The Hartley High School girls basketball team got an early test to its psyche when it lost senior starting guard Anna Kirk to a season-ending knee injury during a 41-37 win over Westerville Central on Dec. 15.
Coach Mike Lanza has been pleased with the way his other players have filled that gap.
The Hawks followed with consecutive victories over Utica (55-53 on Dec. 22), Hilliard Bradley (48-37 on Dec. 27), Hilliard Darby (56-30 on Dec. 28) and Ready (46-43 on Jan. 5) to improve to 9-2 overall before playing Licking Valley on Jan. 8.
"It definitely affects your team, especially considering the quality player and person that she is," Lanza said of Kirk. "We've had some girls step up."
In addition to junior Alexis Britford continuing to serve as point guard, senior LaQuana Hordge, junior Taylor Kilgore and sophomores Ariel Packer and Sydney Williams have split time at guard.
Hartley's biggest area of depth heading into the season might have been its post game, where seniors Jyla Hicks and Jaana Motton and sophomore Marissa Brown again are key players.
The Hawks have their eyes on a Division II district championship after going 17-6 but losing in a district semifinal a year ago.
Lanza is hoping the loss of Kirk, who averaged six points last season and has signed to play softball at Ohio State, is something his team will continue to overcome.
"Everybody has been playing pretty well," Lanza said. "Hopefully we can keep some positive momentum going. We've always played a lot of girls, but all of the girls have been getting more minutes now. Jyla and Jaana have been rotating in the middle and Marissa is starting to come along as a sophomore in the post. The guards we have are all kind of stepping up.
"We've always been a decent defensive team. I think our length gives people some problems, but we've also been able to play some good man (defense). We're still not shooting the kind of percentage we need to win a district championship. Anna was kind of like a do-everything player. Now we're doing it more as a group."
Boys team trying to come together
Because four members of the football team that reached a Division IV state semifinal also are among the key players on the boys basketball team, the squad didn't play its opener until Dec. 15 and played only four games during the 2012 portion of its schedule.
Coach Randy Kortokrax hoped that was enough to prepare for a stretch of nine games from Jan. 5-25.
"We're fixing to get slammed (with a busy schedule) against some good teams, so we're going to need some depth," Kortokrax said. "It's going to be a battle. We're going to have to finish to win games."
Hartley, which averaged just 42.8 points in its first four games, beat Canal Winchester 59-50 on Jan. 5 to improve to 4-1.
During a 39-35 loss to Granville on Dec. 29, the Hawks missed 11 layups.
Junior guard Chris Moxley didn't play in Hartley's first two games because of an injury but returned for a 41-34 win over Duncan Falls Philo on Dec. 28.
Junior guard Drew Onega suffered a knee injury in a 49-37 win over DeSales on Dec. 21 and could be out for significant time.
Senior Kris Little, a 6-foot-2 forward who averaged 7.3 points last season, did not play in the first five games but is expected to return Thursday, Jan. 10, at Ready.
"Once again, we've been hit with injuries," Kortokrax said. "We're playing a little undermanned. I'm a little leery to press because we're not that deep. Our depth is good enough to win some games, but we're going to have to hit some shots from the perimeter."
Young wrestling team gaining experience
According to coach Kevin Petrella, the wrestling team has been led by juniors Grant Rathburn (132 pounds) and Jack Zang (145) and sophomore Kristopher Hill (113).
Much of the remainder of the Hawks' lineup has been filled by sophomores and freshmen.
"We've got a young group of kids," Petrella said. "We wrestled pretty well in our first few matches. We talked about beating the guys we're supposed to beat. We had kind of a letdown at (the Doan Ford Invitational on Dec. 14 and 15 at Barnesville). We thought we had quite a few who could have placed, but we only ended up with one placer."
Petrella is looking forward to his team being the host squad for the Catholic Invitational Tournament on Jan. 19 and 20 at Olentangy Liberty.
Hartley's gym, according to Petrella, isn't big enough for the CIT, which is expected to field more than 30 teams.
Petrella arranged to have the event at Liberty because of his connection to coach Mark Marinelli, who formerly coached at DeSales.