Second-year coach Todd Phillips is looking for defense to fuel the Bexley High School boys basketball team.

Second-year coach Todd Phillips is looking for defense to fuel the Bexley High School boys basketball team.

The undersized but quick Lions are planning to limit teams on the scoreboard as they work to improve their offense.

"Defense is where we are going to hang our hats," Phillips said. "We are undersized, so we have to outwork our opponents. Defensive stops have to translate into offense for us. We have to get stops and score."

Last season, the Lions shot 37 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and 68 percent on free throws. They finished 7-16 overall and placed fifth (6-8) in the MSL-Ohio Division behind champion Whitehall (13-1).

Simon Kroos is the top scorer back after averaging 9.6 points and being named honorable mention all-district and all-league. The 6-foot-3 senior forward missed the team's first two games with an ankle injury, but Phillips expects him to return soon.

Sophomore guard Ryan Callahan (6-3) is a returning starter and junior post player Shannon Stanley (6-3) was a part-time starter a year ago.

"We didn't score the ball well last year, but I think that will improve," said Phillips, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 13, at home against Whitehall. "This is their second year with my system, so they know my terminology and what I'm looking for."

The Lions opened Dec. 2 by losing to DeSales 54-24 as senior guard Ashton Lusiak (6-0) led the way with nine points.

Senior forward Tommy Bruning (6-4) had 16 points and Stanley scored nine as Bexley rebounded to defeat Columbus East 44-43 on Dec. 3.

"Tommy had some big points down the stretch and (6-2 senior post player) Hank Snowdon hit two free throws to seal the game," Phillips said. "We lost so many close games last year that (the East win) was important, especially with our best player out. It gives us something to build on."

Rounding out the roster are seniors John Corcella (6-1, post player) and Josh Jones (5-9, guard), junior guards Grant Heilman (5-10) and Will Hoyer (5-11) and sophomores Leo Schottenstein (6-4, post player) and Anthony Welsh (5-8, guard).

Wrestling team expects to break droughts

For the first time since 2013-14, the wrestling team has seniors on its roster. This alone would give second-year coach Chris Bragg reason for optimism, but the Lions also started the season strongly.

Bexley has seven seniors in Jon Clark (182 pounds), Eric Crane (160; three-time district qualifier), Jalen Hatton (195), Ismail Jallaq (160), Wade Lewis (132), Perrin Ruff (152; two-time district qualifier) and Zak Welsh (145).

Welsh and juniors Eliot Clark (182) and Grant Robinson (220) also were Division II district qualifiers last season.

The Lions opened by finishing third (213 points) of 12 teams in the Tony Pizzurro Memorial Classic on Dec. 3 at DeSales behind Division I programs Olentangy Liberty (300) and Grove City (265).

Crane went 4-0 to win at 160, while Hatton (195, 3-1), Eliot Clark (182, 4-1), Robinson (heavyweight, 4-1), junior Reece Wilson (170, 3-1) and freshman Carter Brenner (106, 4-1) all were runners-up. Ruff (152) and Welsh (145) both went 3-1 to finish third.

"We have seven seniors and 11 juniors, so we have a ridiculous amount of leadership," Bragg said. "We're close to having a full lineup, which is something we haven't had in 20 years."

The Lions were third (218.5) in the MSL-Ohio tournament last season behind Whitehall (271) and West Jefferson (239). Their last league title was in 1997.

"Our two goals are to win the league and to send someone to state," said Bragg, whose program's last state qualifier was in 2007 when Jake Weisman placed eighth at 112 in Division II. "It's something we talk about every day. We were 16-3 in duals last year, but we didn't win the league and we haven't had someone at state in 10 years. We want to break those droughts this year."

Other key performers are junior Ethan Gammage (heavyweight), sophomores Hunter Hilgeman (138) and William Musick (126) and freshman Jake Brigdon (113).

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 2 -- at DeSales

Dec. 3 -- vs. Columbus East

Dec. 6 -- vs. Canal Winchester

Dec. 9 -- vs. Horizon Science

*Dec. 13 -- vs. Whitehall

*Dec. 17 -- at West Jefferson

Dec. 21 -- vs. St. Charles

*Jan. 6 -- vs. Worthington Christian

*Jan. 7 -- vs. Columbus Academy

*Jan. 10 -- vs. London

*Jan. 14 -- at Grandview

Jan. 17 -- at Logan Elm

Jan. 20-21 -- Jaguar Invitational at Wellington

*Jan. 28 -- at Whitehall

Jan. 30 -- vs. Hartley

*Feb. 3 -- vs. West Jefferson

*Feb. 7 -- at Worthington Christian

*Feb. 11 -- at London

*Feb. 14 -- vs. Grandview

*Feb. 17 -- at Columbus Academy

Feb. 18 -- vs. Heath

WRESTLING

Dec. 3 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Classic at DeSales

Dec. 8 -- vs. Canal Winchester and Mount Gilead

Dec. 17 -- Bexley Duals

Dec. 29-30 -- Marion Harding Holiday Classic

Jan. 5 -- vs. Columbus South and Hartley

Jan. 13-14 -- Licking Heights Invitational

Jan. 21 -- Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational at Jonathan Alder

Jan. 28 -- Mount Gilead Duals

Jan. 31 -- North Union at Otterbein

Feb. 4 -- MSL-Ohio tournament at London

Feb. 8 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll, Marion-Franklin and Northland

Feb. 15 -- vs. Johnstown and St. Charles

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. West Jefferson

Dec. 12 -- Home vs. Mifflin

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 9 -- Hartley at Columbus School for Girls

Dec. 10 -- Wellington Jaguar Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center

*League contest