The Hartley High School boys basketball team's uncharacteristic early exit from last year's postseason still doesn't sit well with 18th-year coach Randy Kortokrax or his players.
Throughout the offseason, the Hawks focused on being unselfish to try to take advantage of their depth, experience and versatility.
Being strong in those three areas also could help Hartley compensate for having a smaller lineup than it did a year ago when it finished 16-7 overall but lost to 10th-seeded Linden-McKinley 39-36 in the second round of the Division II district tournament. The Hawks were the fourth seed.
"It can't be any worse than last year because that was one and done," Kortokrax said. "Obviously, we didn't like how that one went, so we're changing a lot of things around. We've got a lot of those guys back. We do have a lot of talent, but it's going to be about sharing the ball. We've got a good first group, and the bench is kind of going to be a dogfight to see how we fill it out."
The top returnees are senior Garrett Tipton, a 6-foot-4 guard who has committed to Bellarmine University, and junior Morgan Safford, a 6-4 forward.
Last season, Tipton averaged 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and Safford averaged 10.7 points and 3.7 rebounds and shot 38 percent from 3-point range.
Seniors Payton Collins (6-7, post player), Major Lowe (5-9, guard) and Mac Wieging (6-0, wing player) also should be regulars. Wieging averaged five points and 2.1 rebounds last season.
Senior Joseph Matuska (5-11, guard), who is up from junior varsity, and senior Daniel Trainer (6-1, guard), who has returned after not playing last season, are others who figure to play key roles.
The other senior is Andrew Trainer (5-11, guard).
Juniors Chase Albanese (5-11, guard), Ryan Heuser (6-2, wing player), Sijuan Johnson (5-7, guard) and Braylon Mitchell (5-11, guard) also are looking to contribute.
"(One) of our strengths is going to be our speed," Tipton said. "We're going to get out and run. Most of our strengths will come from us coming together more as an entire group."
Hartley, which finished third (4-4) in the CCL last season behind St. Charles (8-0) and DeSales (5-3), is hoping to get off to a faster start than it has in recent years. The Hawks' football team won back-to-back state championships the past two years but ended this season Nov. 17.
Hartley didn't open the 2016-17 season until Dec. 10 because of the late additions of football players, but it opened this season Dec. 2 with a 71-51 win over Toledo Rogers in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Whitehall.
Other non-league opponents on the Hawks' schedule include Wellington, which was the Division IV state runner-up last season, and two Division I OCC programs in Groveport and Reynoldsburg.
Hartley plays at Wellington on Monday, Dec. 11, faces Groveport in The Challenge on Jan. 6 at Pickerington North and plays host to Reynoldsburg on Feb. 12.
"We're going to put them through the grind and see how we're going to do," Kortokrax said. "In Division II, there are a lot of good City (League) teams and you've also got teams like Watterson, Bloom-Carroll and Granville, so we try to play a little bit of both (styles).
"It's a good group. They like each other and are solid kids. A big thing is that we've got to hold the boards, be physical and share the ball. ... We're a real good shooting team when we shoot good shots."
Dec. 2 -- Toledo Rogers in All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Whitehall
*Dec. 8 -- vs. Watterson
Dec. 11 -- at Wellington
*Dec. 15 -- vs. Ready
*Dec. 22 -- at DeSales
Dec. 29 -- Gnadenhutten Indian Valley in Tuscarawas Central Catholic Holiday Shootout
Dec. 30 -- Dayton Chaminade Julienne in Tuscarawas Central Catholic Holiday Shootout
*Jan. 5 -- at St. Charles
Jan. 6 -- Groveport in The Challenge at Pickerington North
Jan. 9 -- at Bloom-Carroll
Jan. 15 -- Duncan Falls Philo in Route 40 Classic at Zanesville West Muskingum
*Jan. 19 -- at Watterson
Jan. 20 -- at Patriot Prep
*Jan. 26 -- at Ready
*Feb. 2 -- vs. DeSales
Feb. 6 -- at Grove City Christian
*Feb. 9 -- vs. St. Charles
Feb. 12 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Feb. 16 -- vs. Linden-McKinley
Feb. 17 -- vs. Whitehall
Feb. 20 -- at Johnstown
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 9 -- Home vs. Washington Court House
Dc. 13 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*Dec. 7 -- DeSales at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 8 -- DeSales at Holiday Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Watterson at Holiday Lanes
Dec. 13 -- Bexley at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 9 -- Watterson at Mount Carmel Fitness & Health
Dec. 9 -- Dan Gartner Duals at Whitehall