At first glance, the Westerville North High School boys basketball team appears to be a bit young.

At first glance, the Westerville North High School boys basketball team appears to be a bit young.

A more thorough review reveals a different story regarding the players' level of experience.

The Warriors have only four seniors on a team looking to improve on last season's 13-11 finish. However, they have two of their top scorers back and a group of skilled athletes hoping to make a push in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

"We're going to play to our strengths," said fourth-year coach Shan Trusley, whose team was fourth (6-8) in the OCC-Cardinal last season behind champion Westerville South (13-1). "We're a really skilled group that is capable of dribbling and passing it. I like our skill as much as anyone's."

North lost its leading scorer in point guard Corey Benton, a 2016 graduate who was third-team all-district and second-team all-league after averaging 15.5 points a year ago.

Junior Julius Brown, a 5-foot-10 point guard, returns after averaging 10.1 points and being named honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league. Sophomore guard Jeremiah Keene (6-0) averaged 9.3 points and was honorable mention all-league.

Seniors Austin Bennett (6-3, guard) and Connor Ledford (6-3, center) also started last season. Senior Malik Sammons (6-3, forward) rounds out the starting lineup.

"We have kids who really understand situational basketball because they have been on the floor together for at least a year," Trusley said. "They understand what we want done at the end of quarters and at the end of games. They know what the score is, how much time is left and what needs to be done."

The Warriors opened with a tall order in defending Division I state champion South, and the visiting Wildcats came away with a 71-49 win Dec. 2. Junior J.J. Harvey, a 6-2 forward, came off the bench to lead North with 12 points.

"(The opener) didn't go as planned, but it gave us a chance to see what we need to work on," Ledford said. "We need to take those things and fix them so we can work for the win."

North rebounded to defeat Gary (Ind.) Bowman Academy 70-52 on Dec. 3 in All-Ohio Hoop Showcase at Whitehall. Keene had 20 points with five 3-pointers, Ledford scored 16 points and Brown added 12.

"When we play as a team, we are really good," Ledford said. "When we share the ball, good things happen. We need to move the ball and attack the basket."

Jaylin White (6-3, forward) completes the senior class.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Tyrell Collier (5-11, guard), Josh Houston (6-0, guard), K.J. Johnson (6-3, forward), Julian Malone (6-3, guard) and Noah Voorhies (6-2, forward) and sophomore Philip Alston (6-4, forward).

Wrestling team hits stride early

Coach David Grant has high expectations for his 13th season leading the wrestling team, and the Warriors didn't disappoint in their opener.

North went 4-0 to win the Cincinnati Moeller Duals on Dec. 3, defeating Moeller 45-14, Louisville (Kentucky) St. Xavier 39-30, Louisville (Kentucky) Trinity 78-10 and Cincinnati Oak Hills 55-12.

The Warriors return a pair of seniors who went 1-2 in the Division I state tournament last season. Josh Grant, the coach's nephew, finished the season 31-4 at 126 and Cameron Jenkins was 40-6 at 145.

"We have a lot of potential on this team, and it could be the best team we have had top to bottom," coach Grant said. "We have to do the work, though, to make things happen."

Josh Grant will compete at 132 and Jenkins is at 145.

Other top performers are seniors Liam Alicardi (132), Jackson Blackstone (195), Mason Hay (220), John Hutson (heavyweight) and Cade Pillow (145/152), juniors Bodi Bien (182) and Andrew Scherer (120) and sophomore Mitch Potterf (152/160).

The Warriors won their third consecutive OCC-Cardinal title last winter, going undefeated in the league all three seasons.

Winning the OCC-Buckeye will be difficult with Olentangy Liberty in the mix. The Patriots won the district title last season and finished third at state.

"Liberty is really good, so we'll have a tough job ahead of us, but I would rather have it that way," coach Grant said. "I want the Thursday night (league) duals to be competitive, so it can help prepare our kids for the postseason. I would rather prepare kids for state than to win a watered-down league."

Girls team receives learning experience

Coach Lamont Tillman wasn't upset with the girls basketball team's 53-50 loss to South on Dec. 2.

He said the setback in the OCC-Buckeye opener was a learning experience for the Warriors.

"This was game (No.) 2 of a long season, so we will continue to get better because we definitely have room for improvement," Tillman said. "We were home, but it was a hostile environment with the loud crowd for both sides. I liked the way we fought and hung in there. When we look at the film, we'll find ways that this game can make us better."

Gabby Hutcherson, a 6-3 freshman post player, led North with 12 points and junior guard Bethany Worm added 11.

The Warriors defeated DeSales 48-44 in their opener Nov. 30 as Hutcherson scored 22 points.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 2 -- vs. Westerville South

Dec. 3 -- Gary (Ind.) Bowman Academy in All-Ohio Hoop Showcase at Whitehall

*Dec. 9 -- at Westerville Central

*Dec. 16 -- vs. Olentangy

Dec. 20 -- at New Albany

Dec. 23 -- Africentric in Pickerington North Holiday Tournament

Dec. 28 -- Licking Heights in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein

Jan. 3 -- vs. Marysville

*Jan. 6 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Jan. 7 -- Eastmoor Academy in The Challenge at Africentric

Jan. 10 -- vs. Upper Arlington

Jan. 13 -- vs. Watterson

Jan. 17 -- at Whitehall

*Jan. 20 -- at Olentangy Orange

Jan. 24 -- at Dublin Coffman

*Jan. 27 -- vs. Westerville Central

Jan. 28 -- Gahanna in Sullinger Play-By-Play Classic at Ohio Dominican

*Feb. 3 -- at Olentangy

*Feb. 7 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Feb. 10 -- at Westerville South

*Feb. 17 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

Feb. 18 -- at Harvest Prep

WRESTLING

Dec. 3 -- Cincinnati Moeller Duals

Dec. 10 -- Kilted Classic at Sparta Highland

Dec. 17 -- at Hilliard Darby with Thornville Sheridan

Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament

Jan. 7 -- Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto

*Jan. 12 -- vs. Westerville Central

Jan. 14 -- Licking Heights Invitational

*Jan. 19 -- at Olentangy Orange

*Jan. 26 -- vs. Westerville South

*Feb. 8 -- at Olentangy

*Feb. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the North girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 9 -- At Westerville Central

Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Whitehall

BOWLING

*Dec. 12 -- Olentangy Orange at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 9 -- Big Walnut and Canal Winchester at Westerville Community Center

Dec. 10 -- Central Crossing, Delaware, Watkins Memorial and Westland at Ohio Wesleyan

*League contest