Big Walnut High School boys basketball coach Eric Myers sees reason to be optimistic about the future of his team even though it finished 7-17 overall this season and will be losing its top two scorers to graduation.
"We'd like to have more wins," Myers said. "But we thought we had a decent season. We showed improvement with a young team that was very inexperienced."
The Golden Eagles' season ended with a 59-42 loss to seventh-seeded and host Eastmoor Academy in the second round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 28. Seeded 20th of 26 teams, Big Walnut upset ninth-seeded and host Licking Heights 76-75 in overtime in the first round Feb. 23 after having lost to the Hornets 67-49 in a regular-season game 11 days earlier.
Senior forward Adam Shaheen had a team-high 15 points against Eastmoor, with senior guard Zach Laughman and junior guard Logan Boyd adding 11 and nine points, respectively.
Shaheen set career-highs in the postseason game against Licking Heights by scoring 44 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. He made 18 of 23 free-throw attempts and scored 31 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Big Walnut went 2-12 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish eighth, behind New Albany (14-0), Delaware Hayes (11-3), Olentangy (10-4), Olentangy Orange (8-6), Franklin Heights (5-9), Mount Vernon (3-11) and Watkins Memorial (3-11).
The Golden Eagles lose two seniors in Shaheen, who averaged 18.3 points and was named third-team all-district and first-team all-league, and Laughman, who averaged 9.7 points and was special mention all-league.
"It's going to leave a big hole for us in terms of replacing their scoring," Myers said.
In addition to Boyd, expected to return are junior guards Grant Burks, Nick Herbert and Chase LaVeer, junior forward Jeremy Bok and sophomores Zachary Asher (forward), Michael Buckles (guard/forward) and Kyle Gose (guard).
Boyd was honorable mention all-league.
"A lot of guys got some varsity playing time during the season," Myers said, "so it'll be a different scenario for us (next season)."
Girls basketball team losing three seniors
The girls basketball team will be losing three starters to graduation in senior guards Stephanie Adkins and Samantha Klinedinst and senior forward Emily Chucta.
Chucta was second on the team in scoring, averaging eight points, and was honorable mention all-OCC-Capital.
"They've played a lot of basketball for our program," coach Bob Scott said of the seniors. "You want your seniors to lead the younger kids along and show them how it's supposed to be. That's what they've done."
Big Walnut finished 14-10 overall, losing to top-seeded Eastmoor 48-44 in a Division II district semifinal Feb. 27. The Golden Eagles, who were seeded eighth of 26 teams, had a first-round bye and defeated 16th-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek 41-27 in the second round Feb. 20 before falling to Eastmoor.
Big Walnut went 6-8 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth, behind Orange (14-0), Olentangy (12-2), New Albany (10-4) and Delaware (7-7) and ahead of Mount Vernon (4-10), Watkins Memorial (3-11) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
"We saw improvement as we went along," Scott said. "We got better. We had a winning season and we competed."
Expected to return are juniors Skylar Fleak (post player), Sara Petty (post player), Hannah Seawell (guard) and Leah Shaw (guard) and sophomore Makenna Hammond (guard).
Fleak averaged a team-high 11 points and was second-team all-league.
"Hopefully, they know what they need to do to take the team to where it needs to be," Scott said of the expected returnees.
Wrestlers showed improvement
Wrestling coach Luke Moore keeps in mind that his team was young and relatively inexperienced while evaluating the season.
"'Rebuilding' is not a good way to say it," he said. "But it was a year of growth. If you're looking at our record, it wasn't great. But if you're looking at if our team got better, if our guys got better, then yeah, I think they absolutely did."
Big Walnut went 2-5 in OCC-Capital duals to place sixth, behind Mount Vernon (7-0), Delaware (6-1), Orange (5-2), Watkins Memorial (4-3) and Olentangy (3-4) and ahead of New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Golden Eagles had their first state qualifier in three years in junior Alec Eisnnicher, who went 0-2 at 170 pounds in his first state appearance to finish 31-9 on the season. He lost to Tyler Maclellan of Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy 2-0 in his opening match before being eliminated with a 4-2 loss to Clyde's Chris Moore 4-2 in his second match.
Moore went on to place fourth and Maclellan placed eighth.
The Golden Eagles did not score in the Division II state tournament, held Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State. St. Paris Graham (155.5) won the state title and Perry (87.5) was runner-up as 85 teams scored.
Eisnnicher, who was Big Walnut's first state qualifier since 2011 graduate Matt Brown (215) in 2010, went 3-1 and finished second at district Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Also competing at district were senior C.J. Harness (160, 1-2, 23-13), juniors Austin Carr (152, 0-2, 24-19), Jhordan Lang (182, 0-2, 20-19) and R.J. Martin (138, 0-2, 32-13) and sophomore Donny Didion (113, 2-2, 31-13).
The Golden Eagles scored 29 points at district to tie Caledonia River Valley for 19th behind champion Uhrichsville Claymont (182.5) as 42 teams scored after placing fifth (126) in a 13-team sectional Feb. 16 at Licking Heights behind champion Whitehall (265).
Placing at sectional but not advancing to district were sophomore Tyler Satterfield at 145 (2-3, sixth, 13-23) and freshman Wes Landrum at 132 (2-3, sixth, 9-28).
Big Walnut, which loses only one senior in Harness, was eliminated from the inaugural state team tournament in the first round. The Golden Eagles were seeded fifth in Region 14-B and lost to fourth-seeded Buckeye Valley 39-35 on Jan. 23.
"We've got a good group coming back," coach Moore said. "They're a hard-working bunch. Another year of growth, another year in the weight room and it will be a whole different story. It's going to be an exciting offseason."
Bowling program losing six seniors
The boys bowling team finished 5-10 overall, tied Thomas Worthington for 11th in the 15-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division at 5-9 behind co-champions Westerville South (12-2) and Jonathan Alder (12-2) and tied Gahanna for fifth (1-4) in the six-team OCC-Cardinal behind co-champions Westerville North (4-1) and Westerville Central (4-1).
Big Walnut finished 18th (3,227) in the 30-team sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Columbus Western Bowl, behind champion Newark (4,030).
Junior Conner Leidtke was the only member of the boys team to advance to district, where he rolled a 502 series to finish 57th of 117 competitors Feb. 23 at HP Lanes. The top three finishers not on a qualifying team advanced to the state tournament March 2 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl and Granville's Jon Massey (657) was the final state qualifier.
"We've lost some bowlers over the last couple of years," coach Pat McClelland said. "So with the guys we had and the experience we had, we did all right."
The girl team finished 6-7 overall, placed sixth (6-6) in the 13-team COHSBC-North behind champion Westerville Central (12-0) and finished sixth (0-5) in the six-team OCC-Cardinal behind champion Westerville Central (5-0).
Big Walnut finished 16th (2,391) in the 25-team sectional Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Briggs (3,757) and did not have any district qualifiers.
The boys and girls teams lose a total of six seniors, including Jon McClelland and Ciera Hite. McClelland led the boys with a 208.7 game average and was one of three area bowlers who rolled a 300 game this season, and Hite led the girls team with a 146.4 game average.
Leidtke, who had a 150.7 average, leads a group of expected returnees that includes junior Donnie Good (136.9) for the boys team and junior Alexis Beiwinkler (119.3) and sophomore Bailey Good (113.9) for the girls team.