Coach Donovon Barrett already has seen a big difference in the second season of the Olentangy Berlin boys basketball team.
The Bears entered their inaugural season with no varsity experience and went on to finish 3-20 overall and 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Barrett now has a more experienced group that is engaged and willing to put in the work to improve.
"We have a lot of guys who played after coming in with zero varsity experience and a j.v. team that had never played high school basketball before, but now it's completely different," said Barrett, whose team opened Dec. 2 against Caledonia River Valley. "Our guys have worked hard. We have good younger players and the competition level has been raised.
"Our skill level and basketball IQ have increased immensely, and our practices are great. You have to be engaged while you are at practice. You have to want to be here. We have had tough practices, and they have been engaged."
Berlin returns the majority of its roster, although junior forward Jacob Moeller has decided to focus on football.
Junior Austin Corley, a 5-foot-11 guard, returns after receiving honorable mention all-league honors.
"I feel we have a lot more experience this year," he said. "Last year was our first year and all of our players only had junior-varsity experience so we were new to the pace of the game. We have more experience now and hopefully we can use that to our advantage."
Joining Corley in the backcourt will be senior Grant Schrieber (5-11) and sophomore Adrian Stone (5-10). Senior Zak Stevens (6-6) returns in the post along with senior Ethan Collins (6-4) and junior C.J. Bishop (6-4).
Senior Rook Holland (6-0), juniors Kalvin Betz (6-1) and Bryce Reed (5-11) and sophomore Abel Abenet (6-0) are guard/forwards, and junior Aiden Loeffler (6-3) and freshman Jason Inbody (6-3) are forwards.
"I think they learned last year how hard it is even to be average," Barrett said. "It's not easy to be really good. There are a lot of people who want to be really good or great, and they were ahead of the curve last year.
"We had guys put into unfair positions, but one thing they did great was that they were resilient. No matter the shot that they took the night before they would bounce back and that's not easy to do. They kept coming back, and I appreciated that."
The Bears open OCC-Cardinal play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Dublin Scioto.
"I think the biggest change is the way we practice," Barrett said. "We have enough kids to practice at varsity speed. We don't have guys who are just out there. They want to be out there because they love basketball. They are willing to do tough things. Every single day is different and better than last year."
Bowlers begin second season
Coach Duane Joseph is pleased with the progress being made in the second season of the bowling program.
The Bears have 12 boys and 10 girls, including seniors Cody Benton, Hunter Kraft, Brody Moore and Logan Wright on the boys team and Division II district qualifiers in junior Bella Bland and sophomore Michele Starner on the girls squad.
"Things are definitely a little smoother this year than last," said Joseph, whose boys team finished 2-16 last season while the girls were 6-12. "Being the first year, there was a lot of figuring things out. This time, everyone goes in with a little more experience and it has been a much easier start."
Bland tied for 15th (504) and Starner finished 57th (376) at district last season.
Shelby Buck and Eve Pennington are seniors for the girls. Junior Ariana Cleveland and freshmen Josi Hooks and Annalee Montooth round out the varsity roster.
"I think the girls have improved from where they were last season," Joseph said. "We played well at the end of last season and we want to keep improving on that."
The boys have added a move-in from Westerville Central in Benton and freshman Aaron Shoaf has started well, according to Joseph. Junior Mason D'Amore and sophomore Jacoby Oliverio round out the varsity roster.
"The boys are looking pretty good," Joseph said. "We have some boys with experience and some younger ones that are bowling well, and they continue to improve."
The Bears opened Dec. 3 against Newark.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*Dec. 10 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Dec. 6 -- At Scioto
*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Bradley
*Dec. 6 -- Bradley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Dec. 9 -- Olentangy at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Westerville South at Delaware Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Athens Invitational at Ohio University
Dec. 10 -- Bloom-Carroll, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne at Thomas
Dec. 7 -- Bad Apple Brawl at Mount Vernon