As third-year coach Neil Hohman discussed his Central Crossing High School boys basketball team, a smile crept across his face.
Three seniors who started the past two seasons have returned for the Comets, who are trying to improve on last year's 10-13 finish.
"We don't have that big of a team numbers-wise, but we have a good group of kids to work with so far," Hohman said. "We have (shooting guard) Mike Woods, (point guard) Keason Lowe and (post player) Nic Miller back in their third season starting. It's good to go into the season with them knowing the offense and defense and what we expect of them. They have been leading the younger guys as well.
"They have played with each other in the past. They know each other and that allows them to play more consistently. That helps a lot. When sophomores and juniors have to come into games in the preseason, it's been smooth because of their leadership."
The 6-foot-4 Woods is the top returning scorer, averaging 12.0 points and 4.5 rebounds last season in being named special mention all-OCC-Central Division. Lowe (5-9; honorable mention all-league) averaged 7.2 points, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals, and Miller (6-4) averaged 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds.
"We have been working hard in practice, giving 100 percent and not taking any days off," Lowe said. "I feel like that might have been lacking in the years before when we weren't out there going as hard as we could. We want to win."
Another returning starter is senior Eddie Ferguson, a 6-3 guard/forward who averaged 7.1 points and a team-leading 5.5 rebounds last year. Junior forward Dan Ewald (6-3; 4.0 points, 3.2 rebounds) was one of the first players off the bench.
The Comets lost their leading scorer in senior Antwon Hampton, who moved to Groveport. The 6-3 guard averaged 14.5 points last season and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league after averaging 18.0 points as a sophomore.
"Antwon was our leading scorer for the last two years so we're going to miss him," Hohman said. "We still have the majority of our scoring back and we have some younger kids who can pick up that scoring."
Rounding out the roster are senior Austin Kehl (5-9, guard), juniors Josh McLaughlin (6-2, guard/forward), Gadid Warsame (6-3, forward) and Clay Watercutter (6-4, forward), sophomores Logan Green (5-10, guard) and Matt Reed (5-8, guard) and freshman Anthony Lowe (5-9, guard/forward).
"We need to work as a team to be successful," Keason Lowe said. "We are down on height so we have to work hard on defense and have to work together as a team in every phase of the game."
The Comets started strongly with a 75-39 win over Franklin Heights on Dec. 1 as Ferguson led with 24 points. Woods had 16 points with three 3-pointers, and Ewald added 11 points.
Central Crossing opens OCC-Central Division play Friday, Dec. 8, at home against defending champion Upper Arlington. The Comets tied Marysville for fourth (3-7) last season as the Golden Bears went 9-1.
"Right now we need to work on getting back on defense and not giving up easy baskets, and we also need to improve our boxing out and rebounding," Hohman said. "As a whole, our tallest guy is around 6-4 so it's going to be about rebounding as a unit. Boxing out and rebounding will be a big thing for us."
Numbers increase for wrestling program
Coach Jamie Ramirez has the most participants in his eight seasons leading the wrestling program.
The program consists of 31 wrestlers, including 12 freshmen and seven seniors. Ramirez said the latter group has the talent to lead the Comets to a successful season.
"We have a big freshman class and also a big senior class with seven," Ramirez said. "We figure that they can have a good year and that's in (the seniors') corner. They have put in the work and should see the results."
Leading the returnees is senior Jaden Mattox, who was Division I state runner-up at 152 pounds last season. He lost to Massillon Perry's David Carr 7-1 in the championship match as the Comets finished 13th (32.5 points) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (151).
Mattox, who is expected to compete at 160, finished second at state at 113 as a freshman and won a state championship at 132 as a sophomore.
"Jaden played football (this fall) for the first time in his high school career," Ramirez said. "He has lived wrestling and took some time away from the mats. We're working to get him in wrestling shape."
Seniors Ryan Fahy (138) and Devin Wood (132) and juniors Hudson Leapley (126) and Bobby Logan (heavyweight) were district qualifiers last season, and senior Noah Ross (106) was a district alternate.
The lineup also looks to have a pair of freshmen vying for 113 in Eddie Roberts and Justin Spencer, with freshman Blake Snouffer at 120. Sophomores Derek Layne and Austin Vazquez will be at 145 or 152, with senior Mason Morris at 170 or 182. Junior James Given is at 182 and junior Aaron Reasoner is at 220. The 195-pound spot likely will be vacant.
"We have a lot of people back with a couple years of experience, so this team definitely has potential," Ramirez said. "We have potential, but I also heard someone say that potential also means that you haven't done anything yet. We want to reach that potential."
The Comets opened Dec. 2 by finishing fifth (109) in the 11-team Olentangy Invitational behind champion Lancaster (183.5). Fahy (138), Leapley (126) and Logan (heavyweight) were runners-up, and Morris (182), Ross (106) and Wood (145) placed third.
Dec. 1 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Dec. 5 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Dec. 8 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Dec. 12 -- vs. Ready
*Dec. 15 -- vs. Marysville
Dec. 19 -- at Canal Winchester
*Dec. 22 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 28 -- Westerville North in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein
Jan. 3 -- vs. Briggs
*Jan. 5 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Jan. 9 -- vs. Groveport
*Jan. 12 -- at Westland
Jan. 13 -- vs. Hamilton Township
*Jan. 19 -- at Upper Arlington
Jan. 23 -- at Grove City
*Jan. 26 -- at Marysville
Jan. 27 -- at Teays Valley
Jan. 30 -- at Licking Heights
*Feb. 2 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 6 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*Feb. 9 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 16 -- vs. Westland
Dec. 2 -- Olentangy Invitational
Dec. 13 -- at New Albany with Galion and Marion Pleasant
Dec. 15-16 -- North Canton Hoover Holiday Invitational
Dec. 20 -- at Westland with Grove City
Dec. 29-30 -- Marion Harding Classic
*Jan. 11 -- at Dublin Coffman
Jan. 12-13 -- Mike Casey-Maumee Bay Classic at Oregon Clay
Jan. 18 -- vs. Gahanna, Logan and *Upper Arlington
Jan. 20 -- Comet Classic at home
*Jan. 25 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 3 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
*Feb. 8 -- at Westland
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Marysville
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing girls basketball, gymnastics and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 8 -- At Upper Arlington
Dec. 11 -- At Franklin Heights
Dec. 11 -- At Hilliard Davidson with Franklin Heights, Grove City, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Westland
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 8 -- Dublin Scioto at Dublin Recreation Center