By the time the Hartley High School boys basketball team plays visiting DeSales in its opener Friday, Dec. 20, its opponent will have played six games and had its entire team practicing together for about a month longer.
The Hawks won't look like a finished product since three expected key players recently joined the program after helping the football team earn a Division V state runner-up finish, but they're not letting that hinder their long-term goals.
"We'll be ready by the tournament," said coach Randy Kortokrax, whose team went 12-9 overall a year ago and tied St. Charles for second (5-3) in the CCL behind Watterson (8-0). "We've been in Division II the last four years, but now we'll be in Division III and we've got as good of a chance as anyone to win a district title. We've got to get them in basketball shape and get the team chemistry going."
Kortokrax is basing his optimism on the return of senior guards Chris Moxley (5-foot-10), Drew Onega (5-10) and Cameron Ball (5-9) combined with the quickness of several other expected key players.
Moxley was the leading scorer last year at 11 points per game and made honorable mention all-district. Onega averaged six points in 11 games, and Ball will be a full-time varsity player for the first time.
Seniors Jacob Mercier (5-7, guard) and Jared Brandewie (6-5, post player) and junior Tayron Washington (6-3, forward) recently joined the team after playing football.
Also looking to contribute is 6-3 junior forward Jair Wheelwright. His brother, Rob Wheelwright, played basketball and football at Walnut Ridge and is playing football at Wisconsin.
Rounding out the roster are senior Evan Feeney (6-4, forward) and sophomore Michael Morgan (5-11, guard).
Senior Kalil Morris, who has verbally committed to play football for Kent State and has a knee injury, according to Kortokrax, didn't return for what would have been his third season. He averaged four points last season.
Also lost from the frontcourt was Jacob Matuska, who averaged 10.8 points last season and is playing football for Notre Dame.
Kris Little is playing basketball for Ohio Christian and Trevonn Brown is playing football at Urbana after both were key guards last season.
"It's kind of going to be a weird year because we've changed our whole offense," Kortokrax said. "With Jacob and Kalil we would pound it inside more. We've got real good guards and we've had to change our style. We worked on it this summer, but we haven't done it since June."
Most of top bowlers return
Fourth-year bowling coach Margaret Owens expects both the boys and girls teams to be among the top squads in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division.
The boys will be in Division II after the OHSAA's expansion to two divisions, while the girls will be in Division I.
"I think we'll be in the top third of our division," Owens said. "Our girls are Division I, so it may be a little tougher for them (in the postseason)."
Leading the girls team is senior Molly Stitt, who tied for 82nd (372) in the district tournament last season after she helped Hartley take third (8-2) in the COHSBC-Central behind Ready (10-0) and Northland (9-1).
Also back is senior Chelsea Craft. The other seniors are Aminah Cavin, Mia Meyer and Katie Owens. Juniors Brittany Aeling and Heather Delius and freshman Olivia George also are looking to contribute.
The top returnees for a boys team that placed ninth (8-7) in the COHSBC-Central last season behind champion Ready (14-1) are seniors Daniel Supino and Corey Wilbur and juniors Jared George and Mark Thiel.
Senior John Thiel, junior Ben Makowski and freshmen John Amland, Gene Martin and Sam Rees also are on the team.
The girls team beat Brook-haven 1,765-983 on Dec. 11 and Columbus Academy 1,360-1,348 on Dec. 13 to improve to 4-0 overall and in the league. The boys team was 3-1 overall and in the league after beating Brookhaven 1,782-1,618 and losing to Academy 1,921-1,753.
Girls team coming together gradually
With senior guard Alexis Britford unable to participate during the preseason because of an injury, the girls basketball team expected to go through ups and downs.
Helping the Hawks weather the process has been the play of senior post player Marissa Brown, who had 26 points in a 49-43 win over Utica on Dec. 9 and was averaging 15 points through three games.
Britford scored 20 points and Brown had 16 as Hartley defeated DeSales 52-50 on Dec. 12 to improve to 1-1 in the CCL and 3-1 overall before playing Westerville Central on Dec. 16.
The Hawks opened CCL action by losing to Watterson 46-33 on Dec. 5. Senior forward Erin Chatman had 11 points, including three putbacks during the second half.
"This is a young team and it's going to take them awhile to get their legs under them," coach Mike Lanza said.
"(The Watterson game) was the first time out for Britford and (junior guard) Sydney Williams (also has been out with an injury)."
The Hawks play host to Columbus School for Girls on Saturday, Dec. 21, in a league game before closing the 2013 portion of their schedule in the Watterson Christmas Classic. They play Hilliard Darby at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 27 and Hilliard Bradley at 4:45 p.m. Dec. 28.
"The effort is there and the intensity is there," Lanza said.