Communication has been a point of emphasis for Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball coach Anthony Calo at the beginning of his seventh season.
The Pioneers return two starters -- seniors Luke Ballinger and Bryson Lane -- from a team that finished 13-10 overall 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last winter.
"Definitely coach has been stressing communication," said Ballinger, a 6-foot guard who was honorable mention all-district and all-league last season after averaging 10.6 points and making a team-high 55 3-pointers. "Sometimes we don't communicate well but when we do, it leads to better results. When we communicate, we are effective."
Lane, a 5-8 point guard, was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league after leading Orange in assists (3.8) last season.
"The preseason (went) well," Lane said. "I think we're coming together as a team, and we have been playing hard together."
Junior Ryan Cutler, a 6-3 guard, was the first player off the bench last winter, and senior forward Nik Brannon is a returning letterwinner and the team's tallest player at 6-4. Sophomore Andre Irvin (5-7) also will play point guard.
"We have three key players back, and Nik Brannon can shoot and can get to the rim," Calo said. "Nik is our (center) because of our size as a team.
"Andre and Bryson are both points for us, which gives us some versatility. Both can shoot and both can drive. With our size, there's a chance we could start five guards, and we have to be able to handle that."
The Pioneers have five seniors in 6-0 guard Junior Agyapong, Ballinger, Brannon, Lane and 6-0 forward Ryan Lewis.
Juniors Wilson Baker (6-0, guard), Darius Butler (6-1, guard/forward) and Sam Rankin (5-11, guard) and sophomores Jordan Bethel (6-0, guard/forward) and Nick Hoang (6-2, guard) round out the roster.
"We'll have a few guys coming off the bench to help us," Calo said. "Darius Butler is a high-energy guy, and Sam Rankin can come in and shoot it for us. Wilson Baker is an improving defender that has some offensive ability."
The Pioneers won their opener 69-59 over New Albany on Nov. 30 as Ballinger scored a career-high 19 points. Irvin had 16 points and Lane added 15.
Orange defeated Marion Harding 69-54 on Dec. 1. Irvin had 22 points, Lane scored 13 and Brannon added 10.
"We're going to have to be good in half-court defense, but we need to play an up-tempo game to get more possessions," Calo said. "We're going to have to attack.
"I think we're a good shooting team, and we have a skilled team. They are coachable, and they listen. They are committed to the game and are good, likable kids."
The Pioneers open league play Friday, Dec. 7, at Liberty.
Wrestling team returns one state qualifier
The wrestling team returns one Division I state qualifier in junior Rocco Torio (126/132 pounds) and three other district qualifiers in senior Cole Jackson (120/126), junior Alex Lopez (195) and sophomore Zach Miller (132/138).
Torio went 0-2 at 126 at state last season to finish 28-14. Jackson went 3-3 at 113 at district to finish 31-13, while Miller was 1-2 at 120 to finish 18-17 and Lopez was 0-2 at 195 to finish 19-18.
Last winter, the Pioneers lost three key performers to knee injuries before the season. Bryce Houston, a 2018 graduate, saw his career end, but Zach Stevenson (heavyweight) and Matt Hipsher (145) return for their senior seasons.
"Zach Stevenson being back is a big deal," said coach Scott Tressler, who is in his fourth season. "He probably would have been a state qualifier for us last season. Matt Hipsher would have been a starter, but both had knee injuries."
The Pioneers have five newcomers who expect to make an impact. Sophomore Taryn Martin (113/120) moved in from Grove City, where she was a district qualifier at 106, going 1-2 to finish 20-14. Freshmen Mitchell Broskie (160), Keegan Knapp (132/138), Ben Nickeloff (113) and Connor Svanter (145) also expect to contribute.
"I don't think I have ever had a move-in that contributed much, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that Taryn moved into the district," Tressler said. "We also have several freshmen that should help us out this season as well."
Orange opened Dec. 1 in the Upper Arlington Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational, finishing third (204 points) of 10 teams behind the host team (255) and Vandalia Butler (247).
Sophomore Dylan Dempsey (182), Jackson (120) and Stevenson (heavyweight) won their weight classes, and junior Cardan Mutai (220) and Torio (132) were runners-up.
Bayer resigns as boys soccer coach
Jason Bayer has resigned after two seasons as coach of the boys soccer team.
Orange was 15-15-6 overall and 2-5-3 in the OCC-Buckeye under Bayer, including 8-8-3 overall and 1-3-1 in the league this fall.
"Jason wanted to spend more time with his family," athletics director Buck Weaver said. "How can you not respect this decision? He has done a great job for us, both as a head coach and an assistant coach."
Nov. 30 -- vs. New Albany
Dec. 1 -- at Marion Harding
*Dec. 7 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 8 -- vs. Walnut Ridge
Dec. 11 -- at Hilliard Darby
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 21 -- at Westerville South
Dec. 22 -- Mentor at Mount Vernon Nazarene
Dec. 28 -- vs. Central Crossing
*Jan. 4 -- at Olentangy
Jan. 8 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Westerville North
Jan. 15 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 19 -- Uniontown Lake at North Canton Hoover
Jan. 22 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Jan. 25 -- at Westerville Central
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Westerville South
Feb. 5 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Olentangy
Feb. 9 -- vs. Urbana
*Feb. 15 -- at Westerville North
Dec. 1 -- Upper Arlington Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational
Dec. 6 -- at Upper Arlington
Dec. 8 -- London Invitational
Dec. 15-16 -- Olentangy Liberty Classic
Dec. 20 -- Dublin Coffman tri-meet
Dec. 22 -- at Olentangy Berlin with Amanda-Clearcreek and Buckeye Valley
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament
*Jan. 10 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Jan. 17 -- vs. Westerville North
Jan. 18-19 -- Mike Casey-Maumee Bay Classic at Oregon Clay
*Jan. 24 -- vs. Westerville Central
Jan. 26 -- Lewistown Indian Lake Duals
*Feb. 7 -- at Westerville South
Feb. 9 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 14 -- vs. Olentangy
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*Dec. 12 -- Delaware at Colony Lanes
*Dec. 7 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 8 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 9 -- at Columbus School for Girls with St. Charles