Despite losing its top four scorers from last season, the Tree of Life Christian School boys basketball team has remained in contention in the MOCAL and is hoping for a strong run in the Division IV district tournament.
The Trojans were 10-6 overall before playing Grove City Christian on Feb. 4. They are 4-2 in the MOCAL.
"We're doing OK," said Joe Arndt, who shares coaching duties with Jim Morgan. "We did lose a lot (of players from) last year. We're playing a lot of guys who are in their first year of playing varsity."
Gahanna Christian, which is 6-0 in the league, can clinch the outright title and its first MOCAL championship with a win over Granville Christian on Friday, Feb. 7.
Tree of Life lost to Gahanna Christian 53-41 on Dec. 13 and 62-58 on Jan. 16.
The Trojans led the rematch 43-39, but were outscored 23-15 in the fourth quarter. Junior point guard Melvin Shuler scored 16 points and senior wing player Walter Woodard added 12.
Shuler, Woodard and junior guard Carl Jones are the only players with extensive varsity experience from last year's team, which finished 16-7.
Through 16 games, Shuler was averaging 14.3 points, Jones was at 8.3 and Woodard was at 8.2. Junior wing player/post player Kurtis Goines was averaging 10.3 points and junior wing player Randell Perkins was averaging 9.1.
Goines scored 23 points and Shuler had 21 in a 64-47 league win over visiting Delaware Christian on Jan. 30.
Tree of Life lost Nate Durbin (14.3 points per game), Zac Wooten (12.7), Donnie Tong (8.4) and Mark David Wright (7.3) to graduation.
"We've hung in there every game and won some that we shouldn't have won and lost some that we probably could have won," Arndt said. "We didn't know what to expect this year. We knew some guys had to improve and some of these guys have really improved over the summer because they put in time."
The district tournament begins Feb. 21.
Girls basketball team prepares for tourney
The girls basketball team improved to 9-9 overall and 3-3 in the MOCAL by beating host Madison Christian 49-42 on Jan. 31.
Sophomore point guard Megan King scored 24 points and senior post player Mary Honaker added 11 for the Trojans, who are seeded 10th in the Division IV district tournament and play at ninth-seeded Delaware Christian in the second round Feb. 19. Both teams have a first-round bye.
The teams split their MOCAL games, with the Eagles winning at home 46-40 on Dec. 20 and the Trojans winning at home 39-26 on Jan. 23. In the rematch, King scored 13 points and senior wing player Morgan Pennington added 10.
"We can make some noise in the tournament," coach Steve Cawley said. "We're starting to play some better ball. We're getting players back healthy."
Through 17 games, King was averaging a team-best 17 points and Pennington was averaging 11.
Senior guard Kasey Ticknor has been another key player this season.
Junior wing player Monica Badea has missed the season after injuring her knee during team camp last summer.
The Trojans lost five players from last season to graduation, including three-year starter Kristin Crews, who averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds and was first-team all-league and all-district.
"We still have the ability to compete and we have competed," Cawley said. "We've had several injuries going back to the summer. I've only had three players (King, Ticknor and Pennington) who have played in every game (before Jan. 31) because we're dealing with sprained thumbs, sprained ankles and concussions. We're not real deep because we're just young this year."
Entering the week, Granville Christian led the league at 5-0, followed by Delaware Christian at 3-2, Tree of Life and Madison Christian at 0-6.
Tree of Life lost to Granville Christian 45-28 on Dec. 12 and 40-28 on Jan. 21.