Such is the competition between the players on the DeSales High School boys basketball team during practices that coach Joe Bills thinks games sometimes provide relief.
"These guys bang on each other big time," Bills said. "Take our freshman, (6-foot-7 center) Caden Sanchez. Every practice, he'll have Josh Moyler, Eric Fitz and Reed Norris -- three big, strong guys -- going right up against him. I'm certain that Caden's had it easier in games than in practices.
"That's what's going to make us better the rest of the year and in the next few years. Every guy on this team is learning a lot this year."
It's not that games have been easy for DeSales. It has only two seniors in guards Austin Herbst and Justin Thompson and, for most of this season, two freshmen and two sophomores have started alongside Thompson.
The Stallions snapped a five-game losing streak with a 59-58, come-from-behind victory over Washington Court House on Jan. 9. The next night, they lost to Watterson 54-49 to fall to 4-8 overall and 0-4 in the CCL.
DeSales typically has started Sanchez in the middle, freshman Ryan Peaks at point guard, Thompson and sophomore Shawn Snyder at shooting guards and the 6-5 Fitz at forward. Thompson is averaging a team-best 9.2 points, followed by Fitz (7.8), Snyder (7.2) and Sanchez (6.0).
As is the case with many young and inexperienced teams, the Stallions have been emphasizing fundamentals and overcoming inconsistency. They committed several turnovers and lost some 50-50 battles in the first half against Washington Court House, allowing a 14-2 run to trail 30-24 at halftime.
DeSales started the second half with a 19-3 run and overcame a 12-0 run by Washington Court House in the fourth quarter to win.
"'Value the ball' is one of our top three sayings in this program," said Fitz, who had 15 points against Washington Court House. "We hear it all the time. That's what everything boils down to. You'd better make the most of your opportunities when you're able to get the ball."
Snyder, who stands 5-11, has taken that attitude to heart. According to Bills, Snyder is averaging three offensive rebounds per game and is able to hold his own against players who are several inches taller, largely because of his hustle.
"That (rebounding stat) is with us playing 10 guys and having Caden and Eric on the floor, usually at the same time," Bills said. "(Snyder) has a motor that never stops. In a lot of games, he's been an unsung hero."
Snyder sloughed off his coach's compliments, saying one of his main roles is to push the offense when it gets in transition.
"I just try to get offensive rebounds and push us," he said. "I feel good hustling up the floor. At this point, we're all just trying to get better."
Hockey team set to return to Strongsville
Some of the hockey team's biggest successes in the past few seasons have come in the Cleveland area, and that's where the Stallions will travel this weekend for the Walter F. Ehrnfelt Memorial Tournament at Hoover Arena in Strongsville.
DeSales, which fell to 13-8 overall and 5-6 in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division with a 7-3 loss to Upper Arlington on Jan. 12, is the defending champion of the Ehrnfelt tournament. It is in the tournament's Black Division and will play the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Blades and Chagrin Falls Kenston on Saturday, Jan. 18, and Hudson on Sunday, Jan. 19, at Hoover Arena in Strongsville. The Black Division championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at the same venue.
Earlier this season, DeSales repeated as champion of the Cleveland Benedictine Christmas Tournament.
The Stallions snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over Gahanna on Jan. 11. The win came a night after they lost to St. Charles 7-0.
Wrestlers from 1974 team honored for title
Members of the 1973-74 wrestling team that won the Class A-AA state championship were honored at halftime of the boys basketball game against Watterson.
That season, DeSales had two individual state champions in Thom Herold at 132 pounds and Andy DiSabato, who went 33-0 at 138 that season. The Stallions won their 11th consecutive CCL championship, had five individual district champions and won their second state title in four years on the strength of having six of their seven state qualifiers place.
Most members of that team as well as coach Bob Triano, a member of the Ohio chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, were present for the ceremony. In addition to coaching the Stallions from 1965-74, Triano was a high school and college referee for 31 years.
The current wrestling team had a strong weekend, placing fourth (163 points) in the six-team Columbus Academy Invitational on Jan. 11 behind champion Buckeye Valley (340). Domenic Carfagna (106) and Collin Golden (120) won championships to lead 10 wrestlers who placed in the top four of their respective weight classes.
Codi Little (113) and Drew Selegue (285) earned runner-up finishes.
Swimmers compete in Northeast Classic
Anne Marie Cummins finished 11th in the 100-yard butterfly (1 minute, .85 seconds) and 14th in the 100 backstroke (1:01.4) to lead the girls swimming and diving team in the Northeast Classic on Jan. 11 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Maureen Cummins finished 20th in the 100 backstroke (1:00.55) and 24th in the 50 freestyle (26.02) as DeSales tied Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin for 31st (9) behind champion Granville (186) as 38 teams scored.
Coleman McKinney, the only competitor for the boys team, finished 18th in the 50 free (22.82) and did not score.
The Northeast Classic is held in the same pool as the state meet.