The DeSales High School boys basketball team hit its stride during the second half of last season, winning six of eight games before falling to Eastmoor Academy 69-53 in a Division II district semifinal.
With every starter back from that team that finished 13-12 overall, second-year coach Pat Murphy is confident the Stallions can get off to a fast start this season. Murphy cautions, however, that their strong finish will have little to do with their fortunes now.
"We all try to peak in February and March, coaches and players alike," said Murphy, whose team opened Nov. 30 with a 54-29 victory at Dresden Tri-Valley and defeated host Beechcroft 77-48 on Dec. 1. "Last year, we played our best ball at the end. It spilled into our offseason and our summer and gave us some momentum, but that's over now. Last year was last year. This year, everything is brand new as far as the team's identity. It's just a new year."
Six-foot-2 senior guard Kayin Derden averaged 15.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, ahead of 5-10 junior guard Kobe Righter (11.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists), 6-4 sophomore guard Desmond Watson (9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) and 6-1 senior guard/forward Anthony Sciarroni (8.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals).
Derden, who had a team-high 12 points against Tri-Valley, is expected to play anywhere from point guard to power forward.
"I'm more naturally a guard. I need to use my height and athleticism and length to box people out, play defense and make better plays," Derden said. "Defense and ball-handling were what I've worked on since last year. I've been a better facilitator and I'm making better passes."
Senior Danny Bogue (6-2) and junior Chris Fleisher (6-2) return inside, something Murphy expects will free up Sciarroni to see more time as a guard.
"Danny's shot is getting better and Chris has just been grinding. He's very physical down low, which helps us a lot," Sciarroni said. "Everything is going a lot smoother. Last year, everything was new. New coach, new sets, everything. We've just lost one guy (2018 graduate Donya Harris), so we have everything working. Practices are going smoothly and everybody is getting along great."
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Obed Achirem (6-1, guard/forward), Jayden Hawkins-White (6-1, guard), Jordan Johnson (5-11, guard), Jamie Macauley (6-1, guard), Austin Mann (5-7, guard) and Quintell Quinn (6-1, guard).
Against Beechcroft, Mann had 22 points and Sciarroni scored 16.
DeSales begins CCL play Dec. 14 at Watterson, the last of four consecutive road games to start the season. The Stallions' home opener is Dec. 15 against Bloom-Carroll.
DeSales went 1-7 in the league last year to tie St. Charles for fourth place behind tri-champions Hartley, Ready and Watterson (all 6-2).
"Every year, we're going to expect to compete for a league title and a district title. After that, you roll the dice and see what will happen," Murphy said. "If you get to that level, it's good teams all around. We want to be in the conversation. That's no different than it was last year. We're still shooting for that."
Potts back to pace wrestling team
Junior heavyweight Cole Potts returns to lead the wrestling team, which began the season with twice as large a roster as it had a year ago.
Potts went 43-12 as a sophomore and finished fifth in the Division II district tournament, one spot shy of a state berth. He was the fifth-ranked heavyweight in the state last week by BoroFanOhio.net.
Potts did not participate in the Stallions' season-opening Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament on Dec. 1 because of family obligations, but is expected to wrestle in the Wolfpack Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Worthington Kilbourne.
"Cole has been working hard in the offseason, is a seasoned veteran and has the desire and discipline to get better every day," seventh-year coach Nick Preston said. "We are excited about this year."
DeSales has 10 wrestlers after having just five last season.
The Stallions' other returnee is junior Josh Morse, who will compete at both 126 and 132 pounds. He went 25-15 as a sophomore.
"Josh has helped lead this team throughout the preseason," Preston said. "He is most dangerous from the top position."
DeSales scored 93 points in the Pizzurro tournament to finish 10th of 15 teams as Grove City won (295.5). Morse placed second at 132 and freshman Nate Seigrest placed third at 160.
Rounding out the roster are senior Andrea Offie (145), junior Ben Mahle (220) and freshmen Evan Campbell (132), Elliott Dortmund (132), Kody Goffin (113/120/126), Luke Jewett (220) and Romiaun Speed (140).
Nov. 30 -- at Dresden Tri-Valley
Dec. 1 -- at Beechcroft
*Dec. 14 -- at Watterson
Dec. 15 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll
*Dec. 21 -- at Hartley
Dec. 22 -- at Johnstown
Dec. 27-28 -- Bethel Park (Pa.) Holiday Tournament
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Ready
Jan. 5 -- vs. Kettering Fairmont
Jan. 8 -- vs. Sparta Highland
*Jan. 11 -- vs. St. Charles
Jan. 15 -- at Whitehall
Jan. 19 -- vs. Walnut Ridge
Jan. 22 -- vs. Granville
*Jan. 25 -- Watterson at Otterbein
Jan. 29 -- vs. Licking Heights
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Hartley
Feb. 5 -- at Jonathan Alder
*Feb. 8 -- at Ready
Feb. 12 -- at Grove City
*Feb. 15 -- at St. Charles
Dec. 1 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at home
Dec. 8 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic at Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 28-29 -- Brecksville Tournament at Brecksville-Broadview Heights; Marion Harding Classic
Jan. 5 -- Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 16 -- CCL duals at Ready
Jan. 19-20 -- Catholic Invitational Tournament at Toledo St. John's
Feb. 2 -- Jimmy Wood Invitational at New Lexington
Feb. 8 -- at Sparta Highland with New Albany
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*Dec. 6 -- Africentric at HP Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Eastmoor Academy at Capri Lanes
Dec. 12 -- At Marysville with Upper Arlington and Westerville Central
*Dec. 8 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State