The Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team struggled through the first half of the season.
Coach Sean Luzader anticipated some ups and downs and a learning curve as the Cardinals sported five new starters and three freshmen who are getting significant playing time.
"We have a culture in place that enables our players to continue with a positive, winners' mentality," said Luzader, whose team fell to 2-9 overall with a 67-41 loss to Westerville Central on Jan. 15 and is 0-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division entering a game Friday, Jan. 19, at Hilliard Bradley. "We focus on improving from week to week and making strides forward. This group shows up every day with enthusiasm and a passion to learn and get better.
"We focus on one game at a time, but everyone knows we are young and inexperienced and will take our lumps now for it to pay off in the future."
The Cardinals' youth was on display in a 52-45 loss to host Hilliard Darby on Jan. 9. Thomas led 27-19 at halftime before getting outscored 33-18 in the second half, including 18-9 in the fourth quarter.
Ben Wight and Charlie Mamlin both scored 14 points for the Cardinals, who will play host to Kilbourne on Saturday, Jan. 20, in a league makeup from Jan. 12.
The contest will follow the Thomas-Kilbourne girls game, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Wight, a 6-foot-8 junior forward who missed three games because of illness, was averaging 15.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks entering the week.
"Ben is young for his grade and should only be a sophomore," Luzader said. "He is the best big man in his class in central Ohio. He may grow to be 6-10 or 6-11. He has a motor and just plays hard. He runs the floor like a deer, has good hands and feet and will score most times he touches the ball. He rebounds everything and just has a passion for the game.
"He has such a big upside that I would not be surprised for him to start being recruited by the Big Ten (Conference) schools. His scoring and rebounding averages would be a bit better, but in his first game back from illness, he played sparingly and scored four points and had two rebounds."
Wight was shooting 41-for-55 from the floor (74.5 percent) and 27-for-33 from the free-throw line (81.8 percent) through 10 games.
"It's been a pretty good year for me so far, but there are lots of things I can work on and improve," Wight said. "I need to be more aggressive, extend my game out further to stretch the floor and improve on putting the ball on the floor.
"I also want to become more of a leader and help us win some more games this year and help lead us to a great year next year. We're getting better and we're gaining experience and learning, but we have to take care of the ball better and improve our team defense."
Junior guard Charlie Mamlin was averaging 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds and was shooting 18-for-21 from the free-throw line (85.7 percent). Freshman guard Isaac Settles was averaging 5.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists, and junior forward Kyler Block was averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
"Charlie and Kyler have been solid," Luzader said. "Charlie is a scoring threat from anywhere. He can shoot the 3 well, but has become a much better driver and has been aggressive on the boards. Kyler is a big body at 6-6 and has played much more aggressive recently. He is able to post up or step out and shoot the 3. He is returning from ACL surgery from last season."
The other freshmen are guards Jalen Sullinger and Maurice Collins. Sullinger was averaging 3.5 points through four games before suffering a foot injury.
"We expect Jalen back later this season," Luzader said. "Right now, his foot is still in a boot and healing. When he is back, he gives us a very skilled perimeter player who can run the point. We are absolutely excited about the future of this program.
"We had a perfect storm against us to start the year. With all of the new faces, we also went through sickness and injuries. But the future is bright."
Girls basketball team snaps losing streak
The girls basketball team snapped a four-game losing streak by beating visiting Darby 63-47 on Jan. 9.
Jazzlynn Gaiters led the Cardinals, totaling 22 points, 16 rebounds and eight steals.
Thomas was 6-4 overall before playing Lancaster on Jan. 16 and is 5-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a home game against Bradley on Friday, Jan. 19. The Cardinals then will play host to Kilbourne on Saturday, Jan. 20, in a league makeup from Jan. 12.
Breanne Beatty added 20 points against Darby on the strength of four 3-pointers. The Cardinals raced to a 15-6 lead after the first quarter and led 51-36 entering the fourth quarter.
Struggles continue for bowling teams
The boys and girls bowling teams both remained winless entering the week.
Against Groveport on Jan. 11 at Capri Lanes, the boys team lost 2,232-1,852 and the girls team lost 1,495-1,238. Both teams were 0-3 overall before matches against Columbus Academy on Jan. 16 and Centennial on Jan. 17 and will compete against Delaware on Friday, Jan. 19, at Capri Lanes.
Through three matches, Nate Johnson led the boys team with a 209.9 game average, followed by Peri Kargiotis (144.3) and Luka Srsic (137.4). Izabella Vazquez (124.2) and Samantha Haunty (115.3) led the girls team.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 19 -- At Hilliard Bradley. The Cardinals lost to the Jaguars 44-16 on Dec. 8.
*Jan. 20 -- Home vs. Kilbourne in makeup from Jan. 12
*Jan. 23 -- At Delaware. The Cardinals lost to the Pacers 46-44 on Dec. 19.
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Bradley. The Cardinals beat the Jaguars 50-49 on Dec. 8.
*Jan. 20 -- Home vs. Kilbourne in makeup from Jan. 12. The Cardinals beat the Wolves 41-34 on Dec. 4.
*Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Delaware. The Cardinals beat the Pacers 56-42 on Dec. 19.
*Jan. 19 -- Delaware at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Bradley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
Jan. 18 -- Home vs. *Kilbourne, Olentangy and Olentangy Orange
Jan. 23 -- At Hilliard Davidson with Dresden Tri-Valley, *Bradley and *Hilliard Darby
*Jan. 20 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North
*Jan. 18 -- At Delaware