Coach Shan Trusley expects the Westerville North High School boys basketball team to pump the brakes a little this season.
The Warriors have been an up-tempo team the past few years, but now they plan to have a more deliberate attack after losing several key players to graduation.
North fell just short last winter of winning its first district title since 1998, falling to Pickerington Central 59-57 in a Division I final. It also won its first league title since 2013, going 8-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
"This year, I don't think we will play as fast as we have in the past," said Trusley, who is in his sixth season. "We have a little more size than usual, so I think we can score around the basket in the half court.
"Last year, we would press a lot and play a lot of full court. We're still going to pressure you this year, but it's going to be more of a half-court variety."
The Warriors return two seniors, both of whom were starters last season. Jeremiah Keene, a 6-foot-1 point guard who was third-team all-district and first-team all-league, will play his fourth varsity season after averaging 15.7 points last winter. Philip Alston, a 6-6 forward who was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league, averaged 10.4 points.
The graduation losses include Julius Brown, who was special mention all-state, first-team all-district and OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year, and Julian Malone, who was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
"We graduated a senior class that was very impactful and they accounted for a lot of points, rebounds and assists last year," Trusley said. "We have kids who don't have a lot of varsity experience, but I believe they are ready to step in and fill the roles that we need.
"We have a very good foundation with Jeremiah and Philip, and I think they are two of the better players in central Ohio, so that's something to start with. A lot of these younger kids people don't know about, but I think by January they will realize these kids are really good."
Charles Perkins, a 6-4 junior, moves into the starting lineup at forward with junior Chace Perkins (6-2, forward), sophomore Camden Ledford (6-4, guard/forward) and freshman Noah Lawrence (5-10, guard/forward) also vying to start.
"Things have been looking really good, and we have a lot of hungry guys," Keene said. "Coach Trusley has been preaching to us that if we play hard we can be really good this year."
Rounding out the roster are juniors Michael Chellis (6-3, guard), Cam'Ron Edwards (5-11, guard/forward), Bailey Lawrence (6-0, guard) and Viennoy Rajkoummale (5-11, guard).
"We're getting a lot better, and we have a lot of good shooters," Alston said. "We need to work on the little things, like our press offense. We play hard, and we really play well."
The Warriors opened with a 65-63 loss to Olentangy on Nov. 30 in OCC-Buckeye play. Alston scored 18 points and Noah Lawrence added 17 with four 3-pointers.
Keene scored 35 points with four 3s as the Warriors defeated Mount Vernon 72-39 on Dec. 1.
"I was looking at the statistics and film from last year and we didn't play one single possession of zone defense last year," Trusley said. "We played 26 games and every single minute of every single game was man-to-man. I can see us playing more zone than we have in the past. We're going to try to play to our team's strengths.
"I'm excited for this year, and I think we're flying a little under the radar. There are some schools in our league people are expecting a lot from, but I think we could sneak up on some people this year."
Seven starters return for wrestling team
The wrestling team returns seven starters from last season, including senior 195-pounder Mitch Potterf, who was seventh at 170 in the Division I state tournament to finish 29-9.
Seniors Caden Crist (152) and Jacob Goldsmith (182), junior Blake Wright (138) and sophomores Jake Gooding (120) and Gabe Ohle (112) are returning district qualifiers. Junior Jacob Grant (145) also is a returning starter.
"We have high expectations," said 15th-year coach David Grant, whose team was second (4-1) in the OCC-Buckeye a year ago behind Olentangy Liberty (5-0). "We want to do as well as we can and get as many as we can to state.
"We have been trying to have consistency, which we have had from being in position to win league and district titles."
Senior Derek Bryan expects to excel at heavyweight after competing behind state-qualifier Davis Gaylord in the past.
The roster has 72 athletes, including 28 sophomores and 19 freshmen.
"We have really good numbers, and we had a great offseason," coach Grant said. "All of our (weight) classes will be filled. We have a good freshman class and some of them could help us out a lot."
The Warriors opened Dec. 1 by going 1-2 in the Lakewood St. Edward Quad. They defeated Massillon Perry 44-34 but lost to St. Edward 65-9 and Parkersburg (West Virginia) South 64-9.
North opens league action Jan. 10 against Westerville Central.
*Nov. 30 -- vs. Olentangy
Dec. 1 -- vs. Mount Vernon
*Dec. 7 -- at Westerville Central
Dec. 11 -- at Wellington
Dec. 18 -- at New Albany
*Dec. 21 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 22 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier at Mount Vernon Nazarene
Dec. 27 -- Hilliard Bradley in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Westerville South
Jan. 5 -- Northland in The Challenge at Africentric
Jan. 8 -- vs. Marysville
*Jan. 11 -- at Olentangy Orange
Jan. 15 -- vs. Watterson
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Westerville Central
Jan. 22 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Jan. 25 -- at Olentangy
Jan. 26 -- Hartley in Jared Sullinger Play-By-Play Classic at Pickerington Central
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Feb. 5 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 8 -- at Westerville South
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Feb. 19 -- at Dublin Jerome
Dec. 1 -- Lakewood St. Edward Quad
Dec. 5 -- vs. Columbus South, New Albany and St. Charles
Dec. 12 -- vs. Columbus East and Thomas Worthington
Dec. 14-15 -- Olentangy Liberty Classic
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament
Jan. 5 -- Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament at Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 10 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Jan. 17 -- at Olentangy Orange
Jan. 18-19 -- Licking Heights Invitational
*Jan. 24 -- vs. Westerville South
*Feb. 7 -- at Olentangy
*Feb. 14 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Below are the coming schedules for the North girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Westerville Central
*Dec. 7 -- Central at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 10 -- Grandview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State