Coming off a season in which it failed to win a league game for the first time during the tenure of longtime coach Vince Lombardo, the Watterson High School boys basketball team is reinforcing the value of physical toughness this season.

The Eagles were undersized a year ago when they finished 9-16 overall and 0-8 in the CCL, but they now have a slightly bigger look.

Watterson also is hoping to build on its 39-32 win over ninth-seeded Jonathan Alder in the second round of the Division II district tournament last season. After upsetting the Pioneers, the 12th-seeded Eagles lost to top-seeded Columbus South 59-46 in a district semifinal.

"I was really proud of the way my guys battled all year," said Lombardo, who earned his 400th career victory last season and is in his 25th season as coach. "We were very young and very lean in size. It was a league that I thought was really good with big people, and most of those big people are gone.

"I really like the look of our team. We're still relatively young with still a lot of juniors and sophomores. Our league is going to be a lot of fun as always."

The Eagles opened Dec. 2 with a 61-43 win over Athens at home and begin league play Friday, Dec. 8, at Hartley.

The top returnees are seniors Liam Aman (5-foot-10, point guard), Jack Eddingfield (5-10, guard) and Cort Marbaugh (6-3, wing player) and juniors Drew Davis (6-4, forward) and Jimmy Patton (6-5, forward).

Juniors Stephen Garrett (6-1, guard) and Zach Sawyer (6-0, guard) have moved up from a junior varsity team that finished 19-3 last season.

Junior Matt Rhomberg (6-2, post player) and sophomore Chris Crane (6-2, guard) also should be key players.

"Hopefully, we'll be physical enough," Lombardo said. "Our size this year will be a little bit better overall with some guys who will bring some strength to the lineup.

"We had kind of an unbalanced team a year ago. We had some decent jump-shooters, but didn't get any interior scoring and that hurt us. Hopefully, tempo-wise, we'll have a moderate tempo, so we'll see how that kind of develops."

Others looking to contribute include sophomores Mason Graney (6-3, forward) and Aiden McGinn (6-5, forward).

"After (last season) was over, we felt like we should have kept it going," Marbaugh said. "We're hoping to go a lot farther than we did last year. The football guys have kind of meshed well with the other guys and we've put in a lot of time in the offseason. We've started getting better chemistry."

Among Watterson's other non-league opponents are Grandview (Dec. 23), which was the third seed in last year's Division III district tournament, and four Division I programs in Westerville North (Jan. 13), Grove City (Jan. 30), Worthington Kilbourne (Feb. 9) and Hilliard Davidson (Feb. 20).

Last season, North won 15 games and Davidson was a district runner-up.

The Eagles also will play in the Dayton Northridge Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 and 29.

"We're definitely excited," Eddingfield said. "All of the returning guys have put in a lot of work in the offseason, and we're hoping to get some league wins."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 2 -- vs. Athens

Dec. 5 -- at Fairfield Union

*Dec. 8 -- at Hartley

*Dec. 15 -- at DeSales

*Dec. 22 -- vs. St. Charles

Dec. 23 -- at Grandview

Dec. 28 -- Dayton Carroll in Dayton Northridge Holiday Tournament

Dec. 29 -- TBD in Dayton Northridge Holiday Tournament

Jan. 6 -- vs. Mansfield St. Peter's

Jan. 9 -- at Buckeye Valley

*Jan. 12 -- vs. Ready

Jan. 13 -- vs. Westerville North

*Jan. 19 -- vs. Hartley

Jan. 23 -- vs. Jonathan Alder

*Jan. 26 -- vs. DeSales

Jan. 30 -- at Grove City

*Feb. 2 -- at St. Charles

Feb. 6 -- at Worthington Christian

Feb. 9 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Feb. 13 -- at Whetstone

*Feb. 16 -- at Ready

Feb. 20 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*League contest

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

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 9 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls

Dec. 13 -- At Marysville

BOWLING

*Dec. 11 -- Hartley at Holiday Lanes

*Dec. 12 -- Walnut Ridge at Sawmill Lanes

HOCKEY

*Dec. 8 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North

*Dec. 10 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 8 -- Westerville Central and Hilliard Davidson at Westerville Community Center

Dec. 9 -- Hartley at Mount Carmel Fitness & Health

*League contest