With one year of experience with the program, Westerville Central boys basketball coach Kevin Martin expects vast improvement from his team this season.
The Warhawks finished 10-13 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye Division a year ago.
"They know what to expect," Martin said. "We obviously had our ups and downs last year, but we're head and shoulders above in terms of the type of cohesion we have within this group and our dynamic within our personnel with each other. How they communicate with each other is already better than where it should be at this time of the year."
The Warhawks opened the season by finishing second in the Grove City Tip-Off Classic. They defeated Columbus West 79-45 in the first round Nov. 27 as 6-foot-1 junior guard Tasos Cook scored a game-high 22 points.
Central lost to Grove City 52-43 in the title game Nov. 30 as 6-4 senior forward Tyler Beckel scored 13 points and Cook added 10.
Central played DeSales on Dec. 3 and opens OCC-Buckeye play Friday, Dec. 6, against visiting Westerville North.
"The league is wide open," Martin said. "If you look at the rosters from last year and what teams lost, it's a wide-open league. You're going to see a lot of new faces and you're going to see some familiar faces. Until we get into the thick of things, I don't think you can say this team has an advantage over the other one."
Beckel, who was honorable mention all-league last season, is one of seven returnees.
"We know exactly what (Martin) expects and what he thinks of us," said Cook, who is another returnee. "We have high expectations, but we're obviously going to work towards that. That's the goal."
Also back is senior Will LeMaire, a 6-5 wing player and forward who is looking forward to stepping into a leadership role.
"It should be fun," he said. "It started this summer and I feel like we're going to build off this summer and have a great season."
Other returnees are seniors Josh Wilhelm (6-3, forward) and Lance Wyatt (5-10, guard) and juniors Quincy Clark (6-1, guard) and Will Jados (6-7, post player).
"We have a lot of chemistry and we're a good group of kids," Cook said. "We've always been together as a team and we've always been playing together, so our chemistry is out the roof."
Other players are senior Cameron Robertson (6-0, guard) and juniors M.J. Davis (6-4, wing player/forward), Mamadi Kaba (6-1, guard), Brad Leonard (6-4, wing player/forward) and Landon Tillman (5-9, guard).
"It's a competitive group," Martin said. "They want to win, they want to be good (and) they want to get better every day. The one constant that we had in all (of our) practices was every day we walk in here, all these guys are working for one common goal and that's to improve each day.
"We have a good mix of guys that played last year and have some varsity experience with some guys who have moved up from that j.v. group who had a really good year last year, and they enjoy playing with each other."
Bowling teams seek return to state
The boys and girls bowling teams are looking to make return trips to the Division I state tournament.
Last season, the boys finished sixth and the girls were 12th.
"Both teams have some youth and we have some inexperience, but we have some potential," said second-year coach Tony Gonzalez, who guides the girls team and oversees the program. "I'm excited for what we can do as the year progresses and those players get the experience and grow. We have a pretty good and exciting season ahead of us."
The teams began the season by competing in the Ohio Kickoff Tournament Nov. 23 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace. The boys finished 16th (2,994) of 32 teams behind first-place Centerville (3,456) in pool play and then lost to Centerville 3-1 in the first round of championship play.
Senior Wesley Minke led the Warhawks with a 553 series during pool play.
The girls finished 15th (2,609) of 16 teams behind first-place Cincinnati Seton (2,975) during pool play and then lost to Wapakoneta 3-0 in the first round of championship play.
Senior Reace Gonzalez led Central with a 516 series.
"It's a good measuring stick right out of the gate because the teams either qualified for state or were at the top of their conference," coach Gonzalez said.
Central opened COHSBC-A and OCC-Buckeye play Dec. 2 against Olentangy Orange. The boys won 2,247-1,920 and the girls won 2,098-1,514.
The boys and girls teams each won COHSBC-A and OCC-Buckeye titles last season.
Along with Minke, returnees for the boys are junior Malik Curry-Brown and sophomore Zackary Smock. Other bowlers are juniors Joey Cantieri and Dominic Ferroni and freshmen Kyle Richardson and Nico Wells. Jeff Robinson is in the sixth season of his second stint as boys coach after missing part of last season with an illness. He also coached the team for three years beginning in the 2006-07 season.
Along with Gonzalez, returnees for the girls are seniors Stephanie Carson and Mackenzie Halloy and junior Stephanie Showalter. Other bowlers are seniors Skyler Bloom and Dominique Fleming and freshmen Deja Curry-Brown and Payton Hartgrove.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Dec. 10 -- At Upper Arlington
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. North
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. UA
*Dec. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Dec. 7 -- Holiday Baker Tournament at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 9 -- Big Walnut at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 10 -- Marysville at Dragon Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 5 -- At Thomas Worthington with North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 6 -- Hilliard Davidson and Watterson at Westerville Community Center and Liberty Diving Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 5 -- At Dublin Coffman with Gahanna and New Albany
Dec. 7 -- Granville Invitational