 0-16 overall and 0-9 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Jan. 28.
Groveport lost to Hamilton Township 58-33 on Jan. 21.
Hayley McKinley and Carlisa Hayes each scored nine for the Cruisers.