Pat Murphy knows sayings such as "buying in" and "culture" are used by virtually every athletic program at any level, but still, the DeSales High School boys basketball team's first-year coach puts stock in what they mean.
As far as Murphy is concerned, his trust in his players is validated during almost every possession.
Not only had five players led the Stallions in scoring at least once through seven games, but three times in that stretch, DeSales had five double-digit scorers in the same game -- something Murphy considered no small feat in the team's motion offense that does not emphasize set plays.
"We have to understand my shot versus our shot," Murphy said. "Putting team ahead of you is cliche, but it's hard to do. We're shooting 50 percent from the field. We're getting great shots, the right shots. We have to get better at making those good shots, but it's coming. Our schedule is not easy and we haven't seen real adversity yet, so we have to keep staying together and playing through that."
The Stallions were 3-4 overall before playing Lancaster on Jan. 16 and are 0-3 in the CCL.
Murphy estimated that he has rotated eight players in the starting lineup and had started three different lineups in the season's first month. With no players taller than 6-foot-3, he also has de-emphasized positions.
Kayin Derden, Donya Harris, Jayden Hawkins-White, Kobe Righter and Anthony Sciarroni all have played mostly on the perimeter, although Sciarroni occasionally guards forwards depending on personnel. Danny Bogue, Chris Fleisher and Desmond Watson, all of whom are 6-2, rotate between forward and center.
Derden was averaging 15.7 points through seven games to lead DeSales, followed by Righter (11.1), Watson (8.3), Sciarroni (8.0) and Fleisher (5.9).
"We've had a lot of ups and downs, but we're living up to what we expected from ourselves. We just try to come back when we have a down moment," Sciarroni said. "We have a height disadvantage, but we can use our speed on people. We are all good basketball players, so we just share the ball. The more together we play, the better we are."
The tone was set immediately, as five players scored between 12 and 15 points in a 94-34 season-opening rout of Patriot Prep Academy on Dec. 4. Bogue led the way with 15 points.
Derden's 20 points paced five double-digit scorers in a 71-64 win over Johnstown on Dec. 11, and five players scored between 11 and 13 points in a 71-59 win at Licking Heights on Dec. 16, led by Fleisher and Sciarroni with 13 each.
"We are very unified. We aren't looking for our own bucket. We are not a selfish team," said Harris, the Stallions' only senior. "We are working in a lot of guys who didn't play with us last year, but I like being the underdog. When people count us out, that only makes us work harder to prove them wrong."
Murphy hopes the addition of 6-3 forward Chris Karras for a Jan. 26 game at Watterson will provide further inside depth. Karras, a junior transfer from Olentangy who had to sit out the first 11 games per Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules, also is a tight end and defensive lineman on the football team.
However the season progresses, Murphy hopes he has struck a balance with his players. He was as proud of their on-court performances as the days they spent as servers at a soup kitchen earlier this month, as well as the time they spend in DeSales' chapel.
"It might take time away from us in the gym, but that's important to us," Murphy said. "We stay on the guys about their (academics). We do grade checks, which everybody does, but we want to make it real and hold them accountable. Once they know that I know what's going on in their second-period biology class, that gets their attention."
Girls basketball team seeks consistency
As its record might suggest, the girls basketball team has struggled with consistency this season.
DeSales was 5-7 overall and 1-1 in the CCL after a 59-41 win at Ready on Jan. 11.
"We've been pretty good when we play together and share the ball offensively," said coach Brian Cromwell, whose team's game against Licking Heights on Jan. 13 was postponed because of bad weather. "The big thing for us is we have to work on our consistency. A lot of good things happen when we play together, but we'll play a good quarter or a decent half and suddenly lose sight of the things that got us where we were. If the other team makes a play, we must respond and be good with our fundamentals."
Although Emma Burns is far and away the team's leading scorer, having averaged 17.6 points through 12 games, Cromwell cited contributions from several newer varsity players, including junior guard Taylor Cash and sophomore guard Katie Schuler.
"Taylor Cash's energy level is great. She's a huge part of what we do defensively," Cromwell said. "Katie has started to do some great things. She's tied for our second-leading rebounder even as a guard. She's long and is able to disrupt some things passing-wise with her length. Katie's even played some center, some forward and some point guard. We knew she would be versatile, and we haven't been disappointed. All the girls are doing as much as they can, and they're getting better. ...
"We didn't bring a lot of experience back from last year, but we're at the point in the season, (12) games in, now where a freshman isn't a freshman. You get a lot of experience along the way."
Burns and Gabby Elliott each scored a game-high 15 points against Ready.
Approaching the halfway point of league play, the Stallions play host to Hartley on Thursday, Jan. 18, before a rematch with Watterson at home Jan. 25.
'Pinning machine' leading wrestlers
Wrestling coach Nick Preston needed only two words to describe why senior Louis Dytko is off to such a successful start.
"He's a pinning machine," Preston said of Dytko, who is 24-4 with 19 pins at 145 pounds. "How do I explain Louis? He's the cardiac kid. He's the most exciting guy to watch at tournaments, every match. He scores and he looks to score all the time. Louis is good on top, and once he takes control of his matches, it's very hard for the opponent to come back."
Dytko already has two championships this season, as he won the Stallions' season-opening
Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament on Dec. 2 and the Bobcat Invitational on Jan. 6 at Grandview. He placed second in the Marion Harding Classic held Dec. 29 and 30 and third in the Liberty Classic held Dec. 15 and 16 at Olentangy Liberty.
Cole Potts is 23-8 at heavyweight and placed sixth in the Catholic Invitational Tournament that concluded Jan. 14 at Cleveland St. Ignatius. He also finished third in the Pizzurro tournament and fifth in the Liberty Classic.
DeSales, which finished 12th (20.5 points) in the 14-team Large School Division of the CIT behind champion Cincinnati Elder (275.5), is off this weekend before competing in the Utica Invitational on Jan. 27.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Zanesville Rosecrans in makeup from Dec. 30
Jan. 20 -- At Granville
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Hartley
Jan. 20 -- At Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 18 -- Watterson at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 19 -- Whitehall at Holiday Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Columbus East at Eastland Lanes
*Jan. 24 -- Eastmoor Academy at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 19 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 20 -- Watterson at Chiller Dublin
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 23 -- At Columbus Academy