The way Hartley High School boys basketball coach Randy Kortokrax sees it, how his team responds late in close games during the regular season could be an indicator of how it will handle the postseason.
It's an area in which the Hawks still have room for growth.
"This game's all about pressure," Kortokrax said. "When we lost to Granville (39-35 on Dec. 29), we missed two free throws that would have tied it at 37. (Against Ready in a 42-35 win Jan. 10), we missed a lot of free throws and tried for a steal at the wrong time. We did things outside of ourselves. I was disappointed in our basketball IQ."
Hartley also has had positive moments during a season that didn't start until Dec. 15 because of the football team's playoff run.
The Hawks used an 8-2 run to begin the fourth quarter to beat St. Charles 45-36 on Jan. 11.
Hartley lost its next two but defeated Ready 42-33 on Jan. 18 to improve to 4-0 in the CCL. The Hawks then defeated Detroit Westside Christian Academy 61-38 on Jan. 20 to move to 8-3 overall before playing Pickerington North on Jan. 22.
During a 65-56 loss Jan. 15 at Westerville Central, the Hawks put together one of their top offensive performances of the season as senior post player Jacob Matuska scored 24 points.
It was the first time this season that any Hartley player had scored more than 16.
The Hawks hope to be back to full strength by the time the Division II district tournament begins Feb. 23.
Senior guard Kris Little, who started last season but was not available for the first five games this season, saw his first action in the first matchup against Ready.
Junior guard Drew Onega went down with an injury in late December and was expected to be out until at least late January.
"We've just got to find somebody who can step up and hit some shots," Kortokrax said. "It's a very good team. Now we've got some depth."
Swim teams hoping to come together
With a state champion back for both the boys and girls swimming and diving teams, Hawks coach Tony Phillips is confident in the squads as they prepare for the league and postseason meets.
He wouldn't mind, of course, if both got back to full strength.
Senior Ronnie Bolden, who is the defending Division II state champion in the 50-yard freestyle and also was fifth at state last year in the 100 butterfly, has been leading the boys team.
Senior Andrea Cottrell again has led the girls squad after winning the 100 breaststroke and taking third in the 200 individual medley at state a year ago.
Senior Vince Canini, one of the athletes Phillips looks to for leadership on the boys team, has been battling illness.
Sophomore Lauren Bailey swam on the 200 medley relay that placed ninth at state last season but has been out with shoulder tendinitis.
Even without Bailey and Canini, the girls were second (257.5) behind Westerville Central (361) and the boys were third (230) behind Westerville Central (376) and Grove City (234) on Jan. 12 in the Pickerington Central Invitational at Thomas Worthington.
"We're coming along," Phillips said. "We've been without our fastest girls backstroker in Lauren Bailey, who led off our medley relay last year. She's expected to be back in a couple weeks.
"(Cottrell and Bolden) have been looking great. Ronnie's times are comparable to his fastest. Andrea has been working hard in practice and got a confidence-booster after she got a full ride (scholarship) to Louisville."
According to Phillips, Cottrell again likely will compete throughout the postseason in the 100 breast and the 200 IM as well as on relays.
During the postseason, Bolden has been considering whether to compete in the 100 free. He again might swim the 50 free and 100 fly even though the events are held back-to-back.
Among the team's younger competitors, Phillips said he has been pleased with freshman Jonathan Kluczynski and sophomore Patrick Lawrence of the boys team and freshman Hayley Elizondo of the girls squad.
Bowling teams prep for postseason
The girls bowling team likely had its hopes of winning the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division title end when it lost to Northland 1,680-1,540 on Jan. 10.
Coach Margaret Owens hopes her team can advance to the district tournament after finishing 17th (2,495) in the 28-team sectional at Eastland Lanes last season.
The top nine teams and top nine individuals not on qualifying teams at the girls sectional Feb. 15 and the boys sectional Feb. 16 advance to district.
The sectional sites are Eastland Lanes and Columbus Western Bowl. Even though the Hawks frequently compete at Eastland Lanes, Owens said she'll put her teams in the sectional that provides the best chance of advancing to district.
"The girls have some young bowlers, but they're starting to come on," Owens said. "They've had a pretty decent season. Honestly I'm really excited because we only have two seniors, so the future looks really good."
The girls are 6-2 overall and 5-2 in the COHSBC-Central entering their match Thursday, Jan. 24, against Grandview at Eastland Lanes.
Senior Melanie Hutton has been the top scorer with a 164.2 average, followed by junior Molly Stitt (147.9), senior Mackenzie Pugh (139.7) and junior Katie Owens (133.6).
The boys team is 6-7 overall and 6-6 in the COHSBC-Central.