After starting the season with a pair of victories, the Licking Heights High School boys basketball team had lost three in a row before playing Watkins Memorial on Dec. 20 and Granville on Dec. 21 in LCL games.
The Hornets lost to visiting Newark Catholic 60-58 on Dec. 17 as 6-foot-7 center Conor Keck scored the winning points on a tip-in at the buzzer.
"That one hurt," said coach Nathan Clark, whose team fell to 1-3 in the LCL. "We were up 58-52 and they came back and tied it. We had our chances. We turned it over with 40 seconds left and (Newark Catholic) held the ball until calling timeout with 10 seconds left. They missed the shot and got the tip-in."
Senior guard Babe Murphy scored a career-high 36 points. He made four 3-pointers, grabbed 16 rebounds and had six assists.
"It was a pretty good night for me personally, but it wasn't enough," Murphy said. "Those types of games don't happen often, but it leaves you with mixed feelings. You can't be happy with any loss."
Licking Heights is trying to adjust to playing without senior guard DeAnthony Hosley, who suffered a knee injury during a 64-34 loss to Utica on Dec. 3. The Hornets then lost to Lakewood (51-44 on Dec. 11), Heath (64-56 on Dec. 13) and Newark Catholic.
Hosley has cartilage damage and was scheduled to have surgery Dec. 20. He was expected to give Murphy help in the scoring column.
"Babe shoots outside pretty well, but what he does best is drive the ball," Clark said. "He makes defenses collapse and kicks the ball out to open shooters. So far, we haven't found that second scorer to replace DeAnthony. It's a matter of guys making open looks.
"We need guys who can extend the defense. Our post players are around 6-foot and athletic, but they're going up against 6-7 kids."
In the consecutive losses, Licking Heights was outscored at the free-throw line. Against both Lakewood and Newark Catholic, the Hornets made nine fewer free throws. Against Heath, they had a 13-point disadvantage at the line.
"We're relying on (younger players) to knock down those outside shots and we went into the season expecting to ease them in," Murphy said. "But now we're putting them through the fire trying to replace (Hosley). They started to make some 3s (against Newark Catholic) in the fourth quarter, so they're getting more comfortable. They'll be OK."
The Granville game Dec. 21 was a makeup from Dec. 6.
Girls basketball team drops LCL game
The girls basketball team suffered its first LCL loss when it fell to Newark Catholic 61-48 on Dec. 14.
The Hornets were 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the league before playing Watkins Memorial on Dec. 19. They played Licking Valley on Dec. 21 and close the 2013 portion of their schedule Friday, Dec. 27, at Utica in a makeup from Nov. 30.
Dameras Whitlock scored 20 points and Skyler Ortiz had nine against the Green Wave.
Licking Heights posted a program-best, season-opening four-game winning streak before losing to Franklin Heights 48-44 on Dec. 10. The Hornets bounced back to beat Heath 68-39 on Dec. 12 as Whitlock scored 24 points and Alexis Sanidad added 10.
Wrestling team coping with injuries
The shorthanded wrestling team lost a pair of matches Dec. 13 at Watkins Memorial.
The Hornets lost to Watkins Memorial 48-21 and fell to New Albany 36-27.
Licking Heights is competing without a number of injured wrestlers, including John Neary (170), A.J. Velasquez (220) and Ty Yeager (132).
The Hornets competed in the East Knox Invitational on Dec. 21. They will compete in the West Jefferson Classic on Friday, Dec. 27, and Saturday, Dec. 28.