Fans watching the Groveport Madison High School boys basketball team probably shouldn't leave a game early.

Half of the Cruisers' games this season have been decided by five points or fewer, meaning a few possessions can make the difference.

"Things have been tight for us this year and we talk about how one possession, one play, either on offense or defense can make a difference for us," coach Ryan Grashel said. "The scores of our games are down in the 40s and 50s this year, whereas last year we had lots of games in the 60s and 70s.

"We're playing much better defensively. We also let (the players) know that the key plays or possessions aren't always in the fourth quarter or in the closing minutes. If we get a few steals or more rebounds, that could lead to a six- or eight-point run at any point in the game. And when the scores are low, six or eight points can be a key run."

Groveport is 5-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. Last season when the Cruisers finished 8-15, they went 4-7 in contests decided by four points or fewer.

Last week, the Cruisers went 1-2 in three home contests, including 1-1 in tight games. They defeated Central Crossing 49-46 on Jan. 8 and lost to Big Walnut 51-49 in overtime on Jan. 11 before falling to Olentangy 59-41 on Jan. 12.

Groveport is 8-6 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a game Friday, Jan. 18, at Franklin Heights. The contest is the first of four in an eight-day span. The Cruisers will visit St. Charles on Saturday, Jan. 19, before playing host to Pickerington North on Tuesday, Jan. 22, and league-leading Canal Winchester on Jan. 25.

Entering this week, St. Charles was 8-4, North was 9-2 and Canal Winchester was 12-0, including 5-0 in the league.

Against Central Crossing, Nakhi Taylor had 14 points, Elijah Monroe scored nine and Javon Miller scored seven for the Cruisers, who outscored the Comets 17-8 in the second quarter.

Monroe had 16 points, Taylor scored 12 and Devin Singleton scored 11 against Big Walnut, which scored the winning points with nine seconds remaining in overtime.

Groveport was outscored 20-7 in the second quarter by Olentangy and couldn't recover. Taylor had nine points and Monroe scored eight.

Taylor is averaging 12.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, Monroe is averaging 10.2 points and Miller is averaging 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. Elijah Hawk is averaging a team-high 6.0 rebounds.

Deaner leading way for girls bowlers

Leah Deaner is having a strong season for the girls bowling team.

Entering the week, the senior had the second-highest game average (193.8) in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference.

Last season, Deaner averaged 182.6, which was 11th-best average in the COHSBC, and went on to place 18th of 102 competitors in the Division I district tournament.

"She bowls almost every day and she has that opportunity because she works at Wayne Webb's (Columbus Bowl)," coach Christi Middendorf said. "She's definitely more focused this year. She's going to bowl in college at the Savannah College of Art and Design."

Briggs' Dakota Fink entered the week with the COHSBC's top average (209.3) and had the conference's top average last season (216.4), just ahead of Whitehall's Madison Stiffler (214.8).

"The crazy thing about that is both of their fathers bowled for me when I was coaching my son's teams," Middendorf said. "So I try to keep my eyes on them, and it's fun to see Leah continuing to improve. But I have no idea what I'm going to do without her next year."

In a 1,669-1,490 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 10, Deaner rolled a 441 series (185-256) and opened her second game with seven consecutive strikes.

The Cruisers entered the week 5-1 overall, 4-1 in the COHSBC-B Division and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal.

However, Groveport lost junior Jessica Clayton to Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules after a Jan. 14 match against Whitehall. Clayton, who attended Beechcroft last year, had the Cruisers' second-best average (128.5). Freshman Suzie Francis (121.6) had their third-best average.

The boys team entered the week 2-4 overall, 1-4 in the COHSBC-B and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal. William Lawson (169.1) led the Cruisers in average, followed by Jeremiah Delong (163.3) and James Mitchell (158).

"There's some good bowlers on the guys team, but none of them have really been consistent so far," Middendorf said. "The good news is that everyone in the lineup is eligible to return next season. Plus, we have some real good bowlers on the j.v. team, too."

Wrestling team wins league-opening dual

The two-time defending OCC-Capital champion wrestling team defeated Canal Winchester 44-21 in its league opener Jan. 10.

Earning wins against the visiting Indians were Eli Jackson (106 pounds), Jason Pinkston (113), Muhamad Conteh (120), Josh Aguon (126), Kaleb Thaxton (145), Jacob Cline (152), Skyler Mouser (182), Ethan Schleret (195), Jake Nelson (220) and Tyler Hancock-Anderson (heavyweight).

Hancock-Anderson won by pin, while Jackson, Pinkston, Thaxton, Cline and Nelson won by decisions and Conteh, Aguon, Mouser and Schleret won by forfeit.

Nelson is 22-0 on the season and Conteh is 22-1, followed by Pinkston (15-3), Aguon (14-5) and Johnathan Thompson (13-5 at 170).

Girls basketball team posts third victory

Following a 1-9 start, the girls basketball team split its next four contests and was 3-11 overall before playing Whitehall on Jan. 15.

The Cruisers defeated host Central Crossing 49-44 on Jan. 8, but lost to Big Walnut 46-23 on Jan. 11 to fall to 1-5 in the OCC-Capital.

Groveport will look to sweep Franklin Heights in league play when it plays host to the Falcons on Friday, Jan. 18. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 62-33 on Dec. 7.

Against Central Crossing, Casey Humphrey had 15 points, Alauna Nguyen scored 14 and Sha'Ron Whatley scored nine. Humphrey and Brooke Reese both scored nine points against Big Walnut.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 18 -- At Franklin Heights. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 71-38 on Dec. 7.

Jan. 19 -- At St. Charles

Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 62-33 on Dec. 7.

Jan. 22 -- At Pickerington North

BOWLING

*Jan. 23 -- Reynoldsburg at Holiday Lanes

SWIMMING & DIVING

Jan. 19 -- Central Crossing at Urbancrest YMCA

WRESTLING

*Jan. 17 -- At Franklin Heights

Jan. 19 -- Robin Drumm Invitational at Heath

*Jan. 23 -- At Big Walnut

*League contest