Westerville South High School boys basketball coach Ed Calo is hoping his team gets back to full strength for two OCC-Cardinal Division games this weekend.
The Wildcats played shorthanded in five of their first six games, with notable absences including senior forwards Matt Chellis and Trent Slade.
Those two players collided during a preseason practice and both missed the opener at Reynoldsburg on Nov. 30, a 56-39 loss.
"As far as continuity and getting into a rhythm, you want to get that going," Calo said. "You want them developing that rotation."
Chellis sustained cuts to his upper lip and mouth and Slade had a cut on his forehead.
Slade returned to play against Brookhaven on Dec. 4, as the visiting Wildcats lost 55-52. Chellis missed his second consecutive game because of the injuries.
Chellis and Slade both played in a 62-58 double-overtime win at home against Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 7, and Chellis scored 14 points in a 49-45 win over Eastmoor Academy on Dec. 8.
Chellis, however, missed games against Horizon Science Academy (91-25 win Dec. 12) and Hilliard Bradley (62-38 win Dec. 14) because of the flu.
Calo expects Chellis to return for league games against Hilliard Darby on Friday, Dec. 21, and Dublin Scioto on Saturday, Dec. 22.
"We have to get our chemistry together," Slade said. "There's still stuff we need to work on. Once we get that all together I feel like we can win it all."
With the team shorthanded, senior forward Marcus Ball stepped in to contribute and scored a season-high 21 points against Kilbourne.
Slade scored a season-high 17 points against Bradley. South outscored the Jaguars 38-14 in the second half.
"We were two different teams," Calo said. "In the first half, we did not shoot well or defend. In the second half, we played harder, smarter and tougher."
South also has received contributions from underclassmen, as Kyran McClure scored 12 points and Jelani Rogers scored 11 against Horizon Science. Both are freshman guards.
"We'd always like to be a little bit better than what we are, but we're making progress and I like that," Calo said. "We're getting a little bit better every time, so that's a good thing. We have a long way to go. This is a work in progress and we have some veterans, but for the most part we're really inexperienced."
Central rallies to beat Kilbourne
Central trailed host Kilbourne 42-34 after three quarters before rallying for a 54-53 win Dec. 14.
Charles Carmon's steal and subsequent three-point play with 1.7 seconds remaining lifted Central to the win.
On Central's previous possession, Carmon missed two free throws. But coach Todd Minney told Carmon during a timeout that he would eventually turn in the key play.
"I missed two free throws before that and as I came back to the bench I was pretty upset because I wasn't sure if we were going to have another chance," Carmon said. "(Minney) told me when I was coming back to the bench 'Don't worry about it. It's fine because you're going to be the hero of this game.' So that was quite a coincidence that I was the hero of the game."
Eric James scored 14 points, Jalen Malone scored 13 and Carmon scored 11.
"This one was good for our kids' confidence to see the growth that they've been having as a team and we've been working really hard on just the small things," Minney said. "(We are) sticking to the fundamentals and really putting time in because these kids are so limited experience-wise."
The Warhawks are 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a game at Westerville North on Friday, Dec. 21.
The Warriors improved to 5-0 by defeating Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 70-69 on Dec. 15 in the Play 4 Cancer Shootout at Massillon Jackson when Jack Gibbs made a half-court shot as time expired.
"The key to defeating Central will be our team defensive effort," North coach Kevin Thuman said. "Central has the ability to score, so we hope to make them work for their points. On offense, we need to be able to be effective running our half-court sets and use our defense to start our offense."