That six sophomores are listed on the DeSales High School boys basketball roster next to three seniors and two juniors might suggest that the Stallions are a young team.
Coach Pat Murphy is quick to dispute that, considering that almost everyone on this team started or otherwise saw playing time last season, but he also acknowledged that the makeup of this group is unique from other teams he has coached.
"We're not necessarily a senior-heavy team, but it's not fair to say we're a young team because a lot of those guys played varsity as freshmen. It's a nice mix and the guys are figuring things out," Murphy said. "We talk about playing in games that matter and preparing for championship-level games, when possessions count in the fourth quarter. We've finished some of those games and we've come up short in a few others. All of our losses have been winnable games."
DeSales was 8-4 overall before playing Whitehall on Jan. 15 and is 4-0 in the CCL, alone in first place through the first round of league play, after a 45-44 overtime win over St. Charles on Jan. 11.
The Stallions have thrived on a gritty, up-tempo approach, outscoring opponents by an average of 58.7-51.6 points through 12 games. Production has been balanced, as senior guard Kayin Derden averaged a team-best 15.4 points before Jan. 15, ahead of junior guard Kobe Righter (9.7), senior guard/forward Anthony Sciarroni (9.0) and sophomore forward Desmond Watson (8.3).
Sophomore forward Obed Achirem averaged 6.6 rebounds through 12 games.
"We've gotten a lot closer, our chemistry is building and a lot of younger guys have stepped up into big roles," Righter said. "At the beginning of the season, I didn't know how that would go, but our seniors are leading us and our sophomores are playing as hard as I thought they would. The experience (from last year) has fed in so well. We're pushing the ball well and playing very good defense."
Watson, who had a game-high 18 points in a 57-38 home win over Sparta Highland on Jan. 8, spent almost his entire summer recovering from a broken left tibia suffered during an AAU game June 30. Watson said he was able to run and even dunk by the time preseason practice began at the end of October but added that he was not back to "100 percent" until after the regular season began.
"I was going crazy in the gym (getting ready for the season). I had to," Watson said. "That just made me push way harder. You can't take time for granted, so you have to work as hard as you can. I really started feeling back to 100 percent maybe the second or third game in. Then I really got into the groove of the game again. Now, I feel like I am back to where I was.
"I like getting past people. I have a first big step, and I love distributing to others who are open."
A year after going 1-7 in the CCL, Watson said that leading the CCL halfway through league play was important beyond simply being in the driver's seat for the program's first league championship since 2010.
Watterson is second in the CCL at 3-1, followed by St. Charles (2-2), Hartley (1-3) and Ready (0-4).
"It's more of a pride thing than anything," Watson said. "We're winning now and we don't want anyone taking (first place) from us."
Wrestling team prepares for CIT
Wrestling coach Nick Preston is having his small team concentrate on its weaknesses rather than its strengths as it enters the second half of the regular season.
"We've talked a lot the last few weeks about focusing on our weaknesses in whatever we do. That's not always easy to do," Preston said. "People don't like focusing on their weaknesses a lot of time, but we have to be disciplined to be able to overcome that tendency to lean on our strengths and really improve our weaknesses."
Cole Potts is 18-1 at heavyweight to lead DeSales, which will participate in the Catholic Invitational Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20, at Toledo St. John's.
The Stallions have 10 wrestlers but have fielded five in most of their tournaments, a group rounded out by Kody Goffin (126 pounds), Josh Morse (126/132), Andrea Offie (132) and Nate Siegrist (160).
In DeSales' most recent tournament, the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament on Jan. 5 at Dublin Scioto, Potts won the heavyweight title and Morse was runner-up at 126.
The Stallions had last weekend off.
"Cole is showing as much, if not more, improvement now than he made last year. He's just making tremendous strides," Preston said. "Josh is very technically solid. He just has to get stronger in the weight room. That's the only thing holding him back. He's very offensive and technical and great on top, but he was getting outmuscled at 132. He shined (at 126 in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament)."
Twenty-six teams, including fellow CCL schools Hartley and St. Charles, will participate in the CIT.
DeSales originally was scheduled to participate in the CCL duals Jan. 16 at Ready, but that event has been postponed to Feb. 13 at the same site.
Williamson named girls soccer coach
Doug Williamson has coached soccer at the high school and college levels, and after missing last fall because of hip surgery, he is excited for his next challenge -- coaching the Stallions' girls soccer team.
Williamson, who has more than 300 wins, was introduced as coach Jan. 7.
He coached Dublin Scioto's girls in 2016 and 2017, the most recent stop in a career that also includes time with the men's teams at Kenyon College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ohio Wesleyan as well as the Curry College, Nebraska Wesleyan and Wellesley College women's teams. He has a career record of 326-161-20.
Williamson had planned to return to Scioto last year but had to undergo surgery on his right hip to repair damage from a plastic prosthesis.
He said DeSales is an intriguing stop, especially after he worked with one of the program's better players in recent years in Courtney Klosterman. Klosterman, who helped the Stallions to the 2011 Division II state championship as a junior and a state runner-up finish as a senior, was one of Williamson's assistants at Scioto.
"If she's the kind of person DeSales produces, I knew this would be a place I'd like to coach. I've been impressed with everybody I've met here," he said. "It's about more than the sport. I love to win and I love to compete at the highest level, but for me, it comes down to coaching holistically, coaching the whole person."
Williamson replaces Sarah Gantz, who resigned in November after going 21-24-7 overall and 9-2-1 in the CCL in three seasons. DeSales won the CCL title in 2017 and finished second in the league last season and in 2016.
Williamson also is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and currently is serving as interim pastor at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in St. Marys, about 100 miles northwest of Columbus.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Walnut Ridge
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Granville
*Jan. 17 -- At Hartley
Jan. 19 -- At Grove City
*Jan. 22 -- Columbus East at Eastland Lanes
Jan. 17 -- At Thomas Worthington with Thornville Sheridan and Upper Arlington
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Centennial at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 22 -- At Columbus Academy
Jan. 19-20 -- Catholic Invitational Tournament at Toledo St. John's