No matter how much praise Joe Bills has lavished on 6-foot-2 sophomore shooting guard Kayin Derden, the DeSales High School boys basketball coach would be fine doing so if only for one reason.

"He is the best shooter we've had since I have been here," said Bills, the Stallions' fourth-year coach who played at Wright State University. "He's a 40-percent 3-point shooter (33-for-83 through 17 games) and we haven't had that since I've been here.

"He is making teams adjust defensively. Pretty much everybody who plays us will start with trying to defend (center) Caden Sanchez, then work their way out from there. Kayin Derden gives them something to think about on the perimeter."

Derden was averaging 10.4 points through 19 games for DeSales, which was 15-4 overall before playing Lancaster on Feb. 14 and is 4-2 in the CCL. Derden, who was 67-for-151 (44.4 percent) from the field through 18 games, started on junior varsity his entire freshman season and gave Bills little choice about promoting him into a prominent role as a sophomore.

Derden had scored in double figures 10 times, including three games with 20 points or more. He had a career-high 24 points in a 76-44 win over Dayton Thurgood Marshall on Dec. 10.

Sanchez, a High Point University recruit who passed 1,000 career points during a 66-54 win over Briggs on Feb. 11, said Derden immediately fit in to the Stallions' up-tempo style.

"Our pace is what keeps us going," Sanchez said. "(Derden) can absolutely stroke the ball. He can drive. He is an all-around player. He can jump high. He has really surpassed my expectations."

Derden downplayed his contributions while saying he has exceeded his own expectations.

"My role is just to do what I am supposed to do on defense, and run the correct plays and shoot the ball well (on offense)," Derden said. "I saw myself as a starter, but I didn't think I'd be scoring 24 points in a game. I hadn't envisioned that, but things have been pretty good. It actually surprised me.

"(Bills) just wanted me to play with confidence. He just told me I would have to step up. Coming up to varsity, it's a totally different game. It's faster. I had to get used to everything."

Bills was equally complimentary of Derden's defensive abilities, calling him the Stallions' best player when it comes to closing out and defensive footwork.

"He's not necessarily our best total defender, but he's our best fundamental defender," Bills said.

Derden also has an estimated wingspan of 6-6, making him another bothersome presence on the perimeter with 6-5 senior guard Luke Hippler. Hippler was second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.4 points before Feb. 14, behind Sanchez's 12.6.

"He's a lanky player like me, Abdul (Kanu) and Caden, so he adds to what we already have," Hippler said of Derden. "He is a big bonus. He has brought exactly what we've needed."

A 52-41 home loss to Hartley on Feb. 10, coupled with St. Charles' 38-36 win over Watterson that same night, eliminated DeSales from CCL championship contention. The Cardinals clinched the title with their win.

The Stallions, who were averaging 56.6 points before Feb. 14, are seeded second of 26 teams in the coming Division II district tournament. DeSales will play host to 23rd-seeded Lakewood in a first-round game Feb. 27.

"Our team offensively is becoming more and more dangerous," Bills said. "You have to like that heading into tournament season."

Cummins, McCandlish
lead swimmers

Maureen Cummins of the girls swimming team won a Division I sectional championship in the 100-yard freestyle Feb. 11 at Thomas Worthington, leading the program into the district round this weekend.

Cummins won the 100 free in 53.67 seconds and placed third in the 100 backstroke (1:00.23) to qualify in both events for the district meet Saturday, Feb. 18, at Ohio State. Mary Ruff was 10th in the 100 back (1:03.16) to earn an at-large district berth.

Also earning at-large berths were the 200 free relay (1:50.57), the 200 medley relay (2:00.4) and the 400 free relay (4:09.28).

DeSales finished eighth (57 points) behind champion New Albany (323) as 14 teams scored.

The winner of each sectional swimming event automatically qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.

In the Division II boys sectional at the same site, DeSales' boys earned five runner-up finishes to place second (199) behind champion Granville (414) as four teams scored.

Ian McCandlish was second in the 100 back (1:03.99) and 100 butterfly (1:02.58) and advanced to district Friday, Feb. 17, at Ohio State in both events. The 200 medley relay (2:02.67) also was second and earned an at-large berth.

There were no automatic district berths from the Division II sectional. Twenty-seven at-large berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.

At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Girls basketball team
prepping for UA

Every girls basketball team was given two minutes during the Division I district tournament draw to choose its place on the bracket, and 25th-seeded DeSales used nearly all of its allotted time trying to figure out its path.

In the end, the Stallions chose a first-round road game at 16th-seeded Upper Arlington on Saturday, Feb. 18, because they liked the matchup and it gave them a chance at a second-round home game. Both DeSales and UA, who did not play during the regular season, run four-guard lineups most of the time.

"We had three places we felt like we could have gone to, but we feel playing UA gives us a decent chance against a great opponent. At that point (picking 25th), all the teams already on the bracket are pretty good," coach Brian Cromwell said. "With our makeup, UA gives us a good challenge. (Sophomore guard Macy) Spielman can light up a scoreboard. They have some other players who can shoot well. With their style and our style, we think it's the best matchup we could have."

Spielman is a daughter of former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman.

DeSales is 9-13 overall after a 38-29 loss to Zanesville in its regular-season finale Feb. 11, and finished 2-5 in the CCL with a 39-36 loss to Hartley on Feb. 9.

The DeSales-UA winner will play host to 36th-seeded Dublin Jerome in a second-round game Feb. 24.

Hockey team
set for postseason

The hockey team will try to win its first game in a month when it takes on Oxford Talawanda in the first round of the district tournament Friday, Feb. 17, at Chiller North.

DeSales, which is seeded 20th of 24 teams, is 5-19-11 overall and 0-8-1 in its past nine games. The Stallions are seeking their first win since Jan. 16, when they defeated Pepper Pike Orange 10-3 in the championship game of the Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament in Strongsville.

Talawanda, which did not play DeSales during the regular season, is seeded 22nd.

The Stallions lost their opening game in the consolation bracket of the Blue Jackets Cup, falling to 11th-seeded Springboro 5-2 on Feb. 10 at OhioHealth Ice Haus. Dimitri Bergados and Adam Graver scored for 10th-seeded DeSales.

The DeSales-Talawanda winner will play top-seeded St. Charles in the second round Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Ice Haus, with that winner advancing to a district quarterfinal Feb. 25. The Stallions lost to the Cardinals 11-0 on Dec. 10.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave