It could be a busy offseason in the weight room for the members of the Watterson High School boys basketball team.
One of the biggest takeaways the Eagles had from a season in which they overcame a slow start to earn a share of the CCL championship and reach a Division II district semifinal is that they need to work on their physical development.
"Our team will be working on getting stronger," junior forward Jimmy Patton said. "Next year, I think strength will help us a lot. We're also going to work on shooting and ball-handling."
Patton, who is among the team's tallest players at 6-foot-5, scored eight points and junior guard Zach Sawyer had a team-high nine points as the ninth-seeded Eagles lost to third-seeded Columbus South 46-25 in a district semifinal March 6 at Central Crossing to finish 13-11 overall.
Watterson trailed 22-13 at halftime and was held to 12 points in the second half.
"In the first half, we did a lot of things we wanted to do in terms of tempo and played pretty good (defense), but we did not shoot the ball well," coach Vince Lombardo said. "We had the type of game we needed to have, but we had to shoot the ball well, too, which we did not. As the game progressed, they got some separation and we couldn't guard them with our extended defense. They're a great team and I thought South did a nice job of being patient."
Watterson also lost to the Bulldogs in district semifinals each of the past two seasons.
The Eagles are losing three seniors in wing player Cort Marbaugh (5.5 points per game) and guards Liam Aman (3.5 ppg) and Jack Eddingfield.
"Our seniors did a great job," Lombardo said. "I'm very proud of our team and very proud of our seniors because they just gave us great leadership. What I told our guys is that the future looks good but that we've got to get better. Games like (the district semifinal) shows things we've got to work on and, hopefully, we'll make progress. We had a number of underclassmen that did a nice job for us. We think the future is bright."
Sawyer, who averaged 14.5 points and was named second-team all-district, and Patton, who averaged 11 points and was third-team al-district, should be the top returnees.
Watterson went 6-2 in the CCL to tie Ready and Hartley for first place, ahead of DeSales and St. Charles (both 1-7).
The Eagles then beat 14th-seeded Sparta Highland 58-25 on March 3 in the second round of the district tournament after having a first-round bye.
After losing eight of its first 12 games, Watterson won nine of its next 11 before falling to South.
"We had a really good finish to the season that I hope will carry into next season," Patton said. "All of us learned from our seniors. We have a good group of players for next season. We're only losing three seniors, so we have a majority of our varsity team returning, which will help a lot. We also had a really good (junior varsity) team this year, so we'll have some younger guys coming up to the varsity level that will help us a lot next year. I'm excited for the group of players we have coming back. I think we'll be able to put together a good team."
Juniors Stephen Garrett (guard, 8.0 ppg) and Drew Davis (forward, 3.0 ppg) and sophomore Chris Crane (guard, 7.0 ppg) also were key players.
Others eligible to return include junior Matt Rhomberg (post player) and sophomores Mason Graney (forward) and Aiden McGinn (forward).
According to Lombardo, the j.v. team went 19-3 and won the CCL title while having three freshmen on its roster and the freshman team went 17-5.
"We continued to get tougher and better as a team throughout the season," Rhomberg said. "I think the to-be seniors for next year have great chemistry that will allow us to win a lot of games next season along with many of our returning guys gaining solid varsity experience."
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 13-11 overall, 6-2 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Liam Aman, Jack Eddingfield and Cort Marbaugh
*Key returnees: Chris Crane, Drew Davis, Stephen Garrett, Jimmy Patton, Matt Rhomberg and Zach Sawyer