The Olentangy High School boys basketball team averaged 65.2 points per game last year and shot 35.3 percent from 3-point range, but ended the season feeling like something was missing.
The Braves went 14-10 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, losing to Chillicothe 86-77 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Thanks in part to increased options on the offensive end and a renewed emphasis on defense, third-year coach John Feasel thinks Olentangy's season could be more fulfilling than a year ago.
"We have some guys back who can put the ball in the basket," Feasel said. "We led the state in 3-point percentage last year and I think we're a better shooting team now than we were last year.
"We'll play the same way we did last year. ... We have a good group of guys who can shoot the ball and move the ball and defensively, they are coming around."
Senior guard Sean Marks, a 5-foot-11 Ohio Dominican recruit, was 42 points away from 1,000 for his career before the Braves' home opener Dec. 4 against Mifflin. He averaged 22.1 points, 3.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals as a junior to earn special mention all-state.
Olentangy opened Nov. 30 with a 65-63 win at defending OCC-Buckeye Division champion Westerville North. Marks had 23 points and 6-3 senior forward Noah Gossett added 15 points, all on 3-pointers.
"We have a lot more shooters that can stretch the floor and make it easier to score a lot of points. We'll put up a lot of points this year," said Marks, who set the program's season scoring record with 541 points last year. "Last year, we scored a lot but this year is a little different. The major thing is we've improved defensively and that's going to help us win a lot of games."
The Braves gave up an average of 65 points per game a year ago, including 70 or more seven times and at least 80 three times.
"During the preseason, we ran so many defensive drills that I started asking the (assistant) coaches if we could run some offense," Feasel said, jokingly. "We're getting to the point in practice where they understand defensive importance. ...
"We're mostly a man team and we're getting better at that. It's not an overnight thing to make the culture of being a good man-to-man team that can stifle people, but we're getting to the point that we can guard better. We're communicating a lot better. We'll take a charge here and there. It's a process."
Senior guard Alex Sieve (6-1) averaged 11.3 points and 4.1 rebounds last year. Senior guard Luke Riedel (6-1) added 3.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists but was limited to 12 games because of injury and junior guard Austin Brown (6-1) averaged 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Christian Browning (5-10, guard), Sutton Bucci (6-0, guard) and Caleb Steele (6-5, center/forward), juniors Sean Brown (6-2, guard), Jake Elmore (6-1, guard), Jack Gross (6-3, guard/forward), Josiah Seymour (6-3, forward) and Dylan Sigler (6-5, forward) and sophomores Jack Hennegan (6-4, forward) and Tavian James (6-0, guard).
"We have to fight through the tough games. There will be a lot of close ones," Sieve said. "Our emphasis is if we play defense to our ability, we're going to win most of our games."
Wrestling team starts year shorthanded
The wrestling team's roster includes a returning Division I state qualifier and six more district qualifiers from a year ago, but the Braves look a little different from how they had hoped to start the season.
Senior Jacob Sherman, a Kent State recruit and two-time state qualifier, is expected to miss most if not all of the season after undergoing knee surgery. He went 42-6 last year and finished fourth at state at 113 pounds.
Another district qualifier, sophomore Ethan Hand, will miss the entire season after undergoing ankle surgery Nov. 30. According to seventh-year coach Dennis Lyberger, Hand was injured during football and re-aggravated the injury a few weeks ago.
"The earliest Sherman would be back is February, if he comes back," said Lyberger, whose team opened Dec. 1 by winning its annual Olentangy Invitational. "The bad thing is our schedule is so brutal. Missing guys like that will hurt. Some guys will have to step it up this year. Otherwise, we could have short stays at some tournaments."
The Braves' other returning district qualifiers are seniors Colton Doup (182), Dan DelGratta (195), Brady Pethtel (145) and Nick Varanelli (132/138) and sophomore Jackson Moses (120). They had 13 in all last year, including junior Corey Hill, who now wrestles for Berlin.
Xander Gore, a 2018 graduate, finished eighth at state at 145 last year.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Mike Hawkins (heavyweight), Ricky Horstman (170) and Mohammed Hussein (152/160), juniors Nick Boyarko (170), Ahmed Elgabry (195), Cameron Everson (152), James Everson (132/138), Mostafa Hussein (145) and Adam Orndorf (152), sophomores Anthony Boyarko (126/132), Kaden Doup (138) and Ben Hall (126/132) and freshmen Gabe Bulugaris (106) and Vaughn Fowler (113).
Colton Doup and Pethtel won their weight classes in the Olentangy Invitational as the Braves scored 197.5 points to finish 20 points ahead of runner-up Lancaster in the nine-team event.
Olentangy begins OCC-Buckeye competition Jan. 10 against Westerville South.
The Braves went 3-2 in the league last year to finish third behind champion Liberty (5-0).
"The expectation we've really focused on this year is intensity in the (practice) room. Having that culture of intensity and working hard is crucial," Lyberger said. "With the level we've been at and the tournaments we're going to, it can't be a slow process. It has to be intense. We have to constantly be pushing."
Girls volleyball coach steps down
Sarah Polhemus recently resigned after two seasons as girls volleyball coach as she pursues a master's degree from Western Governors University.
Polhemus went 35-15 overall and 12-8 in the OCC-Buckeye with the Braves. Both of her teams finished as Division I district runners-up.
Polhemus was Olentangy's junior varsity coach in 2013 and 2014 before serving as a varsity assistant the next two seasons. She played volleyball at Toledo from 2005-08.
*Nov. 30 -- at Westerville North
Dec. 4 -- vs. Mifflin
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Westerville South
Dec. 14 -- Scott Depot (W.Va.) Teays Valley Christian in Parkersburg (W.Va.) South Holiday Tournament
Dec. 15 -- Parkersburg (W.Va.) South or St. George (Va.) Blue Ridge in Parkersburg South Holiday Tournament
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Westerville Central
Dec. 28 -- at Walnut Ridge
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Jan. 8 -- at Upper Arlington
*Jan. 11 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 12 -- at Groveport
*Jan. 18 -- at Westerville South
Jan. 19 -- Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy of the Immaculate Conception at Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Ind.
Jan. 22 -- at Big Walnut
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Westerville North
Jan. 29 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 1 -- at Westerville Central
Feb. 5 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Feb. 8 -- at Olentangy Orange
Feb. 12 -- at Marion Harding
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Feb. 19 -- at Marysville
Dec. 1 -- Olentangy Invitational
Dec. 8 -- Jeremy Ammons Kilted Klassic at Sparta Highland
Dec. 14-15 -- North Canton Holiday Invitational at North Canton Hoover
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament
Jan. 5 -- Beavercreek Classic
*Jan. 10 -- vs. Westerville South
*Jan. 11 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Jan. 16 -- at Westerville Central
Jan. 18-19 -- Top Gun Tournament at Alliance
Jan. 26 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
Jan. 30 -- at Teays Valley
*Feb. 7 -- vs. Westerville North
*Feb. 14 -- at Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Westerville South
Dec. 11 -- At Delaware
Dec. 6 -- Reynoldsburg at Delaware Lanes
Dec. 7 -- Teays Valley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Dec. 7 -- St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Dec. 9 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Mount Vernon at Mount Carmel Fitness Center
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State