From a mathematical context, the sum of the Newark High School boys basketball team’s success probably is greater than its parts.
The Wildcats, despite the absence of a true individual star, were 10-3 overall and alone in second place in the OCC-Ohio Division at 5-2 before playing Jan. 20 at Gahanna as the second half of the league schedule began.
“I think what it is is that our kids know how to win as a team,” coach Jeff Quackenbush said. “We don’t have anybody who’s going to put up 18 or 20 points every night, but the kids all work together really well. They understand how that works.”
Jalen Dartis, a junior wing player, might have been the most recognizable name on the roster at the start of the season, and senior guard Christian Keller made second-team all-league a year ago as the Wildcats finished 14-8. Dartis posted some big offensive numbers at times, but the scoring has been more spread out this winter with a deeper cast complementing those two playmakers.
Dartis wasn’t even the team’s leading scorer until the fourth game, and a trio of teammates took turns holding that honor until then. Overall, five players (including Keller, 6-foot-6 senior Ben Barnhart, Grant Russell and freshman point guard Jordan Dartis) have led Newark in scoring, and others such as 6-1 senior forward Daniel Logan and 6-6 sophomore Teddy Metzen have carved out niches as well.
“Daniel goes hard every play. He’s a great kid to watch,” Quackenbush said. “He’s up against bigger guys every night and plays his position very well.
“Ben, he’s the key to our season, really, and he’s doing a better job staying away from foul trouble here lately. Teddy’s giving us some quality minutes, and Jordan’s shown he can handle running the offense. He’s got great instincts.”
The players’ overall skill set and unselfish attitudes have allowed Quackenbush to be flexible with his lineup, too. Keller, who ran the offense the past two seasons, was moved off the point when Jordan Dartis emerged early. That enabled Keller to play more to his strengths, which include penetration in the lanes.
After 13 games, Keller was leading the team in scoring average (12.2 points per game), assists (2.8), 3-point percentage (46.4) and total steals (23). Jalen Dartis was averaging 10.2 points, followed by Jordan Dartis (9.7), Logan (9.5) and Barnhart (8.2). Jordan Dartis had made a team-high 17 3-pointers, including three in a 74-49 win over Lancaster on Jan. 13 and four in a 49-39 victory over Mount Vernon the following night.
All that had the Wildcats chasing only first-place Pickerington Central, which was ranked third in the latest Division I state poll led by Northland, in the OCC-Ohio. The Tigers, who beat Newark 56-53 on Jan. 3, were 12-0 overall and 7-0 in the league before playing Lancaster on Jan. 20. Grove City, Reynoldsburg and Gahanna were one game behind Newark at 4-3 in the OCC-Ohio before Jan. 20.
“We separated ourselves, but at one point there were five of us tied for second (in the league),” Quackenbush said. “It’s a tough league, and there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. The good thing is that it’s preparing us for those tense games you see in the (Division I district) tournament.”
The Wildcats play host Tuesday, Jan. 24, to Reynoldsburg, which won the first-round game 52-38 on its home floor Dec. 9. They’ll play at Groveport on Friday, Jan. 27.
•BASEBALL — Newark Catholic seniors Jimmy Lough and Garrett Vernau have signed letters of intent to play at Ohio State and Division II Tiffin, respectively.
Lough posted a 7-2 record and 0.32 ERA last spring as the Green Wave advanced to the Division IV state tournament for the third consecutive season, eighth time since 2002 and 12th time overall. He struck out 60 in 60 innings and threw a perfect game in the district tournament when Newark Catholic defeated Shekinah Christian 3-0 in a semifinal.
Buckeyes coach Greg Beals also signed Delaware’s Jacob Bosiokovic, a 6-6 corner infielder who was named the Division I state Player of the Year in 2011 by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association, and Columbus Academy first baseman Zach Ratcliff.