Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder had mixed feelings after watching his team go 1-2 in the Gateway Holiday Classic in Mount Sterling, Ky., during the holiday break.
He would have liked to have seen the Wolves win all three games, but he believes they returned home a better team.
"As a coach, you always want to go 3-0 and wish your team could have played a little better when you don't reach that goal," Souder said. "But it was a great experience for our team and the kids really enjoyed the time they spent traveling on the chartered bus together and taking a tour of the University of Kentucky's practice facilities.
"Most importantly, I think we learned some things about our team that will help us improve. We played some decent competition there, and we learned that we need to grow defensively and cover shooters better. We also learned that we need to expand our number of offensive possessions by being quick while not hurrying."
The Wolves opened the event Dec. 27 by losing to defending Kentucky state champion Richmond Madison Central 86-64 despite having four players score in double figures in Michael Chambers (20), Griffin Dahn (12), J.C. Bartok (11) and Seth Hill (10).
Kilbourne then lost to Lexington (Ky.) Paul Lawrence Dunbar 79-75 on Dec. 28 before defeating Pineville (Ky.) Bell County 43-38 on Dec. 29.
Chambers had a team-high 21 points against Paul Lawrence Dunbar, followed by Bartok with 15, Hill with 13 and Dahn with 11. Chambers and Hill each had 10 points against Bell County.
"We had a bad offensive and defensive second quarter in that first game (getting outscored 30-10), but we played evenly with (Madison Central) the rest of the way," Souder said. "We dug ourselves a big hole in the second game and then scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to make it close. In the third game, we beat a team that tried to control the tempo.
"We had some guys step up in the tournament. Seth did a fantastic job of leading us there, and Mike averaged 17 points and nine rebounds in those three games. J.C. scored in double figures in two games and Griffin is starting to figure some things out, too."
Kilbourne improved to 6-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division with a 70-61 win over Olentangy 70-61 on Jan. 3, as Hill had 22 points, Chambers had 17 points and 14 rebounds and Bartok had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wolves, who played Columbus West on Jan. 8, will wrap up the first round of league play with games Friday, Jan. 10, at home against Olentangy Orange and Tuesday, Jan. 14, at New Albany.
"We're in a heck of a busy stretch where we're playing seven games in 16 days," Souder said. "But we just played three games in three days, so we should be ready for this. New Albany is our defending league champion and they are playing well this season, so that should be a big test for us."
Cardinals looking to cut back on fouls
Thomas went 1-2 in the Wes Unseld Invitational over the holiday break at Louisville (Ky.) Seneca.
"We had some ups and downs in that tournament, but it was a good experience for our team overall," coach Bob Miller said.
The Cardinals opened with a 68-49 loss to Louisville (Ky.) Fern Creek on Dec. 27 and lost to Elizabethtown (Ky.) 44-39 on Dec. 28 before bouncing back to defeat Seneca 69-53 on Dec. 29.
Thomas had five players score in double figures against Seneca in Yemi Sholesi (16), Tyrrell Stewart (13), Alex Baughman (11), Jaret Gerber (11) and Isaiah Boyd (10).
"The first team we played was way more athletic than we are," Miller said. "The second team shot a ton more foul shots than we did, which has been a reoccurring problem for us."
The Cardinals, who were outscored 23-7 at the foul line by Elizabethtown, defeated Central Crossing 53-44 in an OCC-Central game Jan. 3 and beat Grove City 76-71 on Jan. 4.
Thomas was 6-3 and 3-1 before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 7.
Against the Comets, Stewart had 12 points and Baughman and Gerber both scored 10 to pace the Cardinals, who won despite being outscored 19-7 at the foul line.
Against the Greyhounds, Stewart had 18 points, followed by Daniel Crease with 17, Sholesi with 11 and Gerber with 10.
"We were a lot sharper offensively and defensively in the first half (against Central Crossing) and that's happened a number of times this season," Miller said. "We held on to win this game by nine points, but obviously that could be a problem in future games if we don't fix it.
"Our biggest problem is we're fouling way too much and at inopportune times. A lot of them are reaching fouls, so we need to learn to play defense with our feet instead of with our arms."
The Cardinals travel to face defending OCC-Central champion Olentangy Liberty on Friday, Jan. 10.
Thomas was swept by Liberty last season, losing 56-50 and 75-49.
"Olentangy Liberty has quite a bit of size and they will be one of the strongest teams we play this year," Miller said. "We've got to have everyone contribute to beat a team like Olentangy Liberty.
"We have a good bench and I've been pleased with each of our five starters. Tyrrell Stewart is our best defender and he guards our opponents' best point guards and power forwards. Jaret Gerber is only a sophomore, but he's been our leading scorer. Alex Baughman and Yemi Sholesi are both (6-foot-5) and they give us a lot of size and athleticism in the post. Isaiah Boyd starts at (shooting) guard and he's one of our best defenders and rebounders."