Whetstone High School boys basketball coach Kevin Arway is hoping his team's up-tempo style of play will help it improve on last season.
"We know we're taking the program in the right direction and the kids are going to play hard every practice, every game," said Arway, who is in his sixth season leading the program. "We don't have a lot of size, but we're going to work hard and pressure fullcourt for as much of the game as we can.
"We have decent speed and athleticism and we're going to push the ball, play fast and rotate nine or 10 players. We'll need to execute, battle for rebounds and just play with heart."
Whetstone returns four letterwinners, including one starter, from last season, when it finished 5-16 overall after losing to second- seeded Walnut Ridge 91-40 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
The Braves went 3-11 in the City League-North Division a year ago to place seventh, behind Northland (14-0), Brookhaven (12-2), Centennial (9-5), Beechcroft (6-8), Mifflin (6-8) and Columbus East (5-9) and ahead of Linden-McKinley (1-13).
Whetstone opened Nov. 30 with a 79-76 overtime loss to Columbus West and played Horizon Science Academy on Dec. 3. It begins City-North play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against East before playing host to Watterson on Saturday, Dec. 8.
The Braves return seniors Claude Bogan (6-foot, guard), Steven Foster (6-1, guard) and Gary Hoover (6-3, post player) and junior Darius Bester (6-1, forward).
Hoover had 18 points against West.
"Steven Foster will be the first four-year letterman that I have coached at Whetstone," Arway said. "He's got a high basketball IQ. Claude Bogan was our top 3-point shooter last year, and he and Steven are our captains and will lead us.
"Gary Hoover will play in the paint as an undersized post player, but with good athleticism and a high motor. He's undersized, but uses everything he has to battle in there. He's really scrappy."
Hoover doesn't mind competing against taller post players.
"I like the challenge," Hoover said. "I like the fight inside. I know those taller guys are underestimating me, so I want to make sure I use my quickness and execute better than they do. At the end of the game, I want them to say that I was a pest."
Bester is another undersized forward who can defend a point guard or post player, Arway said.
Sophomore Chase Brown (5-8) is the starting point guard and had 13 points against West. Bogan scored 17 against the Cowboys.
Whetstone led West 50-37 through three quarters but was outscored 32-19 in the fourth and 10-7 in overtime.
"Our pressure forced a lot of turnovers in the third quarter when we outscored them 26-11 and we had seven guys score in that quarter," Arway said. "In the fourth, especially down the stretch, we didn't execute."
According to Arway, also expected to be key contributors are juniors Aaron Adair (5-10, guard) and Brian Scott (5-10, guard), sophomore Dre Mills (6-3, forward) and freshman Matt Moyer (6-5, forward).
Rounding out the team are sophomore Ike Boateng (6-0, guard) and freshmen Dexter Kowalski (6-4, forward), Tommie Lee (5-10, guard) and Aidan Tuttle (6-0, guard).
"Size is a concern," Arway said. "Much of the game, we will put five guys out on the court with only one player over 6-1. We must use proper defensive spacing, sprint to our assignments and box out on every shot."