Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball coach Michael Limbird thinks the time has come where his team's effort will be rewarded.

Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball coach Michael Limbird thinks the time has come where his team's effort will be rewarded.

"There is still a lot of basketball left to play for us," Limbird said after the Jaguars fell to 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the OCC-Capital Division with a 74-59 loss to New Albany on Jan. 17. "We've got eight games left in the regular season and (then) the postseason. We've got three winnable games coming up and we're playing pretty well."

Against New Albany, Bradley fell behind 17-4 after one quarter and virtually matched the Eagles over the final three.

"We shot 2-for-13 or something like that in the first quarter and really dug ourselves a hole," Limbird said. "We took good shots but just didn't shoot it well. We only had 11 turnovers and the rebounding was even, but we shot 38 percent from the floor for the game and they were on fire.

"They were 25-for-44 for the game and 6-for-12 from 3-point range. (Jalen Rhea) was knocking in off-dribble jumpers from 17 or 18 feet. We were within five points late in the third quarter and seven or eight late when we had to foul. We battled all the way through and it was a great effort."

It's that type of effort Bradley will need to close the season strong.

The Jaguars are adjusting to life without Trent Weaver, a 6-foot-7 senior center who suffered a third knee injury this season. Limbird said Weaver is still waiting for the MRI results, but the plan is to prepare for the rest of the season without him.

Weaver, an Ohio Dominican University signee, averaged 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds last season.

"He is a well-conditioned athlete, but even if he does return, it's doubtful his (left) knee will be at full strength the rest of the year," Limbird said. "Even if it's not a major injury, I've been told it's like a bad ankle sprain, where you just have to be off it completely for a month or so. If he returns, there's a chance he could re-injure it on his first rebound."

Weaver was averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds and was shooting 56 percent from the floor, according to Limbird.

"When you lose a dominant center who not only averages a double-double but is efficient in getting his points, that hurts," Limbird said. "You know how many shots he altered or blocked or how many times he kept opponents from driving to the basket? Plus, our offense was geared around him. His ability opened the perimeter shooting for our guards."

Senior co-captain A.J. Dixon has picked up his scoring without Weaver, but has had to change his game to help the offense.

"A.J. has become our No. 1 option and that's not something he was used to," Limbird said. "He is comfortable in the Chris Paul mode, where he distributes and can score when needed. Now he's had to become more of the Derek Rose type of guard where he has to create his own offense.

"He still gets the ball to his teammates, but it's usually a drive-and-dish type of thing. Plus, he has more trust in the younger guys because they're stepping up their games. However, the defenses have made him their focal point, so his shots are much more difficult than they used to be."

Dixon had 26 points against New Albany and Jacob Starinsky scored 22.

"Jacob is starting to play better because his mentality has improved," Limbird said. "Instead of getting upset when he makes a mistake or misses a shot, he's moving on to the next play. That's what we need him to do. He has a tremendous offensive game. He just needs to settle down some."

The Jaguars are using a committee approach when it comes to rebounding in order to make up for Weaver's absence.

"We have all five guys rebounding, with Kevin Girardi, Zach Popovec and Brady Simpson doing well," Limbird said. "Instead of standing around and watching Trent take care of things, they're flying around and keeping the ball alive off the boards."

Through 12 games, Dixon was averaging 17 points and Starinsky was averaging 12.

Limbird thinks the team is playing as well and as comfortable as it has all season. He said it is imperative that the Jaguars turn their efforts into wins for a better postseason seeding.

"We can play spoiler in the league and help determine who the OCC-Capital champion will be," Limbird said. "We also want a better postseason seeding and there's a big difference between being 3-14 or 8-9 at the seeding meeting. This season obviously has not gone as planned, but we are improving daily and I'm pleased with our progression and the boys' ability to overcome all the adversity and hardships we have faced."

•CAMP OFFERED - A youth basketball camp for boys in grades 1-8 will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Bradley. Hilliard City Schools will not have classes that day. The Bradley staff will run the camp and lunch will be provided.

For more details, contact Michael Limbird at Michael_limbird@hboe.org or (419) 377-7258.