Centennial High School boys basketball coach Roosevelt Osborne said he never lost faith in his team even after it lost four consecutive games in a 1-5 start.
Osborne said his squad learned valuable lessons from each of those losses and showed improvement while winning three of its next four games.
The Stars were 4-6 overall and 2-3 in the City League-North Division before playing Mifflin on Jan. 7.
"We played a lot of tough teams early because we wanted to see what we need to work on to become a better team," Osborne said. "The main thing was making sure that none of our players got disheartened by losing so many games early so that we could learn from the mistakes we made and grow from them. Fortunately, our kids didn't lose their confidence and we're playing much better basketball than we started out playing."
Osborne said his team is handling the ball better after struggling with unforced turnovers in league losses against Northland (90-51 on Dec. 9), Brookhaven (77-43 on Dec. 13) and Columbus East (64-52 on Dec. 10).
Centennial also had 10 unforced turnovers, according to Osborne, and missed six layups during a 49-45 loss to Edinboro (Pa.) General McLane in the Northwestern Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27 at Albion (Pa.) Northwestern Senior.
"Our biggest problem is we need to stop beating ourselves," Osborne said. "Northland and Brookhaven were the only teams that outplayed us in our first 10 games and we had trouble against their presses. But we gave away that first game in Pennsylvania and hurt ourselves real bad with careless mistakes in the rest of our losses."
Osborne said he's been glad to see the Stars gradually develop into a balanced scoring team. Through 10 games, Octavius Luke was averaging 18.3 points, followed by Joe Thomas (14.6 points), Gyai Gyamerah (10.0 points) and Anthony Slappy (9.0 points).
After scoring 39 points in a season-opening 73-70 loss to DeSales on Nov. 29, Luke has done a better job of getting his teammates involved in the scoring, according to Osborne.
"Our people are learning their roles and sharing the basketball better," Osborne said. "We've tinkered with our lineup to get all our scorers out there together and our scoring has been more balanced ever since.
"Luke is an aggressive scorer and he's cut down on his turnovers and been getting more assists. Gyai's outside shooting is key to our offense, and Joe scores inside a lot. Slappy can do a lot of different things well like shoot outside, slash to the basket and play good defense."
Through 10 games, Centennial was 3-1 when giving up 49 or fewer points and 1-5 when giving up 50 or more.
The Stars' best defensive efforts came in wins over Whetstone (95-35 in a league game Dec. 20) and Northeast Ohio Preparatory School (79-23 on Dec. 28 in the Northwestern Holiday Tournament).
Against Whetstone, Thomas scored 23 points, Luke had 21, Gyamerah had 15 and Slappy had 13.
"We're trapping well and getting more steals, especially in our (Northeast Ohio Prep) victory," Osborne said. "Joe blocks a lot of shots and draws a lot of charges, too. But we won't be able to press or trap every team throughout every game, so our man-to-man defense has got to get a lot better."
Osborne will be looking for an improved defensive effort in the Stars' rematch against East on Friday, Jan. 10, at home. In the first meeting, five Tigers scored nine or more points.
"East caused us problems with their ball-handling and dribble-drive offense," Osborne said. "We can't let them dribble around and through us the way they did last time. We need to move our feet and play good man-to-man defense.
"This game will tell us how much we've grown. If we get our man-to-man defense together, we'll be a good team."
Boys bowlers start strong
The boys bowling team rolled a 2,396 in a quad match Dec. 23 to defeat Northland (2,366), Beechcroft (2,102) and Columbus International (1,593).
The Stars were 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division before competing against Northland on Jan. 6.
It three games Dec. 23, Justin Taylor rolled a team-best 604 and Robert Turner rolled a 403. In two games, Jordan Brantley rolled a 264 and Timothy Montgomery rolled a 223.
"We're doing about as well as we did last year," coach Brian Hamilton said. "Justin bowled a career-high 279 in our (1,878-1,432 league) victory over Haugland Learning Center (on Dec. 13). That's the best score any of our guys have had the past three years."
The boys and girls squads will compete in a league match against DeSales on Friday, Jan. 10, at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
"DeSales is always a competitive game for us," Hamilton said. "They beat our boys team (1,890-1,806) last year, but we've gone back and forth with them over the years."
Centennial's girls entered the week 1-2 overall and in the COHSBC-Central. Through three matches, Victoria Evans had a team-best 141.3 average, followed by Nahira Tucker (118), Alexandria Wells (115.5) and Donnasia Allen (100.3).
"Our girls have great potential," said Hamilton, who assists first-year girls coach Ryan Dobbins. "Alex is doing really well and we expect her to continue to get better."
Four wrestlers place second at Grandview
The wrestling team finished seventh (99) in the 11-team Bobcat Invitational on Jan. 4 at Grandview behind champion Delaware (212).
Placing second were Shafeek Shafeek (113 pounds), Jordan Emmerson (120), Devon Canford (126) and Hunter Waits (220), while Mike McCallister (138) placed fourth and Marlin Holloway (heavyweight) placed sixth.