The Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball team lost two key players from a year ago to graduation, but fifth-year coach Brett Norris believes the Jaguars have the talent to pick up where they left off last season.
The Jaguars are coming off a season in which they finished 25-2 to set the program record for victories, won their first Division I district championship and won a second consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division title. They fell one win shy of their first state semifinal berth, losing to Pickerington Central 43-39 in a regional final.
Bradley lost two four-year starters in point guard Braden Norris and forward Isaiah Speelman, who are the program's top two career scoring leaders. Speelman, who is playing at Cedarville University, is the leader with 1,509 points and also holds the program records for career rebounds (487) and games played (100). Norris, who is playing for Oakland University, is second in program history in points (1,271) but is the career leader in assists (332) and 3-pointers (273).
"I don't think anybody has lowered their expectations," said coach Norris, whose team opened Dec. 4 at Teays Valley. "Last year was a great year, but when you have that kind of year, it inspires you to want more.
"We have built the kind of program that we expect our seniors and juniors to play well. We expect our sophomores to play well. We understand that we have to rebuild all of those winning habits and that we have a lot of work to do. You have to do that every year."
The Jaguars return three starters in senior Zach Hummel (6-foot-4, forward) and juniors Matt Allocco (6-3, guard) and Chris Mayfield (6-4, forward). Also back is sophomore Jack Pugh, a 6-6 forward.
Allocco is a third-year starter who shared point-guard duties with Norris last season. He averaged 11.3 points and a team-high 3.5 assists and was named third-team all-district and first-team all-league.
"Matt has continued to grow physically and he has continued to get stronger," coach Norris said. "He's a tough matchup as a 6-3 point guard. He's a gym rat and he has improved in all areas. He's a natural."
Hummel averaged 3.5 points and a team-high 5.0 rebounds last season and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. Mayfield averaged 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists and was special mention all-league and Pugh averaged 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
"It's a real brotherhood and family," Allocco said. "We play for each other and have each other's backs. That's how we like to do things, and that's how we win."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Colin Foreman (5-10, guard), Drew Keep (6-3, forward) and Winston Stone (5-10, guard) and sophomores A.J. Mirgon (5-10, guard) and Keaton Norris (5-9, guard).
"We continue to have high-character and highly invested kids that are tough and play together," coach Norris said. "I love that this is another group that embraces who we are as a program."
Bradley opens OCC-Cardinal play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Thomas Worthington. The Jaguars enter the contest on a 25-game league winning streak and a 25-game winning streak at home.
Wrestling team gaining valuable time on mat
The wrestling team has returned two state qualifiers in senior Zander Ellison (145 pounds) and sophomore Deacon Sawchuk (120/126).
Ellison went 0-2 in the Division I state meet at 126 as a sophomore, but failed to reach state last season. Sawchuk went 0-2 at 106 at state last season.
"One of our goals is to get them back to state," 10th-year coach John Riggs said. "It's always important to have state kids leading the way in the practice room. They help set the tone and it lets the other kids know that it's possible to get there."
The Jaguars went 5-1 in the OCC-Cardinal last year to tie Delaware for the championship, their first league title since 2012. They lost five wrestlers to graduation, leaving holes in the lineup.
"When you have graduated that many seniors, you're not only losing on-the-mat talent but leadership as well," said Riggs, whose team opens league competition Dec. 13 at Thomas. "We're pleased with the way the kids have had good attitudes and work ethic. They just need to keep moving forward and getting better.
"There's no substitute for varsity experience. There are no cheap and easy lessons they can learn, but it's important for them to learn those lessons each and every day."
Junior Kyle DeMoss (195) is a returning district qualifier.
Bradley has several freshmen looking to earn a spot in the lineup. Julien Kleiv and Matt Pucci are battling for the 106 spot, while Evan Corea is at 113 and Matthew Cooper is at 220.
The Jaguars opened Dec. 1 by tying for fourth (129 points) in the Olentangy Invitational, behind the champion and host Braves (197).
DeMoss (195) and Ellison (145) both won titles, while Cooper (220), Sawchuk (126), senior Dylan Ball (182) and sophomore Sam Pennington (120) placed second. Senior Garet Reed (152) and juniors Logan Germaine (170) and Alex Schmidt (160) placed third, and Corea (113) and sophomore Cage Severe (132) were fourth.
"It's going to take some time for the kids to get down to their goal weight," Riggs said. "We're happy with their effort. We have so many kids that need to get up to speed with varsity mat time. It's important that they keep getting better every day."
Dec. 4 -- at Teays Valley
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*Dec. 14 -- at Olentangy Berlin
*Dec. 17 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Dec. 21 -- at Dublin Jerome
Dec. 22 -- Springfield at Capital
Dec. 27 -- Westerville North in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Delaware
Jan. 5 -- Walnut Ridge in The Challenge at Africentric
*Jan. 8 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Jan. 18 -- at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 19 -- Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge in Flyin' to the Hoop at Kettering Fairmont
*Jan. 22 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
Jan. 26 -- Newark in Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Pickerington Central
*Feb. 1 -- at Delaware
*Feb. 5 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 8 -- at Dublin Scioto
Feb. 9 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Feb. 16 -- at Zanesville
Dec. 1 -- Olentangy Invitational
Dec. 6 -- Westerville South Double Dual
*Dec. 13 -- at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 15 -- Kettering Fairmont Firebird Classic at Wright State
*Dec. 20 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
Dec. 27-28 -- GMVA Holiday Tournament at Vandalia Butler
*Jan. 10 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Jan. 12 -- Porter Memorial Tournament at home
*Jan. 17 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 19 - Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
*Jan. 24 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Jan. 26 -- Watkins Memorial Invitational
*Feb. 7 -- vs. Delaware
Feb. 9 -- Panther Classic at Rayland Buckeye Local
*Feb. 14 -- at Hilliard Darby
Below are the coming schedules for the Bradley girls basketball, bowling and gymnastics teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Thomas Worthington
Dec. 11 -- At Marysville
*Dec. 7 -- Reynoldsburg at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Dec. 11 -- Gahanna at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
Dec. 11 -- At Davidson with Darby, Central Crossing, Franklin Heights, Grove City and Westland