Newark High School boys basketball coach Jeff Quackenbush knows there's much to respect about what the teams in the OCC-Ohio Division have accomplished since the current eight-team setup was established in 2008-09.
Grove City won a Division I district title in 2009, Gahanna was a state semifinalist in 2010, Pickerington Central won the state title in 2012 and Gahanna and Central made appearances in the regional tournament last season.
The Wildcats, who won the state title in 2008, shared the league title last season with Grove City, Central and Rey-noldsburg. They all went 10-4, a game better than Gahanna.
There's no reason to expect anything less this season, according to Quackenbush.
"It's been really good since they realigned," he said. "Pickerington Central's got a bunch of talent back with a lot of experience, and the same thing with Gahanna. Reynoldsburg is reloading, but they got a good win at Westerville South (72-67 on Nov. 29) and Grove City has already scored over 100 points (in a 107-48 win over Westland on Nov. 29)."
After being a district runner-up last season, Newark features an experienced group led by junior guard Jordan Dartis.
In a league-opening 66-37 win over Pickerington North on Dec. 9, Dartis made four 3-pointers and scored 21 points and 6-foot-6 senior post player Teddy Metzen had 15 points.
Other key players are senior guard Grant Russell and juniors Khayle Woods (guard), Darius Shackleford (forward) and Dustin Stoneburner (forward).
The Wildcats were 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league before playing Gahanna on Dec. 13 with a chance for the program's 1,500th win.
Newark closes the 2013 portion of its schedule Dec. 27 and 28 as host to the Newark Holiday Tournament, which also includes Cincinnati Hughes, Middletown and Painesville Riverside.
"The thing I like about it is that you get to play some teams from different parts of the state," Quackenbush said.
The Newark girls team was 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Gahanna on Dec. 13.
On Dec. 7, the Wildcats lost to Pickerington North 53-42 as senior guard Maggie Mitchell, an Ashland University signee, was held to eight points. Junior Kym Royster, a 6-2 post player, had 19 points.
From Dec. 27-30, the girls team will compete in the Carolina Invitational at Johns Island (S.C.) St. John's.
Green Wave boys fielding young roster
The Newark Catholic boys basketball team has a younger look after losing a 2013 senior class that included the program's all-time leading scorer in Jett Speelman.
The Green Wave was 2-1 overall and in the LCL before playing Dec. 13 against Licking Valley.
"I thought we had a good summer, but we lost eight seniors and one of our returning players, (senior) Chayce Crouch, made a commitment to play football at Illinois so he's not playing (basketball)," coach Eric Sheck said. "So we're looking at having one returning letterwinner."
Without Speelman, who is playing for Ashland after scoring 1,291 career points and making the ThisWeek Super 12 last season, 6-7 senior post player Conor Keck is the most experienced returnee. He has signed with Walsh.
Also taking on key roles are sophomore guard Max Hogue, 6-1 senior forward Jacob Capretta and juniors Colin Keck (6-4, post player) and Joe Moerman (guard).
"Conor's always been a good rebounder and defender and we need him to step up his game offensively a little," Sheck said. "Max Hogue has done really well so far."
The Green Wave also will be the host team for a tournament during the holiday break. The Newark Catholic Holiday Tournament will include Big Walnut, Alliance Marlington and Shekinah Christian on Dec. 27 and 28.
New Aces coaches excited for season
John Sands and Tyler Prose both knew how special of an opportunity they had when they became the coaches for the Granville swimming and diving program in the offseason.
Sands, who is the girls coach, is a 2004 Granville graduate. Prose is a 2003 Westerville North graduate who is leading the boys team after serving as Dublin Jerome boys coach the last six seasons.
On Dec. 7, the girls placed second (273) behind Upper Arlington (488) and the boys were 11th (128) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (485) in the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State.
"I am extremely excited to be back involved with Granville swimming in large part because of what this current group of swimmers has helped build and establish," Sands said.
The girls team returns all four members of the 200 medley relay that won a Division II state title last season in a state-record 1 minute, 44.22 seconds in seniors Sydney King, Keely Lovern and Kassandra Mestemaker and junior Abby Stone.
Granville placed fourth (159) at state behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (321). Stone took fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:05.57) and fourth in the 100 freestyle (51.44), King was third in the 500 free (4:58.78), Lovern was sixth in the 100 backstroke (57.11) and Mestemaker took seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.02). Senior Dannie Roberts also competed at state last year.
The boys team, which was 28th at state a year ago, has a trio of returning state competitors in senior Sam Wagner and juniors Timmy Spichiger and Grant Stahl.