Todd Phillips has only one player back with much varsity experience, but the fifth-year coach likes the makeup of his Bexley boys basketball team.
Senior guard Damian Davis started last season, when the Lions finished 14-10 overall and 2-6 in the MSL-Ohio Division with a nucleus of 11 players who graduated last spring.
Junior guard Will Cordle played significant minutes last season, but his family moved to the Dallas area in the offseason.
"We have a tough schedule and it can be a bridge year for us," Phillips said. "We're pleased with our progress, and they have played well together. It will be intriguing to watch us. We're very different than we have been in the last couple of years.
"They are really cohesive and they have great chemistry, which is a testament to teams before them. Our culture has been built on guarding people and the things that go along with that."
The 5-foot-9 Davis is back for his third season in the starting lineup. He averaged 11.6 points and 1.6 steals last winter.
"It's looking good," he said. "We're coming together and getting that chemistry together and we're practicing hard.
"Since we're a young team, we make a lot of mental errors and have some turnovers. We have to push through that adversity and learn how to play hard all through the game."
The Lions have five seniors in guard/forward Sam Berger (6-1), Davis, guard Danny Davis (5-10), guard/forward Max Dresbach (6-2) and post player Bryan Williams (6-2).
Other top contributors should include juniors Cade Phillips (6-3, guard) and Grant Sheridan (6-1, post player) and sophomores Tucker Harpe (6-5, post player), Chris Mitchell (6-3, forward) and Griffin Wagenbrenner (5-11, point guard).
"We're probably the longest and tallest team I've had and also they are the guys that are the truest basketball players," coach Phillips said. "We now have a roster of young basketball players. Damian has been a great bridge between the two programs.
"Tucker, Damian and Cade will shoot it in for us. We expect to make shots. We have been a good jump-shooting team in the fall. We also have to sit down and guard guys. We have to be physical on the defensive end"
Juniors Michael Agriesti (6-1, guard/forward), Jude Nathan (6-3, post player) and Timmy Old (6-0, guard) and freshman Dom Gutter (5-9, guard) round out the roster. Sophomore Henry Brandt (6-1, guard) was lost to a knee injury.
"I do like our skill," coach Phillips said. "We have good skill sets, but they need to get used to the speed and consistency of every possession. We have had times when we take a break and haven't been very good.
"If we can find a way to play with full intensity and effort on both ends, we'll be fine. But there will be some growing pains in learning to do that all of the time."
Bexley opened with a 53-38 win over Whetstone on Nov. 29.
Damian Davis led with 15 points and three 3-pointers, and Williams added 11 points.
The Lions played Granville on Dec. 3 and open MSL-Ohio competition Saturday, Dec. 7, at Whitehall.
Bowling program adds girls team
The bowling program had just seven participants last season, but it has increased that number to 18 with nine boys and nine girls.
The increase in numbers not only has added depth for second-year coach Brian Talabere, but it also has allowed the third-year program to add a girls team for the first time.
"It's great having 18 kids," Talabere said. "It's been a pleasure to see the underclassmen come out, and we're happy to give a lot of people the opportunity to participate.
"Having a girls team for the first time is exciting. Being able to allow them to shine as individuals on their own team instead of being on a coed team opens more doors for them and allows them to learn more about the sport."
Seniors A.J. Cox, Jordan Herman, Zach Herman and Tyler Roberts return from last season when the boys team finished 7-6.
Roberts competed as an individual in the Division II district tournament and tied for 48th with a 514 three-game series.
Senior Haven Horton-Kunce leads the girls team after playing for the past two seasons.
The girls team has eight new players in seniors Sophie Appelbaum, Avery Beightler, Marina Colas, Madeline Foster, Maggie Hayes, Jaseana Larsen and Jomana Medany and sophomore Olivia Beckman.
Senior Connor McGlinchey and sophomores Ewan Dixon, Mack Gorsuch, Ryder Robins and Caedmon Robinson round out the boys roster.
"Connor is really good for it being his first year of bowling competitively and some of the underclassmen have really stepped up over the past couple of weeks," Talabere said.
"Our lineup can change on any given day."
The Lions continue to compete at Holiday Lanes, where they opened Dec. 2 against Briggs. The boys lost 2,035-1,617 and the girls lost 1,522-1,096.
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Whitehall
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Logan Elm
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*Dec. 10 -- At Buckeye Valley
*Dec. 6 -- Whetstone at Holiday Lanes
*Dec. 9 -- Centennial at Sequoia Pro Bowl
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 6 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 7 -- St. Charles-Columbus School for Girls Sprint Showdown at St. Charles