When the Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team plays Twinsburg in the Classic in the Country on Monday, Jan. 21, at Berlin Hiland, it's likely that the Raiders' starting five will see nearly all of the action.
That's not to say that coach Jack Purtell hasn't been gaining more confidence in his bench as the season has progressed.
The Raiders have a trio of Division I recruits in their lineup in seniors Destini Cooper (Ohio University), Shiloh Murphy (Morehead State) and Yamonie Jenkins (Ohio), and juniors Alyssa Rice and Nicole Orr also could end up with scholarships.
Their playing time, according to Purtell, is not a reflection of how he feels about players such as junior guards Deshay Thomas, Shanice Johnson and Natalie Orr or sophomore guard Chandlar Hines.
Thomas and Johnson each saw action in the Raiders' 62-57 win over Canton McKinley in a Division I regional semifinal last season, and Thomas scored in 11 of the first 13 games this season.
"There are some games we can go a little deeper than in other games," Purtell said. "Unfortunately our numbers are so low that my four sophomores all have to play (junior varsity). Deshay can play in any game we play in. She's a tireless defender and has gotten a lot better with her off hand. We like her a lot."
"When I come in, I have to come in with energy and I have to play defense," Thomas said. "I feel like we have a better team than last year. We don't have a lot of competition in the regular season, but practice really prepares us for the tournament."
Reynoldsburg improved to 13-1 with a 63-58 win over Olentangy Orange on Jan. 14. The Raiders rallied from a 30-21 halftime deficit, as Murphy scored 18 of her 23 points in the second half.
Orange's Taylor Agler made six 3-pointers in the first half but scored just four points in the second half.
The Raiders could have their toughest test to date against Twinsburg.
Reynoldsburg plays Memphis (Tenn.) Central at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, in its opening game of the three-day Classic in the Country.
Then at 3:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, the Raiders play Twinsburg, which was ranked first in the Division I state poll last week.
Last season, Twinsburg beat Reynoldsburg 49-41 in a state semifinal on the way to a second consecutive championship.
Back from last season for Twinsburg are senior guard Ashley Morrissette and senior post player Char'Dell Dunnigan, who is 6-foot-2. Morrissette scored 22 points in Twinsburg's 57-51 win over Kettering Fairmont in the state final last season.
"We're coming along," Purtell said. "We're always looking to play good teams. Our league is tremendous and it's just a matter of us find ing teams to play that are going to make us better."
Boys team on 3-game win streak
The boys basketball team bounced back from its first loss to win its next three games and improve to 12-1.
The Raiders lost to Zanesville 43-41 on Jan. 5 but followed with victories over Newark (54-36 on Jan. 8), Groveport (85-35 on Jan. 11) and Eastmoor Academy (54-35 on Jan. 12).
On Friday, Jan. 18, Reynoldsburg plays host to Grove City in a rematch of a game it won 50-46 on Dec. 7. Senior guard Jaylen Givens made three 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the earlier meeting.
Then on Saturday, Jan. 19, the Raiders travel to Coffman.
In last week's Division I area coaches poll, the Raiders were third behind Westerville North and Northland and ahead of Dublin Scioto, Olentangy Liberty, Coffman and New Albany.
Reynoldsburg also was ninth in the state poll last week. Northland was first and Westerville North was third.
"We got too complacent from being undefeated and came out too lightly (against Zanesville)," senior forward Mykel Traylor-Bennett said. "We had a team talk in the locker room before the Newark game and said we weren't going to let that happen again.
"We feel great (that we're ranked in the state). We celebrated at first, but we've got to keep moving on and get higher and higher in the poll."
Traylor-Bennett scored a season-high 20 points against Groveport in support of senior forward Wendell Davis, who had 24 points. Davis scored 20 against Eastmoor and is averaging 18.1 points.
Wrestling team to begin state duals
The wrestling team begins the inaugural Division I state dual tournament with a first-round match Wednesday, Jan. 23, against host Mount Vernon at Pleasant Street Elementary.
The Raiders are seeded eighth and Mount Vernon is first in Region 6-B.
The region also includes Gahanna, Lancaster, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Teays Valley and Watkins Memorial.
The Reynoldsburg-Mount Vernon winner faces Lancaster or Pickerington North on Jan. 30. The regional semifinal also is Jan. 30.
Regional finals will be held Feb. 6, followed by the state tournament Feb. 9.
Reynoldsburg is 0-3 in OCC-Ohio Division duals as it prepares to face Grove City and Pickerington Central on Thursday, Jan. 17, at Newark.
On Jan. 10, the Raiders lost to Pickerington North 50-27 and Gahanna 42-36.
Winning two matches were Nathan Smiley (120 pounds), James Love (182), Jordan Reed (195) and Raphael Turner (220).