For the second consecutive season, the Olentangy Orange boys basketball team will be going with a small lineup, but this time it's by choice.
Last season, the Pioneers implemented a five-guard lineup out of necessity en route to finishing 17-8 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division and losing to Newark 64-53 in a Division I district final.
"It was the first time we played a five-guard lineup and it was fun," said eighth-year coach Anthony Calo, whose team placed second in the league a year ago behind Liberty (9-1). "Honestly, that led to our style of play this year. It wasn't by choice last year and we had to play to fit our personnel.
"We realized that it was a really fun style of play. We have bigger guys this year, but we're still going to play five-out with everyone facing the basket and no posts. We're trying to do the same thing."
The Pioneers return two starters in 6-foot-4 senior guard Ryan Cutler and 5-8 junior Andre Irwin, who replaces 2019 graduate Bryson Lane at point guard. Darius Butler, a 6-2 senior guard, will start after being the team's sixth man last winter.
"I definitely learned a lot from Bryson and what I need to do to take over the responsibility as a leader," Irwin said. "(Last year's seniors) were hard-working and role models on and off the court."
Senior guards Wilson Baker (5-10) and Sam Rankin (5-11) also were in the rotation last season.
Junior guards Jordan Bethel (6-1) and John Stearns (5-8), junior guard/forward Jason Foster (6-5), sophomore guards Joel Addo (6-2) and Jake Werling (6-0) and freshman guard Elias Lewis (6-0) round out the roster.
Foster is a transfer from Northland.
"I like playing the way we do since we haven't had a true center for a while," Cutler said. "I think we drive to the basket well. We also are good defenders and that could be a big thing for us. We're longer this year."
The Pioneers opened Dec. 3 against Delaware and begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Liberty.
"This could be one of the better defensive teams we have ever had," Calo said. "I think we have solid athletes, but they play hard and are coachable.
"We'll be in the right positions because they are coachable, but I think we're also going to have some length and quickness. If you combine length, quickness and coachability, you will have a great defense."
Bowling teams return talented performers
The bowling teams expect improvement over last season when the boys and girls teams both qualified for the Division I district tournament.
The boys return four starters from a year ago when they finished 11-5 overall and placed sixth at district, three spots shy of a state berth.
Junior Marcus Turner led the Pioneers at district by rolling a 620 three-game series to tie for 11th of 106 bowlers. Seniors Jake Norz (569, tied for 34th) and Tanner Davidson (541, 57th) and sophomore Jake Burre (531, 62nd) also return from the district lineup.
Sophomore Nick Kicas rounds out the lineup and junior Jake Yu is the team's sixth bowler.
"I think I have more confidence in them than they do about themselves," sixth-year coach Rodney Palmer said. "We have a strong group of five, and Nick bowled in winter league with a 176 average. Most of them bowled year-round.
"I think we have a good team and all of the players are doing what we ask them to do in practice. There is a lot more talking between players and they're helping out about what they need to do and the changes they need to make."
The girls team returns two bowlers from last season, when it went 8-8 overall and finished ninth at district.
Sophomore Eve Wicks led Orange with a 504 at district, tying for 26th of 104 bowlers. Senior Raymie Shields (452, 52nd) also returns from the district lineup.
"We only have (eight) girls, but I think we'll be a little better overall," third-year coach D.C. Boysaw said. "Last year, we had 11 players and we had two teams (varsity and junior varsity). Now we only have one team and we're looking to make sure everyone gets to play."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Grace Parsons and Tori Taylor, junior Sidney Brisson and sophomores Lauren Berend, Lauryn Deck and Haven Yothers.
Both teams opened Dec. 2 against Westerville Central. The boys lost 2,247-1,920 and the girls fell 2,098-1,514.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Liberty
Dec. 10 -- At Big Walnut
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Liberty
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Dec. 7 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 10 -- Grandview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Dec. 9 -- At Dublin Coffman with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 5 -- Liberty in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 6 -- Parma Padua in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament
Dec. 7 -- Mentor North Coast Collision in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament
Dec. 8 -- TBD in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 6 -- At Upper Arlington
Dec. 7 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at UA