Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball coach Jordan Blackburn re-emphasized the importance of defensive responsibility and taking care of the ball to his players after a recent game.
The Pacers were 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Watkins Memorial on Jan. 18. They had a four-game winning streak come to an end with a 79-63 loss to Olentangy in a league contest Jan. 11.
"Those were the two things which really stood out and hurt us against Olentangy," Blackburn said. "We didn't keep them in front of us and allowed too much penetration, which provided them with layups, open 15-footers and open 3-pointers after our defensive rotations. We had gone four games in a row holding teams to 40-some points, if you take out the last three or four minutes against Franklin Heights when we went to the bench.
"We also (had) 23 turnovers against Olentangy. We had seven or fewer in our previous three games, so we're going back to working on some of those basics."
The Pacers outrebounded Olentangy 40-18 and shot 46.8 percent from the field but were plagued by turnovers.
"We're very unselfish and our shot selection has been great, but you can't have wasted trips and not even attempt shots," Blackburn said.
Despite the loss to Olentangy, Blackburn continues to be impressed with the way his younger players have stepped up, particularly sophomore guards Khalil Iverson and Noble Moore.
Iverson, who is 6-foot-4, had 28 points and 18 rebounds against Olentangy after having 14 points and 11 rebounds in an 80-55 win over Franklin Heights on Jan. 8. He was averaging 13.4 points and 11.4 rebounds through 11 games.
"When I look around and see two of our top players, I keep reminding myself they're just sophomores and that's amazing," Blackburn said. "Noble has become a vocal leader and does a lot of things people don't see in a box score. Khalil has a vertical leap of 35 inches and plays like a senior."
Senior point guard Mike Wells, who was averaging 24.7 points, also emerged as a key player his sophomore season.
"It's a testament to our philosophy and what we have set up," Blackburn said. "Pete Griggs, Eric Burris, Brian Heber and Brian Gazarek are among the guys who have helped us set the foundation of our youth program, which has become the backbone of the program. They have enabled us to streamline our instruction of basketball in grades 3-12. We've got a lot of good, young talent in the pipeline and it's something that we hope to continue taking advantage of in years to come."
Beard, Aburmaieleh step up for girls team
The girls basketball team continues to try to battle through injuries, illnesses, a lack of size and little experience.
The Pacers, who were 4-10 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing Watkins Memorial on Jan. 18, began the season with only three returnees, including one who has yet to play because of injury in senior post player Bethany Naegele.
"When you start with little varsity experience and you find what you think will work, only to have more injuries and illnesses change lineups and substitution patterns, you know it'll be a big learning experience," coach Erin Margraf said. "We weren't young in terms of class, just experience. But I am very pleased with the progress and contributions we've received, especially from the young girls."
Two players who have taken on larger roles than expected are senior guard/forward Allissa Beard and junior forward Miram Aburmaieleh.
"Allissa Beard is a first-year varsity player who started the year on the bench, worked herself into more minutes and is now a starter," Margraf said. "She is constantly undersized against her opponent, but she is so knowledgeable and just such a smart player that she can make things happen. It's a testament to her mental toughness that she can do what she does.
"Miriam Aburmaieleh hustles all over the floor. She has saved us many possessions by chasing down loose balls. She's often the first player back on defense to guard against a fast break. She gets tipped balls and deflections based on her intensity and desire. Like Allissa, she had no varsity experience before this season and has really developed her game."
The two have helped the Pacers compensate for not having Naegele. Sophomore post player Abbie Gore has missed time because of injuries and illness, and senior guard Kaci McCoy and junior guard/forward Katie Ellis also have missed time with injuries.
Junior guards Kristen McMil-len and Julie Bauer continue to lead the Pacers offensively. Through 13 games, McMillen was averaging 15.2 points and Bauer was averaging 11.5.
"They lead us in most offensive categories as they should being the returning starters and most-experienced players on the team," Margraf said. "They're having good seasons and it's nice that they're starting to get some help from the younger girls."
McMillen had 23 points and Bauer scored 14 in a 55-38 win over Franklin Heights on Jan. 8. McMillen had 14 points in a 51-37 loss to Olentangy on Jan. 11, and Bauer had 22 points in a 48-37 loss to Marysville on Jan. 15.
Wrestlers getting set for state team tourney
The wrestling team will be host to Westerville Central in the first round of the inaugural Division I state team tournament Wednesday, Jan. 23.
Delaware is seeded second of eight teams in Region 5-A of the dual-format tournament and Central is seeded seventh.
The winner faces third-seeded Olentangy Orange or sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman in the second round Jan. 30 at a site to be announced. The regional semifinals also will be held that day at the same site.
Also in Region 5-A are top-seeded Marysville, fourth-seeded Ashland, fifth-seeded Olentangy and eighth-seeded Dublin Scioto.
The semifinal winner will face the Region 5-B champion in a regional final Feb. 6. Region 5-B consists of Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, New Albany, Thomas Worthington, Whetstone, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne. The regional champion advances to a state quarterfinal Feb. 9.
Bowlers compete in Preview Classic
The girls bowling team finished fifth in the 12-team Central District Preview Classic on Jan. 12 and the boys team finished sixth of 13 teams.
Both teams finished fourth in bracket play to advance to championship play. The girls team beat fourth-seeded Westerville South in three games, the last of which was a ninth- and 10th-frame tiebreaker. The Pacers then lost to top-seeded Briggs 3-1, which went on to win the tournament.
The boys team beat third-seeded Teays Valley 3-2 but lost to seventh-seeded Hilliard Dav-idson 3-1 in the next round as Whitehall won the tournament.
On Jan. 15, Jordan Lanham rolled a 274 and a 210 for a 484 series to lead the boys team past Marion Pleasant 2,057-1,725 as the Pacers improved to 6-6 overall. The girls team beat Pleasant 1,723-1,634 to improve to 9-3 overall.