Through 12 games, the Grove City High School boys basketball team was in position to win its fourth OCC title in five seasons. Entering last Tuesday, the Greyhounds were first in the OCC-Ohio Division at 7-1, ahead of Newark at 6-1 and Reynoldsburg at 5-3.

Through 12 games, the Grove City High School boys basketball team was in position to win its fourth OCC title in five seasons. Entering last Tuesday, the Greyhounds were first in the OCC-Ohio Division at 7-1, ahead of Newark at 6-1 and Reynoldsburg at 5-3.

"We're excited where we are, but it's a long season," coach Greg Waits said.

After another league game Friday against visiting Lancaster, Grove City will play Tuesday at Newark in a rematch from Dec. 23, when the Wildcats won 56-51. Since then, teams have tried to duplicate Newark's winning formula by playing zone defense and limiting the Greyhounds' aggressiveness.

"After looking back on that loss, it wasn't so much what Newark did, but it was what we didn't do," Waits said. "We didn't attack them. Since then, the one thing we know we've got to do is attack and we're doing that now."

Grove City averaged 26 free-throw attempts per game before last Tues-day. Against Newark, the Greyhounds had seven.

"We put a big emphasis on getting to the foul line," Waits said.

"Once we get there we've got to finish. We shoot a lot in practice and put kids in pressure situations. We shoot free throws in a competitive nature. Watch any game in the country and a close game comes down to who can shoot free throws."

Before last Tuesday, Newark had lost two games -- Gahanna 65-62 on Dec. 9 and to Westerville North 49-46 on Dec. 27.

"What stands out about the Newark game for us is we got the early lead and played with a lot of confidence," North coach Kevin Thuman said. "In particular, our defense did an exceptional job on Dane Kopp. We didn't let him get going."

The overall theme of Newark's two losses was the opponent's ability to limit Kopp. Against Gahanna, the 6-foot-9 junior center scored 10 points. Against North, he was held to six.

"We did a good job of taking away Kopp inside," Gahanna coach Tony Staib said. "We played bigger than them that night.

"You look at Grove City and they have better size than us. Jon Smith and Dane Kopp can neutralize each other. Offensively, we spread the floor and tried to take away their pressure with back doors. We used our quickness to our advantage."

In Newark's rematch with Gahanna last Friday, the Wildcats won 69-47 behind 16 points from Kopp.

"That was the best I've seen him play against us in his four years at Newark," Staib said. "Newark was very aggressive inside and passed the ball very well. If we tried to double-team him, he would throw a skip pass to our back side for a 3-point shot."

According to Staib, if Kopp plays well inside it gives Newark a one-two punch thanks to the Wildcats' strong guard play.

Grove City creates its own inside-outside game with its starting lineup of four guards and Smith at forward. Ryan Cosgray led the team at 21.2 points per game before last Tuesday as a guard playing in a forward's spot.

"If a big man is guarding Ryan, he's got to come out and play him," Waits said. "If he doesn't, Ryan knocks down the 3-pointer. If he does, he can throw it inside to (Smith) and he's got a 1-on-1. They do a great job playing off each other."

Tuesday's game will be played at Newark, where the Wildcats are 6-1 entering Friday's game against Groveport.

"When playing at Newark, confidence is a fragile thing," Thuman said. "You've got the big crowd and it's an emotional roller coaster. Had we been behind that game, I'm not sure we would have been able to win. We got an early lead and confidence early which was a big factor."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central Crossing and Grove City boys basketball teams:

CENTRAL CROSSING

Jan. 20 -- Lost to Franklin Heights 63-61. Bryce Barnes scored 27 points.

*Last Friday -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 67-64. Barnes scored 22 points, ShaJuan Grace had 15 and Max McDonald had 14.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Hilliard Darby

*Friday -- At Hilliard Davidson. Central Crossing lost 60-49 on Dec. 19.

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Upper Arlington. Central Crossing lost 81-55 on Dec. 23.

Of note: The Comets were 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game

GROVE CITY

*Last Friday -- Defeated Reynoldsburg 82-67. Jon Smith scored 22 points and Ryan Cosgray had 15.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Groveport

*Friday -- Home vs. Lancaster. Grove City won 75-53 on Dec. 19.

Saturday -- Home vs. Toledo Woodward

*Tuesday -- At Newark

Of note: The Greyhounds were 11-1 overall and 7-1 in OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio game