The Hartley High School girls basketball team isn't intimidated by its move to Division I this season.
After winning a Division II district championship and finishing 21-6 overall a year ago, the Hawks have moved to the big-school division because of the OHSAA's competitive balance.
A returning cast featuring 5-foot-9 senior point guard and Miami University commit Kennedy Taylor has the Hawks feeling optimistic as they move into uncharted territory.
"It was kind of at first a little shaky because everyone was a little nervous about being in Division I, but our coaches have instilled the confidence they have in us," 5-8 senior guard Amaiah Jones said. "We're not really so much worried about it (now), and the chemistry is starting to connect. As of right now, we're building up to be in a good spot for the beginning of the season."
Taylor averaged 10.3 points and was named second-team all-district and first-team all-CCL last season as Hartley went 5-2 in the league to place second behind Watterson (7-0). Jones averaged 8.9 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
The other seniors are Jordan Kaylor (6-0, forward) and Lindsay Dunlap (5-6, guard).
Juniors Israel Strickland (5-4, guard) and Chiamaka Nwokolo (6-2, forward) also have returned. Last season, Nwokolo, who has committed to play volleyball for Pittsburgh, averaged 7.9 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, while Strickland averaged 8.4 points and was honorable mention all-district.
Sophomores Sa'haia Clark-Lee (5-10, forward), Azure' Lewis (5-10, forward) and Abigail Rhodes (5-9, guard) and freshman Milayna Williams (5-8, guard) also should be key players.
"We've been working together, especially with Kennedy as our point guard and feeding to the post," Kaylor said. "If we stay positive and our chemistry stays strong, our talent's going to take us pretty far this year even though we moved up to Division I."
Hartley, which opened Nov. 27 against Columbus School for Girls, lost just one player to graduation in guard Molly Van Horn, who averaged 4.3 points.
Hailey Jordan, a forward who averaged 10.6 points and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district last season, transferred to Eastmoor Academy for her junior season.
"We have an experienced team this year," third-year coach Donald Dennis said. "We're looking forward to a very competitive schedule. We're in Division I for the first time. It doesn't change our goals, but it will be something we have to prepare for as we get ready for the postseason.
"Of our six losses last year, we lost five by five points or less, so they're a group that wants to play for each other. We're going to be assertive and play the whole 94 feet, use our inside game and the experience of Kennedy Taylor and the guards to be a solid basketball team."
'Incredible' seniors led football team
When football coach Brad Burchfield thinks about his seniors, he'll think of them as the group that helped bring the CCL back together.
After being in the CCL-Gold Division from 1987-2016, Hartley rejoined DeSales, St. Charles and Watterson as part of the CCL this season. The Hawks have played all three programs each year since 2014.
Hartley is losing 16 seniors, including the Division III district Defensive Player of the Year in linebacker Maximus Stienecker.
"Our seniors were incredible," Burchfield said. "The CCL is a stronger football league with dominant central Ohio Catholic schools. They got the league back together and strengthened it. This group has continued to establish the reputation of our program in Ohio. This was a great season, and we're really proud of it. To win 11 games and win the CCL and regional runner-up trophy, all of those are incredibly awesome accomplishments."
Hartley, which won a combined 47 games the last four seasons, finished 11-2 overall and went 3-0 in the CCL to finish ahead of DeSales (2-1), Watterson (1-2) and St. Charles (0-3).
The third-seeded Hawks beat sixth-seeded New Philadelphia 62-21 on Nov. 3 to open the Region 11 playoffs and defeated second-seeded Independence 44-14 on Nov. 10 before falling to Dresden Tri-Valley 13-9 in the regional final Nov. 17 at White Field in Newark.
Stienecker finished with more than 100 tackles and more than a dozen tackles for loss on defense and also started on the offensive line.
Seniors Ethan Amaya (DL), Elijah Carter (DB/RB), Nick Cone (LB/RB) and Patrick Gilliland (OL) and junior Jordan Kirkbride (TE) joined Stienecker on first-team all-district.
Carter rushed for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns on 143 carries and had three interceptions on defense, and Amaya had five tackles for loss. Gilliland has committed to play for Ohio University.
Senior Alexander Blackmon (LB/RB) was second-team all-district on offense, finishing with 585 yards and 23 touchdowns on 119 carries. He also had six tackles for loss and about 50 tackles on defense.
Also making second-team all-district on defense were seniors Ben Dankow (LB/RB) and James Reese III (LB/RB) and junior Jalan January (DB/RB), while juniors Phillip Cole (WR/DB), Payton Collins (OL/DL) and Matteo Agriesti (K) were second-team all-district on offense.
Cole rushed for 312 yards and two touchdowns and was the Hawks' leading receiver with 21 catches for 419 yards and three scores. Kirkbride had eight receptions for 164 yards, and January rushed for 339 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries.
Senior quarterback Anthony Carfagna finished 46-for-89 passing for 926 yards and five touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Miles Fleming was 12-for-19 passing for 206 yards and one touchdown.
"We will be very good again next year," Burchfield said. "We return some exciting players as well as have younger players on the verge of greatness as they take the next step in terms of responsibility on the field. We'll always be among the group that realistically expects to compete for a state (title). We can't wait to start building the team in January."
*Nov. 27 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
Nov. 30 -- vs. Whitehall
Dec. 5 -- at Bexley
Dec. 6 -- vs. Centennial
Dec. 9 -- vs. Washington Court House
Dc. 13 -- vs. Westerville North
Dec. 16 -- vs. Big Walnut
Dec. 19 -- at Fairfield Christian
Dec. 21 -- vs. Cincinnati Trailblazers
Dec. 28 -- Detroit Country Day in Detroit Holiday Tournament
Dec. 29 -- Saginaw (Mich.) Heritage in Detroit Holiday Tournament
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Ready
Jan. 6 -- at Canal Winchester
*Jan. 11 -- at Watterson
Jan. 15 -- at Dresden Tri-Valley
*Jan. 18 -- at DeSales
Jan. 20 -- Northland in Nubian Classic at Africentric
*Jan. 25 -- at Ready
Jan. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Watterson
*Feb. 8 -- vs. DeSales
Feb. 10 -- vs. Springfield Kenton Ridge
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley boys basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
Dec. 2 -- Toledo Rogers in All-Ohio Showcase at Whitehall
*Dec. 4 -- Africentric at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 4 -- At Oakstone Academy