Coming off its most successful season in program history, the Tree of Life Christian School boys basketball team hasn't missed a beat this season in its pursuit of continued success.

Coming off its most successful season in program history, the Tree of Life Christian School boys basketball team hasn't missed a beat this season in its pursuit of continued success.

The Trojans improved to 6-0 overall with a 47-39 win over Fisher Catholic last Saturday behind 25 points from 6-foot senior point guard Nick Levin. The previous day, they defeated Grove City Christian 69-43 to improve to 3-0 in the Mid-Ohio Christian Athletic League.

"We're surprised and happy (about starting 6-0)," said 12th-year coach Joe Arndt, who shares the coaching duties with Jim Morgan. "This year's team is different than last year. We don't have a big star on the team. We have more depth."

Last season, Tree of Life finished 20-3 overall after losing to Newark Catholic 57-37 in a Division IV regional final and went 10-0 in the MOCAL to win its ninth consecutive league title.

The Trojans earned the school's first district title in any sport by defeating Harvest Prep 49-40 in the district final.

Tree of Life lost six players to graduation, including forward Bryan Redic, who was named MOCAL and district Player of the Year and second-team all-state last season. Redic, who is the program's all-time leader in points (1,177) and rebounds (656), is playing at Cedarville University.

The Trojans return five players, led by Levin, who was first-team all-MOCAL and third-team all-district last season. Through six games, Levin was leading the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points.

Other key returnees are senior forward Tremayn Blanks (6-2), who was averaging a team-high 9.2 rebounds through six games, and senior center/forward Rashawn Thompson (6-3), who had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Fisher Catholic and was averaging 9.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Also returning are senior forward Chase Grayson (6-1) and junior guard Kyle O'Donnell (6-1).

Rounding out the team are senior Jason Raber (6-0, guard), juniors Leonard Awuah (6-2, forward), Charles Collins (6-2, forward) and Lucas Daugherty (6-1, guard), and sophomores Nathan Durbin (6-1, guard) and Mark David Wright (5-9, guard).

"We hang our hats on the defense," said Morgan, who is in his sixth season with the program. "We work pretty hard on the defensive end. (Last Saturday), we kept (Fisher Catholic) at bay on defense. Defensively, we're usually pretty solid."

Arndt and Morgan expect their team's reign in the MOCAL to be challenged by Delaware Christian, Fairfield Christian and Gahanna Christian. Tree of Life defeated Fairfield Christian 49-32 on Dec. 9.

Last season, Grove City Christian placed second in the MOCAL at 7-3, followed by Fairfield Christian (7-3), Gahanna Christian (3-7), Madison Christian (3-7) and Delaware Christian (0-10).

"Our first goal is to win the league and then we try to go as far as we can in the tournament," Arndt said.

•The girls basketball team also is aiming for the MOCAL championship. The Trojans improved to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the league with a 73-38 win over Grove City Christian on Dec. 14.

Their lone MOCAL setback was a 25-24 loss to Fairfield Christian on Dec. 7. Fairfield Christian has won the last three MOCAL championships.

"We had all the opportunities in the world to win that game," fourth-year coach Steve Cawley said. "We feel we're the better team, but that night they were the better team. We felt like we beat ourselves."

The Trojans will look to avenge that loss Jan. 21 at Fairfield Christian.

Tree of Life's other setback was a 58-34 loss to Division II Hartley on Dec. 2.

Last season, Tree of Life finished 16-6 overall and 8-2 in the MOCAL, placing second behind Fairfield Christian (9-0) and ahead of Delaware Christian (5-4), Gahanna Christian (5-5), Grove City Christian (2-8) and Madison Christian (0-10).

The Trojans, seeded sixth in the Division IV district tournament, lost to fourth-seeded Gilead Christian 46-30 in the second round after opening with a 36-29 win over Fisher Catholic.

Among the returnees is junior center/forward Tori Thompson (6-1), who averaged a team-high 14.5 points and 10.2 rebounds last season and was named first-team all-MOCAL, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state.

Also back are senior post player Kelly Huston (5-9), who averaged 8.8 points last season, as well as senior point guard Joung Oh (5-5) and sophomore forward Kristin Crews (5-8), who scored 26 points against Grove City Christian.

Also on the team are junior Hannah Pratt (5-6, guard), sophomores Alyncia Mason (5-7, forward) and Hannah Murray (5-6, guard), and freshmen Sydney Grubb (5-10, post player), Jamie Huston (5-7, forward) and Kasey Ticknor (5-7, guard).

Crews and Murray have joined Huston, Oh and Thompson in the starting lineup.

"We're trying to get better each and every day," Cawley said. "Every day it seems like it's something else new that we're trying to work on."

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 3 — vs. Northside Christian

*Dec. 7 — vs. Fairfield Christian

*Dec. 10 — at Madison Christian

Dec. 14 — at Whitehall

*Dec. 17 — at Grove City Christian

Dec. 18 — vs. Fisher Catholic

Dec. 21 — vs. Marion Catholic

Dec. 28 — vs. Columbus South

*Jan. 6 — at Gahanna Christian

*Jan. 8 — at Delaware Christian

Jan. 14 — vs. Gilead Christian

Jan. 15 — at Morral Ridgedale

*Jan. 22 — at Fairfield Christian

*Jan. 25 — vs. Gahanna Christian

*Jan. 28 — at Madison Christian

*Feb. 1 — vs. Grove City Christian

Feb. 4 — at Horizon Science

Feb. 5 — vs. Africentric

*Feb. 11 — vs. Delaware Christian

Feb. 15 — vs. Northridge

*MOCAL game

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Nov. 30 — vs. Gahanna Christian

Dec. 2 — at Hartley

*Dec. 4 — vs. Walnut Ridge

*Dec. 9 — at Fairfield Christian

*Dec. 10 — vs. Madison Christian

*Dec. 14 — at Grove City Christian

Dec. 21 — at Wellington

Dec. 30 — at Berne Union

Jan. 6 — at Columbus Academy

*Jan. 7 — at Delaware Christian

Jan. 11 — vs. Danville

Jan. 13 — vs. Morral Ridgedale

*Jan. 15 — at Gahanna Christian

*Jan. 21 — at Fairfield Christian

*Jan. 25 — at Madison Christian

Jan. 27 — vs. CSG

Feb. 3 — at Worthington Christian

*Feb. 5 — vs. Grove City Christian

*Feb. 8 — vs. Delaware Christian

Feb. 12 — at Gilead Christian

*MOCAL game