New Albany High School boys basketball coach Sam Davis prowls the sideline during games, holding back little emotion as he instructs, encourages or reprimands his players.
After the Eagles tied for their second consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship and third in four years, Davis hopes his players unleash the same kind of emotion into next season.
"We'll definitely have a sort of blue-collar emphasis during the offseason," said Davis, whose team finished 13-10 overall and 11-3 in the OCC-Capital. "We need to get into the weight room and we must get stronger. We have to win more 50-50 balls. That was an issue all season long. We weren't the greatest at rebounding either, and we took three charges as a team all year.
"Those are things with a hard-nosed mindset that we need to develop. But as far as what the team did this year, I'm extremely proud of them."
New Albany clinched its share of the league title with a 47-38 win over visiting Mount Vernon on Feb. 14, but had to settle for a tie the next night with a 38-37 loss at Delaware.
Khalil Iverson made the winning basket in the final seconds to earn the Pacers their share of the OCC-Capital title.
In New Albany's only Division I district tournament game Feb. 28, Iverson had 11 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists as the 10th-seeded Pacers held off the visiting 18th-seeded Eagles 38-36. New Albany did not score for the game's first 4 minutes, 30 seconds and shot just 14-for-40 (35 percent) from the floor.
"We knew if we made shots, we'd be OK. We thought it'd be a low-scoring game since we know each other so well," Davis said. "We got back in it, but just never got over the top."
That was a change from the OCC-Capital race, in which New Albany was in the driver's seat most of the way despite losing six of seven games the first three weeks of January. Only two of those losses, however, were in the league.
The Eagles and Pacers finished ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (10-4), Franklin Heights (7-7), Mount Vernon (5-9), Olentangy (5-9), Big Walnut (4-10) and Olentangy Orange (3-11).
New Albany had lost 38 points per game from 2012-13 to graduation.
"A lot of people doubted us," said senior guard Trey Miller, a first-team all-league honoree who averaged 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals. "We won three straight at the beginning of the year and probably surprised a lot of people, and then when we lost some games, we heard people say we knew that was going to happen. We knew we had enough talent to turn things around. We held our own, and we're pretty proud of what we were able to do."
Junior guard Alex Sparks averaged a team-high 9.8 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Senior guard Avery Schneider also was second-team all-league, averaging 5.1 points and 3.0 rebounds.
Junior guard Austin Schaub, who earned a full-time starting spot in late January, averaged 7.7 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists and was named honorable mention all-league and all-district.
Junior center John Miller contributed 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks and was special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"That junior class has the chance to dominate next year," Trey Miller said.
According to Davis, potential alone won't guarantee success in 2014-15.
"The big thing from here is about talking about what we need to do to get better as a Division I program," Davis said. "I believe our guys have the commitment to do what it takes in the offseason to make those improvements."