Knowing that this year's Groveport Madison boys basketball team would be unlike any of his previous seven, coach Ryan Grashel dug through his archives to find appropriate video to watch.
A 98-80 loss to Pickerington Central on Jan. 14, 2014, against a Tigers team that would go on to win the third of what has become eight consecutive Division I district championships, fit the bill given the frenetic tempo.
"There were 178 points scored in that game, without an overtime. That's a lot of points," Grashel said. "We don't necessarily want to play that way, so it has to be a balance, but there's been a lot of film preparation. Last year, we wanted to play (games) in the 40s and 50s. We wanted to get post touches, we wanted to play out of the post and I've done that really since I've been here. This year, I want to play in the 60s and 70s. We want to play completely different than we've ever played before. It's very far out of my comfort zone.
"With that being said, if you're not a coach that doesn't adapt to your players, then you're in the wrong field."
Only a few players with varsity experience return from last year's team that went 14-10 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital Division and lost to Thomas Worthington 63-52 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. That group includes seniors Elijah Monroe (6-foot-1, guard) and Devin Singleton (6-2, forward) and junior Scotty Lomax (6-2, guard).
Groveport, which opened Dec. 3 at home against St. Charles, lost its top two scorers in 2019 graduates Nakhi Taylor (14.1 points) and Javon Miller (7.2) and 6-6 junior forward Elijah Hawk transferred to Pickerington North.
Juniors Elyjah Aekins (5-9, guard) and John Motton (5-10, guard) planned to join the team after helping the football team to a Division I, Region 3 runner-up finish.
"Similar to last year, we lack varsity experience and the grind of a four-month season. There's still a lot of excitement and a lot of expectations, as we always have around here and we've had for some time now," Grashel said. "(Aekins and Motton) don't necessarily average 30 minutes a game, but they give us the depth we need to be able to play how we want. They're two of the quickest and most athletic guys we have in the program.
"(A lack of depth was) actually more fortunate for our guys because they get more reps. We don't look at it as a negative. We look at it as a positive and we know those guys eventually will be able to be here and be high-level contributors."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ricky Cooper (6-2, forward), Tymire Jones (5-9, guard), Zayont'e Tatum (5-11, guard/forward) and Raychaun Whitfield (6-2, forward), junior Maurice Randle Jr. (6-4, forward) and sophomores Abubakar Diallo (5-9, guard) and Marlon Elliott Jr. (6-1, guard).
Several of those players helped the junior varsity to a 19-2 record last season.
"I think we'll probably play 10-deep a night, try to get up and down and pressure teams and create turnovers," Grashel said. "We want to grind on their guards with our athleticism and our depth."
The Cruisers begin OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 6, at Franklin Heights. Groveport finished fourth in the league last year behind champion Newark (8-2).
Bowlers look for competitive season
For the first time in her three seasons, bowling coach Christi Middendorf wasn't sure how the lineup would look before Groveport opened Nov. 30 with the Centerville Elks Invitational at Poelking Lanes South.
"It's a mixed blessing. Usually, I've known who my starters were from the start. This year will be a little bit different. I have quite a few I can bowl," Middendorf said. "The downside is when you have so many kids and you can only bowl five at a time. Obviously, somebody is going to be sitting the bench, but that will keep them competitive."
Middendorf expects seniors Jake Benline, William Lawson, Jeremiah Slonaker and Austin Snyder to lead the boys team. Other contributors will include junior Brandon Cordle and sophomore Hunter Rathburn.
According to Middendorf, the roster could grow depending on whether any football players come out for the team.
"Every day, we go back and forth. Some days, it's not so close, and other days, it's very close," Lawson said. "It brings the best out of all of us. We're trying to be better than each other. If we're better than each other, most likely we'll be better than the other team."
The boys finished 19th (3,708) of 22 teams at Centerville as the host Elks won (4,834). The girls were 18th (2,809) of 20 teams behind champion St. Marys Memorial (4,060).
The Cruisers began COHSBC-B play Dec. 2 against Hilliard Bradley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, the home facility for both teams. The boys won 2,276-2,205 and the girls lost 1,801-1,313.
The boys team finished 5-6 overall last year.
The girls team, which went 8-3 overall last season, must replace a Division I district qualifier in Leah Deaner. Deaner, who now bowls for the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, tied for 17th at district last year, 14 spots shy of a state berth.
Deaner led the entire 46-team COHSBC with a 197.5 average in the regular season and was a four-time district qualifier.
According to Middendorf, seniors Jessica Clayton and Amanda Comehn will lead the team along with juniors Makayla Harold, Ellisia Little and Kayla Sheets and sophomore Suzie Francis. Middendorf said a few underclassmen also might contribute.
"We're not sure yet," Middendorf said. "Someone will step up."
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- At Franklin Heights
Dec. 7 -- At Hilliard Darby
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
Dec. 7 -- At Hilliard Darby
Dec. 10 -- At Pickerington Central
Dec. 7 -- Holiday Bowling Bash at Scenic Lanes
Dec. 9 -- Newark at Park Lanes
*Dec. 10 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Hilliard Darby at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Athens Invitational at Ohio University
Dec. 7 -- Granville Blue Ace Invitational