The Watkins Memorial High School boys basketball team is looking forward to competing in the revived Licking County League.
The Warriors, who opened Nov. 29 against Berne Union and begin LCL play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home against Lakewood, spent the past 22 years in the OCC. They had joined that conference after the LCL was disbanded following the 1990-91 school year.
Every team in the LCL will play the others twice each for a total of 18 league games.
"We are entering our first year in the LCL and we feel every team in the league is going to be competitive," third-year coach Pat Dimmick said.
Last season, Watkins Memorial finished 6-17 overall, went 3-11 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Mount Vernon for sixth behind champion New Albany (14-0) and lost to Newark 76-55 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"We want to improve every day at practice and grow as a team throughout the season," Dimmick said. "We need to keep our turnovers low while shooting at a high percentage and sharing the ball is important, too.
"Defensively, we have to play as a team. We want to hold our opponents to a low shooting percentage and try to force some turnovers. We feel that all 11 players on the roster can contribute important things to this team."
The Warriors have eight seniors, including two who were starters a year ago in 5-foot-10 guard Clay Gray and 6-5 post player Hunter Holton.
Last season, Holton averaged 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Also back are seniors Jared Clark (6-3, guard/forward), Zach Lescalleet (6-4, guard/forward) and Ben Shroyer (5-10, guard).
Rounding out the roster are 5-10 senior guards Rickey Frey and Banks McBride, 6-4 senior post player Donovan Garrison and sophomores Joey Looney (5-10, guard), Alex Miles (6-4, post player) and Rex Miles (6-4, post player).
"With eight seniors, we're an older, experienced team, and that's our strength," Dimmick said. "To have success this season, we must play as a team, limit turnovers and force the opponents to do what we want them to do."
Smith returns to lead girls basketball team
The girls basketball team returned only one starter from last season in senior post player Vicki Smith, who averaged 4.8 points and 6.9 rebounds and was named honorable mention all-OCC-Capital.
Also back are seniors Caitlyn Conley (post player) and Monica Foutty (guard) and sophomore Emma Hock (post player).
"Vicki Smith is a key returning player both on and off the floor," said second-year coach Jayme Gates, whose team opened Nov. 26 with a 43-30 loss to Canal Winchester. "She demonstrated great leadership skills and is a motivator for our team."
Rounding out the team are senior guard Madi Moore, junior guard Anna Shroyer, sophomore guards Lexi Dennison, Kelsey Grove, Amberly Knox and Callie Palmer, sophomore post player Liz Fafiade and freshman guard Rylan Perry.
Among the players from last season who graduated was point guard Lou Nickel, who averaged 10.1 points and was second-team all-league.
"Our goal is to become stronger with the ball and have more confidence in our scoring abilities," Gates said. "We need to slow the game down in our head and read what develops in the plays and adjust to what the defense is giving us. Defensively, we want to be relentless in the half-court setting and create offensive scoring opportunities."
Last season, Watkins Memorial finished 7-16 overall, went 3-11 in the OCC-Capital to tie Mount Vernon for sixth behind champion Olentangy Orange (14-0) and lost to Gahanna 55-33 in the second round of the Division I district tournament after having a first-round bye.
The Warriors, who opened LCL play Nov. 30 against Lakewood, will play host to Groveport on Monday, Dec. 2, before returning to league play Thursday, Dec. 5, at home against Heath.
"We are very young with limited experience and our tallest player is Hock at 5-11, so we will need to play stronger and taller than we are," Gates said. "We have some very quick sophomores that will be a spark plug on defense.
"We need to stay focused and trust one another. We've got to continue to believe in each other within the system."