The Licking Heights High School boys basketball team vowed to get back to work after losing consecutive games for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
The Hornets fell into a first-place tie in the MSL-Cardinal Division with a 61-56 loss to visiting Grandview on Jan. 22. Licking Heights had beaten Grandview 60-46 on Dec. 14.
"Our guys have been spoiled in some ways," coach Nathan Clark said. "We've shown up athletically and beaten some teams early. In some of those wins, we haven't had to work hard enough to get good possessions offensively.
"Now that we are seeing teams the second time (in league play) and they're playing to take away our first or second options, we've got to show mental fortitude and get higher-percentage shots. We've got some things to work on."
Licking Heights was 8-1 in the league before playing Liberty Union on Jan. 26, while Grandview was 8-1 before playing Berne Union the same night.
The Hornets never led in their rematch with Grandview. They trimmed a 14-point, third-quarter deficit and were within one possession of tying or taking the lead four times in the final six minutes.
When the Hornets trailed 55-53 with 1:43 left and got a defensive stop, a potential fastbreak was thwarted when junior guard Babe Murphy caught an outlet pass, bumped into an official and the ball went out of bounds and back to Grandview.
The Bobcats made four free throws in the final 26 seconds to pull out the win and spoil a 35-point effort from Murphy, who was 12-for-19 from the field en route to his career-high output.
"I've never had a game like that before where I had such a hot hand," Murphy said. "I just wish it would've been in a win and that I could've gotten some more of my teammates involved. They started to zero in on me defensively, and had I gotten my teammates involved earlier, they may have been ready to make some shots down the stretch. I need to be a distributor because that's my role on the team."
Licking Heights went 18-for-18 from the free-throw line, but was outrebounded 31-19.
"Babe is our emotional leader, a passionate player, and he shows that every day in practice," Clark said. "He tried to will us back into it and we fed off his intensity. We were a little too lethargic and finally got going. If we had four more minutes, it might have been a different outcome."
Grandview held senior guard John Righter to eight points, 10 below his average.
"We have to do a better job of screening and getting him open," Clark said. "I keep telling them that we can't keep relying on two guys. The other guys either need to make some shots or get to the rim."
The Hornets' 12-game winning streak ended Jan. 19 when they lost to Zanesville Maysville 63-60 in the Route 40 Classic at Zanesville West Muskingum.
"We had too many empty possessions and didn't get stops in the fourth quarter," Clark said. "We allowed 36 combined points in the first three quarters and then they scored 27 in the fourth. They scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and we missed at least four wide-open layups."
Righter scored 23 points and Murphy had 20.
Through 14 games, Murphy was averaging 18.6 points and Righter was averaging 18.3.
Righter was among the area leaders in 3-point shooting (45.9 percent, 34-for-74) and free-throw shooting (76.3 percent, 58-for-76) and also was averaging 2.4 assists and 2.7 steals.
Murphy was averaging 7.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.7 steals. He was 98-for-192 (51 percent) from the field.
Junior guard DeAnthony Hosley (8.4 points per game), junior forward Douglas Benniefield (6.0), senior guard Ty Green (5.6) and junior forward Dante Burnette (5.6) followed in scoring. Benniefield was averaging 5.1 rebounds, Hosley was averaging 3.1 assists and Green was averaging 2.5 steals.
Winning streak ends
for girls team
The girls basketball team had its five-game winning streak snapped Jan. 19 with a 58-49 loss to Liberty Union.
The Hornets also lost to Licking Valley 79-59 on Jan. 23 and were 8-9 overall and 4-4 in the MSL-Cardinal before playing West Jefferson on Jan. 25.
Licking Heights will play two road league games this week, facing Berne Union on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and Millersport on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Hornets lost to Berne Union 46-44 on Dec. 21 and beat Millersport 62-27 on Jan. 3.
Wrestling team forfeits state opener
The wrestling team had to forfeit its Division II state team tournament opener against Licking Valley on Jan. 23 because it could not fill the required eight weight classes.
With three injuries and an illness, the Hornets were down to seven healthy wrestlers.
They hope to be near full strength in time for the MSL-Cardinal tournament Saturday, Feb. 2, at Grandview.
The Hornets finished fifth (168) in the 10-team Robin Drumm Classic on Jan. 19 at Heath. Sparta Highland (283) won.
Ty Yeager (132) was second, losing to Waterford's Austin Lang 6-5 in the championship. Also finishing as a runner-up was Brandon Haist (113).
Anthony Haist (106), A.J. Velasquez (220) and Michael Zaky (heavyweight) all finished third, and Nick Campbell (126) and James Shaw (138) were fifth.
After that tournament, Yeager was 16-2, Velasquez was 14-5, Brandon Haist was 16-8, Anthony Haist was 12-8 and Zaky was 14-9.