John Betz looks to have a successful mix of veterans as he enters his fourth season leading the Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team.

John Betz looks to have a successful mix of veterans as he enters his fourth season leading the Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team.

The Pioneers have three returning starters from last season, when they finished 15-7 overall after losing to Westerville Central 58-46 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Senior guards Blake Hoskins (5-foot-9) and Matt Kurelic (5-11) are back as well as senior forward Andy Bosley (6-3). Kurelic averaged 11.2 points last season and Bosley added 8.8 per contest.

"I like this group because they really like to play basketball," Betz said. "They are hungry to win and they have been practicing hard. They like each other and they are a good group to work with.

"Blake, Andy and Matt know what I expect and they know what the league is about and that Division I basketball can be a bear."

Bosley had the program's first double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds in a 50-45 win over Hilliard Davidson in the opening round of tournament play last year.

"We are a very balanced team and it's tough to defend against a balanced team," Bosley said. "It's hard to find a weak part of our game because we also have been playing strong defensively."

Orange went 9-5 in the OCC-Capital Division last season to place fourth behind New Albany (13-1) and Delaware and Mount Vernon (both 11-3) and ahead of Bradley (7-7), Big Walnut (4-10) and Franklin Heights and Watkins Memorial (both 1-13).

Bosley, Hoskins and Kurelic are part of a six-player senior class with Stuart Fisher (6-0, guard), Zach Linscott (6-1, guard) and Matt Sargent (6-4, wing player).

"I feel like I have a bigger leadership role on and off of the court," said Hoskins, who averaged 7.8 points last season. "As seniors, we try to make sure we stay disciplined in games and in practice so we don't all fall apart at the same time."

The Pioneers have six juniors in Brandon Blake (6-0, guard), Cole Gabalis (6-3, forward), Nick Deitsch (6-1, guard), Tyler Dillard (6-4, post player), Brady Harris (6-4, post player) and Declan Feery (6-5, post player). Sophomore Justin Rieger is a 6-0 guard.

"Our juniors have been 37-2 in their first two years in high school," said Betz, whose team opens, Friday, Dec. 2, at home against Beechcroft. "We have kept that group together and they have a lot of confidence. We have a good mix with them and our three returning senior starters. We have a cautious optimism.

"This group has a lot of weapons and anyone can step up on any given night. They have the drive to succeed and they have a chance to be a really good team."
Kurelic said the Pioneers have been meshing offensively in the preseason.

"We are a very balanced team and it's tough to defend against a balanced team," Kurelic said. "It's hard to find a weak part of our game because we also have been playing strong defensively."

Betz said defense could be the key to Orange reaching the next level.

"We have to play good team defense and we have to take advantage of any time we can help each other out as a team," he said. "We have to have consistency from that point.

"We need to get out and go with pressure basketball. You can shoot, shoot, shoot, but you have to force some turnovers to get the easy baskets to get the offense going through your defense."