The Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team is hoping to be more competitive this season than it was a year ago.
Last season, the Panthers finished 4-19 overall after losing to Upper Arlington 61-27 in the second round of the Division I district tournament and went 1-11 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place seventh behind champion Bradley (12-0).
"Our top goals are to win all of our home games to help us turn the corner and to compete for a top-three finish in the (OCC-Cardinal)," fourth-year coach Chris Maul said. "For us to have that success, we're going to need to limit our turnovers, win the rebounding battle and make shots."
The Panthers, who returned six letterwinners, including three starters, passed their first home test by beating Marysville 63-60 in their opener Nov. 30. They played at Central Crossing on Dec. 5 and open league play Friday, Dec. 8, at Delaware.
The returning starters are seniors Ben Gbur (6-foot-4, forward), Josh Govine (6-2, guard) and Brice Stultz (6-3, forward).
Last season, Govine averaged 9.1 points and was named honorable mention all-league. Gbur averaged 8.0 points and 3.1 rebounds and Stultz averaged 6.9 points and 7.2 rebounds.
"Josh is our top returning scorer and our best shooter," Maul said. "He's a leader and our most vocal player.
"Ben is our best defender. He's quick to the rim and is long and lanky. Brice is our top returning rebounder and post player."
Chandler Barlow, a 6-0 senior forward, and Jaeln Benjamin, a 5-8 junior guard, also were expected to be starters.
Benjamin is replacing Jose DeLeon, who was one of three players lost to graduation.
DeLeon, who scored a program-record 44 points in a 62-61 win over Worthington Kilbourne a year ago in what was the team's lone league victory, averaged 14.1 points and was named second-team all-league last season.
Barlow and Benjamin came off the bench last season, as did the other returning letterwinner, 6-1 senior guard Jack Gearhiser.
Others looking to be key contributors are seniors Jake Hamilton (6-1, forward) and Colton Wood (5-11, guard), junior Kyle Miller (5-10, guard) and freshman Andrew Patrick (6-1, guard).
Against Marysville, Stultz had 17 points, Benjamin scored 14, Barlow scored 12 and Gbur added nine.
"We're hoping to go eight or nine deep consistently," Maul said. "We've got three kids that are 6-3, so we're a bit taller than past years. We've got average speed and quickness."
Nov. 30 -- vs. Marysville
Dec. 5 -- at Central Crossing
*Dec. 8 -- at Delaware
Dec. 9 -- vs. Groveport
Dec. 12 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 15 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 16 -- vs. Grove City
*Dec. 19 -- at Dublin Scioto
Dec. 28 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Jan. 5 -- at Dublin Jerome
*Jan. 9 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*Jan. 12 -- vs. Bradley
Jan. 16 -- at Jonathan Alder
*Jan. 19 -- vs. Delaware
Jan. 20 -- at Davidson
*Jan. 23 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 26 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 30 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Feb. 2 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 9 -- at Thomas Worthington
Feb. 10 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Feb. 16 -- at Bradley
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 8 -- Home vs. Delaware
Dec. 9 -- Home vs. Groveport
Dec. 12 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 7 -- Delaware at Game of Western Bowl
Dec. 11 -- At Hilliard Davidson
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 9 -- Westerville South at Hilliard YMCA
Dec. 8-9 -- Ironman Tournament at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit