Hartley High School boys basketball coach Randy Kortokrax wasn't sure what to expect after finding out that post players Jared Brandewie and Kalil Morris wouldn't be back for their senior seasons.
What transpired for the Hawks was a Division III district runner-up finish despite a lineup with just two key returnees in senior guards Chris Moxley and Drew Onega.
Hartley was the top seed for the district tournament and beat 20th-seeded Madison Plains 86-34 on Feb. 26 and 10th-seeded Fredericktown 67-45 on March 4 before falling to second-seeded Ready 51-41 in a district final March 6 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
"I've got two kids with experience and the rest hadn't played much varsity before this year," said Kortokrax, whose team finished 16-8 overall. "At the beginning of the year, I wasn't sure where we were going. I thought all along if we could just get into a district final ... when you've got two guys back, that impresses me. They made a good year out of it."
Hartley trailed Ready 18-8 at halftime and fell behind by as much as 37-20 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
During the regular season, the Hawks beat Ready 54-46 on Jan. 4 and 54-49 on Jan. 17.
In the tournament loss, Moxley was held scoreless in the first half before scoring 20 points over the final two quarters.
"I know we've got to get tougher next year," Kortokrax said. "It seemed like every time we missed a shot in the fourth quarter that they got the rebound."
Hartley tied Ready and St. Charles for second (4-4) in the CCL behind Watterson (8-0) and ahead of DeSales (0-8).
Moxley was district Player of the Year and averaged 18 points. Onega averaged 12 points and made third-team all-district.
Junior forward/center Jair Wheelwright averaged 5.5 points and senior guard Cameron Ball averaged 4.0.
Other key contributors included seniors Jacob Mercier (guard), Evan Feeney (center) and Jake Fischer (forward/center), junior Tayron Washington (center) and sophomores Adam Rose (forward), Austin Rawlins (center) and Michael Morgan (guard).
Wrestlers hoping to build from season
The wrestling team enjoyed several firsts this winter.
The Hawks made it to a quarterfinal of the Division III state team tournament for the first time. They also had their first three-time individual state qualifier in senior Grant Rathburn (138 pounds) and had four state qualifiers in the same season for the first time.
With junior Kristopher Hill (113) and sophomore Jared Croswell (220) among those eligible to return, there is hope for next season, according to coach Kevin Petrella.
"(The season) was something to build on," Petrella said. "The experience is good for the kids and the team. We'll be OK for next year."
Hartley scored 307 points to win the CCL tournament Feb. 1 ahead of host St. Charles (186.5), Ready (179), DeSales (166) and Watterson (114).
In the state team tournament, the top-seeded Hawks beat Johnstown 63-15 and Ready 52-19 on Jan. 22 at home and then defeated Utica 37-36 and host Galion Northmor 38-33 on Jan. 29 to win the Region 21 title.
On Feb. 8 at Ohio State, Hartley lost to Dayton Christian 47-21 in a state quarterfinal.
In the individual postseason, the Hawks scored 190.5 points to win the 19-team sectional Feb. 14 and 15 at Cardington and 107.5 to win district Feb. 21 and 22 at Heath as 50 teams scored.
At state Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State, Hartley tied for 26th (19) behind champion Delta (141) as 94 teams scored. Rathburn finished sixth for a final record of 43-13, while Hill placed seventh and finished 47-6.
Also competing at state were senior Jacob Croswell, who went 1-2 at 160 to finish 39-12, and sophomore Jared Croswell, who went 1-2 at 220 to finish 35-14.
Other district qualifiers were senior Trey Hampton (182) and sophomores Josh Heinmiller (120) and Tyler Sweeney (heavyweight). Juniors Aaron Hannah (195) and Nate Jula (170) both were fifth at sectional and sophomore Zach Bowman (145) was sixth at sectional.
Junior Jack Zang, who was a district qualifier at 145 last season, missed the season with an injury.
Bowling squads enjoy solid seasons
The girls bowling team advanced to the district tournament for the first time, and the boys team had a district qualifier as well.
The girls team loses eight seniors after finishing 14th (2,657) in the Division I district tournament March 1 at Eastland Lanes behind champion Briggs (3,424).
Seniors Molly Stitt (36th, 438), Chelsea Craft (57th, 397), Aminah Cavin (64th, 378) and Katie Owens (74th, 360) were the top finishers for Hartley at district. Seniors Paula Dunlap and Mia Meyer and freshman Olivia George also competed.
The girls were 16th (2,603) at sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes behind champion Briggs (3,345) as the top 20 teams advanced.
Also eligible to return are junior Heather Delius and freshman Salmika Wairegi.
The boys were 21st (3,128) in the 30-team Division II sectional Feb. 14 at Sawmill Lanes behind champion Buckeye Valley (4,195) as the top 14 teams advanced to district. Senior Corey Wilbur placed 55th (504) to move on individually and was 23rd (566) at district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes as the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Other key boys bowlers were seniors Daniel Supino and John Thiel and juniors Jared George, Ben Makowski and Mark Thiel. Freshmen John Amland, Gene Martin and Sam Rees also are eligible to return.
The boys tied for sixth (8-6) in the 15-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division behind champion DeSales (14-0). The girls tied for third (9-3) in the 13-team COHSBC-Central behind Ready (12-0) and Northland (11-1).
"The girls never had advanced to district as a team before, so I was pleased," coach Margaret Owens said. "I'll have three boys bowlers who will be seniors next year, so I'm pretty excited. The girls did really well."