Coach Drew Meister is preaching the gospel of good defense to the Newark Catholic High School boys basketball team.

Coach Drew Meister is preaching the gospel of good defense to the Newark Catholic High School boys basketball team.

"Right now we're really selling it hard," Meister said. "We believe that at the beginning of every year, you have to sell the kids on what your label is, then you have to continue selling and reinventing it as you go along. We definitely want to take the defensive approach first."

That's probably because stingy defensive play was paramount during last year's season of revival. The Green Wave, which allowed an average of 48 points per game and limited MSL-Ohio Division opponents to just 39 percent shooting from the floor, finished 21-5 overall following a 56-42 loss to eventual state-champion Oak Hill in a Division IV regional final.

Just two years removed from a 2-19 finish in Meister's first season in 2006-07, the team earned the top seed for the district tournament and defeated Tree of Life 55-37 in the final to advance to the regional for the first time since 1976. The Green Wave wasn't merely satisfied at that point, however. They rallied past Harvest Prep 48-46 in the regional semifinal, and its five losses came by a combined 19 points.

"We gave up 17 uncontested shots in the first half alone in our loss to (Columbus) Academy (67-66 during a first-round league game to end a season-opening 10-game winning streak)," Meister said. "We really learned from that."

The Green Wave, which went 10-4 in the MSL-Ohio to finish runner-up behind Lakewood (11-3), returns much of its lineup. The opener is Friday at Warsaw Riverview, and it also plays Saturday at home against Wellington in a rematch of last year's district semifinal.

Matt Dawson, a shooting guard, headlines a deep senior class. He averaged 14 points a year ago to make first-team all-district. He was Licking County's top 3-point threat during the regular season, shooting 42.6 percent (40 of 94). He was also second in central Ohio with an 85.3 free-throw shooting percentage (64 of 75).

Senior point guard James Moerman, 6-foot-4 forwards Nate Adams and Kevin Cox and guard Derek Adam also return. The other senior is 6-2 forward Phil Taylor.

Adams made honorable mention all-district.

"Matt was very patient taking what came his way and then he was very efficient when it happened," said Meister, who has a 32-37 record entering his fourth season at Newark Catholic, including a 9-13 finish in 2007-08. "He's taking the same approach now, but we'll ask him to be even more versatile as a scorer and as a play-setter."

The lone junior is guard Sean Hughes and the only sophomore is guard Garrett Vernau. As many as three freshmen, including promising point guard David Meurer, might contribute. The others are guard Mitch Cox and 6-5 forward Jett Speelman.

"We're still the same motion-type offense and we'll get out and run in transition," said Meister, who graduated strong defensive players in guard Chris Leibold and forward Andy Vernau. "We'll have to utilize multiple schemes a little more because maybe we're not quite as versatile defensively, at least not yet."