Grove City Christian boys basketball coach Chris Timlin hopes the return of several key players and moving back to Division IV for the postseason will pay dividends for his program.
The Eagles are looking to rebound from consecutive losing seasons after winning their first district title in 2016-17 while going 22-5. They finished 5-18 last season after going 9-15 in 2017-18.
Grove City Christian competed in the Division III district tournament a season ago, losing to Africentric 70-46 in the first round.
"Come tournament time, we could have a real interesting looking basketball team," said Timlin, who is in his 10th season. "It's going to be an interesting season. We just have to keep our heads above water during the month of December. We have to stay positive. We have to work hard and we have to commit to being physical. If we commit to being physical, I think the boys are going to be happy with how the season goes."
The Eagles opened Dec. 3 against Tree of Life and begin MSL-Cardinal Division play Saturday, Dec. 7, at Harvest Prep. Last season, they went 3-11 in the league to tie Fairfield Christian for sixth behind champion Harvest Prep (14-0).
"Ever since we've been in the MSL-Cardinal, I've always felt that this is a very strong (league)," Timlin said. "It's going to be deeper than in years past. I don't think there's going to be any easy nights. I don't think there are going to be any easy road trips. We're going to have to be ready to go for all of the games in our league."
The top returnee is 6-foot-3 senior guard Brayden Holbrook, who averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 rebounds last season and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Holbrook said he's ready to take on a leadership role.
"I haven't been the main dude for four years and it's finally my senior year," he said. "It's my time now, so I'm ready to embrace it."
Also back is 6-4 senior forward Garrett Baker, who averaged 7.8 points and 8.8 rebounds last winter and was honorable mention all-league.
"We need to find consistent second and third scorers (behind Holbrook)," Timlin said. "We think Garrett Baker is going to be the consistent second scorer, but we do not know who the consistent third, fourth or fifth scorer is going to be. We played a lot of guys in our scrimmages."
Other returnees are seniors Koby Brunney (5-6, guard), Cameron Donohoe (5-6, guard), Tim Sullivan (6-3, forward) and Gage Yanke (5-7, guard) and juniors Evan Bowen (6-3, forward) and Christian Lautenschleger (5-7, guard).
Timlin said Bowen is expected to miss the early part of the season as he continues to recover from a lacerated kidney suffered during football season.
"We've been playing together for a long time, since middle school, so we have really good chemistry," Holbrook said. "I think we can do some damage."
Other players are senior Cameron Downton (6-0, forward), junior Dawson Palmer (5-8, guard) and freshmen Jordan Edwards (5-11, guard) and Braydan Taylor (6-0, forward).
Downton played in the program as a freshman and sophomore before sitting out last season.
Edwards suffered an ACL injury in June but might be available by late January or early February, according to Timlin.
"We think we're going to be a lot better, but we have to support Brayden offensively and we have to be much better in terms of rebounding the basketball," Timlin said. "If we can find a supporting cast for Brayden and we can rebound the ball consistently, I think that this is a very solid basketball team and we will play our best basketball in January and February."
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City Christian boys basketball and girls basketball teams:
Dec. 5 -- At Worthington Christian
*Dec. 7 -- At Harvest Prep
Dec. 9 -- At Newark Catholic
Dec. 6-7 -- Grove City Christian Tip-off Classic
*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Berne Union