Kayin Derden is the DeSales High School boys basketball team's top scorer, but the 6-foot-2 junior guard doesn't get as many clear views of the court as he used to.
Derden was averaging 16.6 points through 16 games and regularly is face-guarded as a result, something he considers a compliment and tries to patiently work through.
"It can throw me off," Derden said after a 58-49 loss at St. Charles on Jan. 30 in which he was held scoreless in the first half but finished with 11 points as the Stallions pulled even at 46 but were outscored 12-3 to end the game. "Coach (Pat Murphy) told me to set screens and it got me more open in the second half. I have been seeing a lot of that. They'll face-guard me if they notice I'm getting hot.
"You just have to be physical and set more screens for your teammates so they can get open. When you set screens, you usually get open, too. That's how it usually works."
Derden has made the most of his chances all season, but especially during a six-game stretch in January that saw him average 20.9 points and score fewer than 20 only once. That coincided with a season-best four-game winning streak for the Stallions, who were 7-9 overall before playing Bloom-Carroll on Feb. 6 and are 0-6 in the CCL.
DeSales entered the week on a five-game losing streak.
"Kay brings a lot on the offensive and defensive ends. He's a great shot blocker," sophomore guard Kobe Righter said. "On offense, he is one of the best scorers around. When he drives left, you can't stop him. He has a really smooth touch."
Murphy said the keys to Derden's success have been his length and effort to become what he called "a complete guard."
"He is a really good scorer who can score a bunch of different ways, and teams will always focus on stopping him, which makes it more amazing that he's averaging (about) 18 a night," Murphy said. "He has some length. He is a tough matchup for people.
"When teams do face-guard Kayin, we can't be a one-man team. We have Anthony (Sciarroni) and Kobe (as) guys who are consistently at or around double figures. Some nights, we just haven't had enough guys step up and support."
Righter has become a dependable scorer in his own right, averaging 9.8 points through 14 games.
"We were rotating the ball really well, playing team ball (during our winning streak) and getting it up and down the floor," Righter said. "We were able to thrive off the crowd sometimes and gain some momentum. I am one of the scorers, so a lot of teams look to pressure me and face-guard me and Kay. I try to be a shooter and a scorer, and I look to rotate the offense and keep everything flowing."
Derden was held to seven points in a 57-44 loss at Hartley on Feb. 2 but bounced back with 13 in a 74-54 loss at Kettering Fairmont the next night.
The Stallions will try to earn their first league win of the season Friday, Feb. 9, when they play host to first-place Ready. They lost to the Silver Knights 74-56 on Jan. 5.
Derden said he still is trying to live up to his own expectations, especially on the defensive end.
"I told myself I wanted to do whatever the team needs me to do to win," Derden said. "Whatever they need me to be, I'll be. I'll score. I'll facilitate. I want to be more of a complete guard, a two-way player. I'm getting there. My on-the ball defense is getting better; that's something I focus on a lot in practice. I take a lot of pride in that.
"My offense is there and my defense is getting better. If I can keep improving, I'll be happy."
Gymnasts winding down regular season
The gymnastics team has this week off from competition before its final regular season meet, the Beauty and the Beast Invitational on Feb. 15 at Olentangy Orange, and coach Megan O'Reilly hopes the Stallions can maintain their momentum.
In the Dawg House Challenge on Jan. 27 at Dresden Tri-Valley, Kaitlyn O'Reilly tied for sixth on uneven bars (8.15 points), placed eighth on vault (8.5) and finished 11th in all-around (32.9) to lead DeSales, which is competing without Mykaella Romain.
According to coach O'Reilly, Romain has a knee injury and her return this season is uncertain.
"Kaitlyn has been flipping her tusks more consistently and getting more comfortable flipping vault in a meet setting," coach O'Reilly said. "Abi (DeBrosse, a first-year competitor) is getting more confident on beam and at the last meet had a no-fall beam routine."
During a Dec. 20 meet at Westerville Central, Kaitlyn O'Reilly scored a 9.0 on floor exercise, a score coach O'Reilly believed had not been achieved by any Stallion since at least 2014, the year before she took over the team.
Kaitlyn O'Reilly also had a strong meet Jan. 31 against Buckeye Valley, Delaware and Marysville at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading, winning bars (8.35), floor (8.7) and all-around (33.35). The Stallions did not record a team score as Marysville won (126.45).
"Overall, I believe this season has gone really good for the team," coach O'Reilly said. "We're a small team this year, but these girls love being around each other and love helping each other out, whether it's in the gym or with school assignments. They have fun and are always encouraging one another. It really makes my job easier when we're all having fun."
Hockey team preps for Blue Jackets Cup
The hockey team will play Thomas Worthington in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament Friday, Feb. 9.
Two of the Stallions' six regular-season wins came against the Cardinals, although only on paper. Thomas defeated the Stallions on Nov. 18 and Dec. 9 but later had to forfeit those games.
DeSales is 6-18 overall and finished 5-11 with 10 points in the Capital Hockey Conference, second in the CHC-Blue behind Watterson (22, 11-5).
The Stallions went 1-2 last weekend, losing to Dublin Jerome 7-0 on Feb. 2 and Cincinnati Moeller 6-2 on Feb. 4 around a 6-0 win over Gahanna on Feb. 3.
In its 17th season, the Blue Jackets Cup includes all of the CHC's 14 teams. The championship bracket consists of the top four teams in the CHC-Red, the top three in the CHC-White and the CHC-Blue champion.
The other six teams play in the consolation bracket.
DeSales is seeded 12th in the Blue Jackets Cup. Thomas is 13th.
The winner will play 10th-seeded Olentangy Orange or 11th-seeded Dublin Coffman in a consolation semifinal Saturday, Feb. 10, at OhioHealth Ice Haus, and that winner will advance to the consolation final against ninth-seeded New Albany, 14th-seeded Gahanna or 15th-seeded Dublin Scioto on Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Ice Haus.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Ready. The Stallions lost to the Silver Knights 74-56 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 10 -- At Sparta Highland
*Feb. 8 -- At Hartley. The Stallions lost to the Hawks 64-58 on Jan. 18.
Feb. 10 -- At Zanesville
Feb. 17 -- At 12th-seeded Tri-Valley in first round of Division I district tournament. The Stallions are seeded 27th.
Feb. 9 -- Thomas Worthington in first round of Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament at TBD
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 10 -- Boys: Division II sectional at Thomas Worthington; Girls: Division I sectional at Thomas. There are no automatic berths to the Division II district Feb. 16 at Ohio University. Twenty-seven at-large berths will be awarded in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. In Division I, the winner of each sectional event qualifies for district Feb. 17 at Ohio University. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
Feb. 10 -- At New Albany with Buckeye Valley and Sparta Highland