That the Olentangy High School boys basketball team had arguably its best stretch of the season so far after a holiday trip to Florida was exactly what coach John Feasel wanted.
The Braves' first three games of January featured a 75-74 overtime win at Orange on Jan. 5, a 69-56 loss at then-undefeated Dublin Coffman on Jan. 6 in which the Braves were within seven points with a few minutes left and a 68-60 upset of then-top-ranked Upper Arlington on Jan. 9.
Olentangy, which won two out of three games during the KSA Events Holiday Basketball Tournament that concluded Dec. 29 in Orlando, Florida, is 7-5 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division entering a Friday, Jan. 19, home game against Westerville South.
"We're moving the ball well and sharing it. We're making that extra pass now," Feasel said. "Going to Florida is a time-consuming monster of a fundraising hassle of a long year -- two years, really -- (in which) we fundraise. But those three games and five days down there really bring a team together. We're playing closer-knit right now. It's stuff we saw and talked about when we were down there. It's not an end-all be-all, but it helps."
The consistent play of senior forward Jerred Kinnaird and junior guard Sean Marks has helped. Marks is averaging a team-high 22.5 points along with 3.8 steals and 2.5 steals, and Kinnaird is averaging 12.2 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds.
Junior guard Alex Sieve, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Orange with 2 seconds left, is averaging 11.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Kinnaird, who grew an inch in the offseason but slimmed down -- going from 6-foot-1, 215 pounds to 6-2, 195 -- downplayed his own contributions but applauded those of Marks, who was on pace entering the week to becoming the team's single-season leading scorer.
"Sean comes off screens hard and he hits me when I am open," Kinnaird said. "Rebounding is a team effort. Everybody has to box out. When everybody does that, it's easy for me to get the rebound."
Feasel said Kinnaird's conditioning has been key.
"To play at the level you need in the post in this league, you have to have muscle. You have to be strong," Feasel said. "It's always a battle. We hit the weight room harder (last offseason). I tell Jerred he's not 6-8. He has to beat people down there and get easy shots and be able to finish. He's done a great job."
Marks has 270 points. The single-season record is 502, set by Scott Donnelly in 1989-90. If Marks maintains his current pace, he would score 517 points through 23 games, the least Olentangy would play including its first-round Division I district tournament game and barring any cancellations.
"My teammates set good screens for me, they get me the ball when I'm open and I've been able to knock down some shots," Marks said. "Other people are stepping up now and that makes things easier for everybody. Jerred coming along is a good thing. He shows up every night and is playing really well. He isn't just a low-post option. He can step outside and shoot it, too."
Feasel said there was little celebration after any of the team's recent big wins, adding that school administration successfully kept students from rushing the floor after the UA game.
"We'll save that for after we win state," he said.
Wrestlers begin league schedule with win
The wrestling team began OCC-Buckeye competition with a 58-18 win at Westerville South on Jan. 10, but coach Dennis Lyberger was more focused on the means to that end.
Olentangy earned five wins by pin, all of which came in 88 seconds or less.
"I was happy with our effort, and that's what I was looking at," Lyberger said. "I thought we were aggressive and after the takedowns, we tried to turn (opponents). The aggressiveness is what I like. We've been in some tough tournaments. I don't take all of our kids to those tournaments so we have some young kids wrestling in duals that I want to see what they'll do. I like what I saw. We made some technical mistakes, but the aggressiveness was there."
Lyberger has used different lineups in duals and invitationals. Against South, Lyberger put Ben Hall at 120 pounds, Israel Foston at 152, Danny Delgratta at 195 and C.J. Delgratta at heavyweight in his varsity debut.
Another new addition to the lineup, James White IV, made his debut Jan. 6 when he finished third at 138 in the Beavercreek Classic. White, a transfer from Delaware, pinned South's Bobby Henderson in 16 seconds on Jan. 10 and is two wins shy of 100 for his career.
The Braves finished third (149) in the 43-team Top Gun Tournament that concluded Jan. 13 at Alliance behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (182).
Xander Gore and Jacob Sherman were second at 145 and 113, respectively. Nick Varanelli placed fourth at 126 and Brady Pethtel was fifth at 152.
Olentangy's home opener is Thursday, Jan. 18, against Westerville Central in a league match.
"We've been decent. I've been happy with our showings," Lyberger said. "(The Top Gun) will tell us where we really are. We need more guys stepping it up if they want to make it to (state)."
Brehm leading girls bowlers
Boasting some of the highest scoring totals in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference, the girls bowling team was 6-1 overall before a Jan. 17 non-league match against Lexington.
Olentangy is 6-1 in the COHSBC-A Division and 4-0 in the OCC-Buckeye.
The Braves were averaging 830.1 pins per match after a 2,304-1,973 win over Delaware on Jan. 10 at Delaware Lanes, putting them third at the time behind Whitehall (883.7) and Gahanna (862.1). Gahanna handed Olentangy its only loss entering the week, 2,070-1,997 on Dec. 21.
Erika Brehm's 193.1 average led the Braves entering the week and was fourth in the COHSBC. Olivia Hupp was second on the team with a 166.0 average, ahead of Abby Chubb (155.1) and Sydney Perry (153.9).
The boys team was 3-4 overall before Jan. 17. It is 3-4 in the COHSBC-A and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye. Michael Lamar leads the team with a 192.7 average, ahead of Tyler McMaster (192.1), Nick Madaris (180.0) and Eli Cumbo (174.2).
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Westerville South. The Braves lost to the Wildcats 69-60 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
*Jan. 19 -- At Westerville South. The Braves lost to the Wildcats 52-37 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 23 -- At Big Walnut
*Jan. 19 -- Olentangy Orange at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 21 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace in makeup from Jan. 13
Jan. 18 -- At Thomas Worthington with Orange and Worthington Kilbourne
*Jan. 19 -- Watterson at Chiller North
Jan. 20 -- Whitehouse Anthony Wayne at Chiller Ice Works
*Jan. 21 -- Springboro at Chiller North. The Braves lost to the Panthers 6-1 on Dec. 16.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 20 -- At Upper Arlington
Jan. 23 -- At New Albany
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Westerville Central