To put Jordan Dartis' prep career into perspective, consider that the 2015 graduate left the Newark High School boys basketball program as its all-time leading scorer.

To put Jordan Dartis' prep career into perspective, consider that the 2015 graduate left the Newark High School boys basketball program as its all-time leading scorer.

Throw in the fact that the Wildcats have won 23 district titles to rank among the area's best all-time, and it's clear that players like the now-Ohio University freshman, who was a Division I district co-Player of the Year last season, don't come along often.

While the Wildcats possess height and strong overall numbers this season, what they don't have is experience.

"We're a very young team," coach Jeff Quackenbush said. "We graduated all five starters and all the players are still trying to learn their role. We've been working very hard. We struggled with Dayton Dunbar (in a 75-56 loss Nov. 27), but in the long run, that game will help us. We must grow up fast."

Newark, which shared last season's OCC-Ohio Division title with Gahanna at 12-2, was 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing the Lions on Dec. 11.

The biggest reason for optimism might be the addition of 6-foot-7 junior forward B.J. Duling, who averaged 9.4 points for New Albany last season.

He had 23 points against Dunbar and 15 in a 56-49 loss to Pickerington North on Dec. 4.

"B.J. is a very skilled big man that can play inside and out," Quackenbush said.

Other key players include senior Evan Thomas (5-11, guard) and juniors Justin Carter (6-2, forward), Hunter Dennison (5-10, guard) and Kobe Long-Weber (5-10, guard).

The Newark girls team also sports a new look after reaching a Division I state semifinal.

The Wildcats, who were 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Gahanna on Dec. 11, also lost their all-time leading scorer in 2015 graduate Kym Royster. She now is at Indiana after earning ThisWeek Super 12 captain and district Player of the Year honors.

In addition, sophomore guard Adrian Crockwell, a first-team all-league selection, transferred to Reynoldsburg while senior forward Tana Barrett decided to concentrate on track and field.

Despite those losses, Newark doesn't lack height because of the return of juniors Olivia Fox (6-2) and Leah Wingeier (6-3). Senior Takia Barrett (5-9, forward) and junior Emily Paul (5-5, guard) also received key minutes last season.

"Olivia Fox played a lot of (junior varsity) last year and so many of these girls were in the background last year," coach J.R. Shumate said. "That's what's been so pleasantly surprising."

LCL girls basketball gets underway

Two girls basketball teams hoping to battle for league titles met Dec. 12 when Lakewood played host to Newark Catholic.

The LCL has been split into two divisions, with Heath, Johnstown, Newark Catholic, Northridge and Utica in the LCL-Cardinal and Granville, Lakewood, Licking Heights, Licking Valley and Watkins Memorial in the LCL-Buckeye.

Teams play opponents in their division twice and opponents in the other division once. Those crossover games count toward the league records.

Lakewood was 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the league while Newark Catholic was 1-1 overall and in the league before their matchup.

The top returnee for the Lancers is 6-0 junior forward Courtney Vierstra, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds while making first-team all-district in Division II last year.

They opened league play by winning 46-39 on Dec. 1 at Johnstown and beat Licking Heights 58-45 on Dec. 4 at home.

"We have a lot of experience returning, but we're working very hard every day to get better," coach Phil Sikorski said. "I think we can compete with anyone in our league and we have scheduled a very tough non-league schedule for the battle we will see every night in the LCL."

Newark Catholic lost in a regional semifinal last season to finish 23-3 and lost three players who are competing collegiately in Kelly Clapper (Thomas More), Ashleigh Parkinson (Dayton) and Jill Blacksten (Youngstown State).

The Green Wave didn't play its opener until Dec. 4 because of the girls volleyball team's run to a Division III regional final. Newark Catholic lost that game to Johnstown 35-31.

Leading the Green Wave are senior Dani Evans (5-10, point guard), junior Claudia Crumrine (5-10, post player), sophomore Andrea Goodman (5-9, guard) and freshmen Samantha Basham (6-0, forward) and Laura Nowicki (5-7, guard).

Juniors Madison Crumrine (5-7, guard) and Jessica Groves (5-4, guard) and sophomore Emily Amore (5-8, guard) are other key players.

"Just because of our lack of experience, we've got to maximize every possession," coach Rob Smith said. "We've got to outhustle people."