The Watterson High School boys basketball team held its opponents to an average of 42.1 points last season while scoring an average of 49.3.
This season, 20th-year coach Vince Lombardo, would like to see the Eagles continue their defensive prowess but increase their offensive production.
Watterson, which opened Nov. 30 with a 59-55 win over Dublin Jerome, finished 17-7 overall last season while winning its first CCL title since 2004 and reaching a Division II district final for the fourth consecutive season.
The Eagles finished 10-14 in the 2010-11 season when they averaged 41.8 points and allowed an average of 43.6.
"We want to play a little more up-tempo offensively and score more while we maintain that level of defense that we've established the past few years," Lombardo said. "Any success we have all starts with our defense. We're coming off our two best defensive seasons, and we want to try to keep that up while improving what we do offensively. If we can find a way to do that, we should be in for a good season."
Watterson returns five players in 6-foot-4 senior post player Bryan Jackson, 6-4 junior forward Matt Lehmann, 5-10 junior guard Cody Calhoun, 6-3 junior wing player Andy Grieser and 6-3 senior wing player Greg Jacknewitz.
Last season, Jackson averaged 7.6 points and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Grieser averaged 6.5 points, with Lehmann and Calhoun averaging 5.3 and 4.0 points, respectively.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Joe DiOrio (6-3, wing player), Mason Fisher (6-0, wing player), Tom Geraghty (5-8, guard), Matt Hughes (6-5, post player), Ryan Lewis (6-1, wing player), Greg Oman (6-1, wing player) and Sam Severance (6-0, guard).
Against Jerome, Jackson had 23 points and 14 rebounds. Lewis had 14 points and Lehmann scored 12.
"We have a nice core group returning and any time you have that kind of experience, it gives your guys an extra level of confidence because they know what to expect," Lombardo said. "We have good size and length and our athleticism is a little better than we've had in a while. We're getting good leadership out of our guys, too."
Last season, Watterson went 7-1 in the CCL to finish ahead of Hartley (6-2), St. Charles (4-4), DeSales (2-6) and Ready (1-7).
The Eagles swept Hartley, winning 36-35 and 36-34, and DeSales, winning 50-38 and 42-32, in league play.
Watterson, which opens CCL play Dec. 21 at home against Ready, was seeded fourth in the district tournament last season and defeated Sparta Highland 63-23, 11th-seeded Big Walnut 48-41 and third-seeded Hartley 45-43 before losing to second-seeded Brookhaven 57-43 in a district final.
"Hartley is returning some quality athletes and the coaching throughout the CCL is outstanding, so our league will be very competitive once again," Lombardo said. "We're going to work hard to compete for our league and district titles. We play a tough non-league schedule and that benefits us, especially when it's tournament time."
Numbers still issue for wrestling team
The wrestling team continues to deal with low numbers.
Watterson had eight members in its program in the 2009-10 season, 12 in the 2010-11 season and eight last season. The Eagles have nine this season, but sophomore Neejad Chidiac (126/132 pounds) isn't eligible to compete this season after transferring from Columbus Academy.
Watterson, which opens Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Kilted Klassic at Sparta Highland, returns four members of last season's squad in senior Nicky DiCarlo (160) and juniors Mark Guza (132), Mike Guza (126) and Mitch Werner (182).
DiCarlo and Mike Guza are team captains.
Last season in the Division II sectional tournament at Big Walnut, DiCarlo went 4-1 and placed third at 138 to secure one of the four district-qualifying spots. He then went 1-2 at district at Uhrichsville Claymont as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state at Ohio State.
Also at sectional, Mike Guza went 1-3 and placed sixth at 106.
Rounding out the team are junior Seth Cones (138/145) and freshmen Ben Kring (120), Cody McKenzie (138/145) and Karrington Norwood (170).
"We're not going to be able to fill all of the weight classes, but the nice thing is we have six of our guys lumped together in the lower weight classes so they can train together every day," said first-year coach Jeff Kring, Ben's father. "And we've had some of our former wrestlers come back to practice to work with our bigger guys."
Jeff Kring replaced Brian Flynn as coach. Flynn coached the Eagles for two seasons but stepped down after learning that he would be moving to Denver.
Last season, Watterson scored 16.5 points in the CCL tournament and placed fifth behind Hartley (191.5), Ready (180.5), St. Charles (152.5) and DeSales (114).
The Eagles then finished last (19) in the 13-team sectional at Big Walnut behind champion Sparta Highland (172.5) before scoring one point at district to tie Eastmoor Academy for 43rd behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 49 teams scored.
"We're looking more at how our guys do individually since we have a small team," coach Kring said. "We have one returning district qualifier and his goal is to improve on what he accomplished last year and go to state. The Guza brothers are back and we feel like they have a shot at qualifying for district, too."