The Bexley High School boys basketball team definitely can be described as experienced.
The Lions have four starters back from last season, when they finished 17-6 overall and 6-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division. They also have 11 seniors on their roster.
"One thing we don't lack is leadership," fourth-year coach Todd Phillips said."Our chemistry has been great. They have had great energy and no one cares about who gets the glory. They are a great group to work with."
The Lions return their leading scorer in junior Damian Davis, who was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league a year ago. The 5-foot-9 guard led Bexley in scoring (12.7 points per game), 3-point percentage (50-for-120, 41.7 percent) and free-throw percentage (81-for-94, 86.2 percent).
The other returning starters are seniors in forwards Ryan Callahan (6-2) and Leo Schottenstein (6-3) and point guard Anthony Welsh (5-11). Callahan was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league last season after averaging 8.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and a team-high 2.7 assists.
Welsh averaged 6.7 points and 2.1 assists and was honorable mention all-league. Schottenstein averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds.
"We have more experience back this year," Schottenstein said."We have 11 seniors so we have a lot of guys who will be knowing what we need to do in practice and in games. That experience will have to help."
Senior guard Nasir Tucker (5-8) is looking to work his way into the starting lineup, and senior post player Zach Welz (6-4) also is expected to be a key contributor.
Jason Bell (6-2, guard/forward), Isaiah Drewry (5-11, forward), Carter McClellan (5-11, guard/forward), Dane Rudolph (5-11, guard), Reid Wagenbrenner (6-3, forward) and Aaron Young (5-8, guard) round out the senior class.
"We have been looking really good and it should be an exciting year," Callahan said."We have a lot of returning guys. We're playing hard, we're playing well and we're playing together. The team chemistry has been great this year."
Sophomore Will Cordle, a 5-11 guard, rounds out the roster.
Welsh said defense will be key to the Lions' success.
"Coach Phillips has said we have had defensive struggles periodically during scrimmages, but we just have to get better as a group," Welsh said."Our offense starts with our defense. If we play well on defense, we play well on offense. If we continue to get better on defense, we'll get better overall."
Phillips said defense is the foundation on which the team is built.
"Our defense is our calling card," he said."We only gave up 41 points per game last year, which was a school record. I think we're in games because we can guard."
The Lions began the season by going 1-1 in the Grove City Tip-Off Classic. Callahan made a layup with 4 seconds remaining in a 46-44 win over Westerville Central on Nov. 30. He finished with 16 points, Tucker scored 11 and Davis added 10.
Cordle scored 15 points on five 3-pointers as Bexley lost to Grove City 60-57 on Dec. 1. Callahan and Tucker both had 12 points and Davis scored 10.
Bexley begins league play Saturday, Dec. 8, at Whitehall.
Wrestlers looking to gain experience
The wrestling team returns only four athletes with much varsity experience, as the roster of 20 includes 11 freshmen.
Senior 160-pounder Hunter Hilgeman was a district qualifier at 138 as a sophomore, but missed last season with a knee injury.
Senior Eammon Sears (145) and sophomores Carter Brenner (132) and Jake Brigdon (138) started on varsity last winter.
"We're such a young team with close to a dozen freshmen," said fourth-year coach Chris Bragg, whose team opened Dec. 5 at Mount Gilead in a tri-match that included Mifflin."We're where we were three or four years ago only we have seniors and juniors and we didn't have upperclassmen then."
Bragg said senior Kevin Villatoro could make an impact at 220.
Juniors Justin Mauk (heavyweight), Luke Robinson (195) and Anthony Samson (152), sophomore Duriel Mixon (160) and freshmen Blake Brenner (106), Jeremiah Clinton (120), Mason DeBerry (138), Noah Lyons (138), Michael Mabuza (132), Isaac McIntosh (heavyweight), Porter Neff (138), Tauren Rai (106), Owen Tipton (126), Drew Watterman (120) and Tommy Webster (170) complete the roster.
"We should have all (weight) classes filled for duals except for a couple of them," Bragg said."Tournaments will be different. We'll probably only take half of the team to compete in tournaments because a lot of our younger kids would benefit more going to j.v. tournaments."
The Lions will be looking to win their third consecutive MSL-Ohio title in the league tournament Feb. 16 at Whitehall.
"We had a good first few weeks and then Thanksgiving comes around and it slows you down," Bragg said.
"The kids are learning what we are teaching, but they still have so many things to learn.
"We pushed the season back a week because Dec. 1 was too soon for us to start. Our kids need mat time, but putting them out there when they don't know what they are doing isn't good for them."
Nov. 30 -- Westerville Central in Grove City Tip-Off Classic
Dec. 1 -- Grove City in Grove City Tip-Off Classic
Dec. 4 -- Home vs. Columbus East
*Dec. 8 -- at Whitehall
Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Circleville New Hope Christian
*Dec. 14 -- at Grandview
Dec. 15 -- at Logan Elm
*Dec. 22 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Dec. 28 -- at Buckeye Valley
Dec. 29 -- vs. Independence
Jan. 4 -- at Washington Court House Miami Trace
Jan. 5 -- vs. St. Charles
*Jan. 12 -- at Worthington Christian
Jan. 15 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Whitehall
*Jan. 26 -- vs. Grandview
*Feb. 1 -- at Columbus Academy
Feb. 5 -- vs. KIPP Columbus
Feb. 9 -- at Olentangy Berlin
Feb. 12 -- at Hamilton Township
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Worthington Christian
Feb. 16 -- vs. Tallmadge
Dec. 5 -- at Mount Gilead with Mifflin
Dec. 15 -- Bexley Duals
Dec. 21 -- at Caledonia River Valley with North Union and West Jefferson
Dec. 28-29 -- Marion Harding Holiday Classic
Jan. 3 -- vs. Columbus South and Hartley
Jan. 12 -- Middletown Invitational
Jan. 19 -- Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational at Jonathan Alder
Jan. 26 -- New Albany Invitational
Feb. 7 -- vs. Columbus East and St. Charles
Feb. 16 -- MSL-Ohio tournament at Whitehall
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Grandview
Dec. 12 -- Home vs. Ready
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State