When coach Scott Davis talks about the potential he sees in the Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball team, his mannerisms speak more powerfully than his words.
Asked what could be in store for a team that entered the season with just one returning player in senior guard Ben Fort, Davis said, "We could be good."
He did so, though, with a look in his eyes that implied "good" might be the minimum of what the Raiders could produce in the second half of the regular season and the postseason.
Reynoldsburg was 10-3 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division after beating Lancaster 59-35 on Jan. 11, but the Raiders' first half could have been even better had they not struggled at times shooting from the outside and from the free-throw line.
"We still haven't played very well," Davis said. "We're (10-3) with a fairly inexperienced team and with really only Ben Fort back from last year's team. We've had some good wins, and our three losses are to good teams. When you lose, it gives you an opportunity to see some things that we really need to get better at, so that's kind of how we're approaching these losses that we've had. It's learning from them, and the idea that by the end of this month we'll be a better team for it. It's still a long season to go."
The soft-spoken Fort was the second-leading scorer last year, averaging 11 points as the Raiders won their third Division I district championship. This season, he has expanded his offensive game while filling a leadership role for the first time.
Fort is averaging 14.7 points as one of three seniors in the program along with forward Sahmi Willoughby and guard Xavier Prince, who are averaging 9.8 and 4.8 points, respectively, in their first season as full-time varsity players.
Junior forward Sean Moore has been another top contributor, averaging 10.9 points.
Last season, Fort flashed his potential when he scored 22 points in a 69-48 victory over Westerville Central in a district semifinal.
He has scored in double figures in 12 of the Raiders' 13 games this season. One of his best performances came when he had 21 points in a 68-56 victory over Brunswick on Dec. 28 in the Stephen Gussler Invitational at Thomas Worthington.
Fort, whose mother, Nychola Richardson, graduated from Mifflin and played for the University of Dayton in the early 1990s, is hoping a strong season can propel him to a future playing collegiately. He has received interest from some Division I programs but doesn't turn 18 until August and could attend a prep school for a year.
"Every (opponent) knows me, and more teams do more to slow me down this year so it hasn't been easy, but I'll get through it," Fort said. "I feel like I'm getting better. I still feel like I have a lot of work to do, but I'm getting there."
The Raiders are hoping to grow from setbacks such as when they shot just 3-for-20 from 3-point range and 7-for-18 from the foul line during a 64-52 loss to Pickerington North on Jan. 4.
The flip side of that performance is Reynoldsburg held sophomore Jack Sawyer, one of the area's leading scorers at 21 points per game, and junior Hunter Shedenhelm, who is the Panthers' second-leading scorer, to 13 points apiece.
"We feel like we're going to get better as a team, and we can beat any team we're up against if we shoot better from the field and the free-throw line," Fort said. "That's the reason we lose most of our games, because we don't shoot well.
"It's been fun getting to know these guys. Our chemistry is going to get better as the season goes on. When we all play together, we're going to do something."
Wrestlers to compete at Hamilton Township
The wrestling team will compete Saturday, Jan. 19, in the Hamilton Township Classic.
On Jan. 10, the Raiders opened OCC-Ohio action by losing to Pickerington North 60-15 and Pickerington Central 54-18 at Gahanna. They'll continue league competition Jan. 24 at home against Gahanna.
Among the winners against North was Noah Ratliff at 160 pounds.
"The team altogether is kind of tired ... and it was a little bit sloppier, but I was able to get the (win)," Ratliff said.
"It's been coming together pretty well. Right now we're in a building stage with a really newer team and a lot of guys that haven't wrestled before. This season since we have newer guys, we're building the technique."
Reynoldsburg finished ninth (108) in the 16-team Circleville Logan Elm Invitational on Jan. 5 behind the champion and host Braves (288).
Ratliff (160) finished second and Kyle Copas (152) was third to lead the way. Also placing were Isaiah Boateng (eighth at 132), Gary McCreary (sixth at 145), Jonathan Axel Balmeo (eighth at 182), Zach Frye (sixth at 220) and Dalton Hall (sixth at heavyweight).
"I feel like me and a couple other guys on the team this last offseason did a lot of work and were able to better our team and environment in the (practice) room," Ratliff said. "This season we've kind of started working together."
Bowling teams return to league competition
The boys and girls bowling teams continue Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference action Wednesday, Jan. 23, against Groveport at Holiday Lanes.
After winning each of its COHSBC-B matches in December, the boys team improved to 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the league by beating Worthington Kilbourne 2,310-1,888 on Jan. 11.
The Raiders were second in the COHSBC in game average at 947.3, with Logan Gapen leading individually at 203.6.
Cameron Brosius, Owen Chisley, Tyler Robinson, Cris Weatherly and Logan Jeffers also have been key contributors.
The girls team is 1-7 overall and 0-6 in the league after losing to Kilbourne 1,455-1,423.
Halle Pennycuff was leading in average at 126.4. Other key bowlers have been Kay Hetterscheidt, Kimmee Shook, Katie Morgan, Toniya Seymour Williams and Kaitlynn Stiers.
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- At Gahanna. The Raiders beat the Lions 58-53 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- At Westerville South
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Gahanna. The Raiders lost to the Lions 67-55 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 19 -- Solon in Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*Jan. 23 -- Groveport at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Senior meet at St. Charles
Jan. 19 -- Hamilton Township Classic