The Worthington Kilbourne boys basketball team must replace its leading scorer from a year ago in 2019 graduate Zach Wilson, but 20th-year coach Tom Souder loves the work his team has put in to get ready for the challenge.
"I absolutely love what these guys are doing," Souder said. "They've done everything we've asked of them. They're getting after it. This time of year, you're trying to figure out who you are. I think we're still in the process."
Last season, Wilson averaged 16.7 points and 4.0 rebounds and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, as the Wolves finished 8-14 overall and 6-8 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and lost to Upper Arlington 57-38 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
"I think we lost a lot (from) last year and we're going to have a lot of guys playing that didn't see a lot of time last year and that's going to be a little different," 6-foot-4 junior forward Ian Schupp said. "We're all pretty good leaders and we all know what's going on. We play together pretty well and we move the ball very well. We're picking up on each other's tendencies. I think we get up in transition well and that's one of our strengths."
Kilbourne opened Nov. 29 with a 59-55 loss to visiting Briggs. Aidan Parsons, a 5-10 sophomore guard, had 16 points and Schupp scored 15 to lead the Wolves, who trailed 39-24 after three quarters before scoring 31 points in the fourth.
"One of the things we can do is we can score," said Souder, whose team opens league play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Dublin Jerome. "But we've got to be a better defensive team and they've really taken ownership of that. We're not overly big, but we're solid quickness-wise."
Schupp, Parsons and 5-10 junior guard Caden Dougherty are the top returnees. Last season, Schupp averaged 9.6 points and 7.3 rebounds and was special mention all-league and Parsons was honorable mention all-league.
"Ian is really coming into his own," Souder said. "We hope he's going to present matchup problems for people because he's a (6-4) kid that can shoot it and put it on the floor. Ian was our leading rebounder last year and our second-leading scorer.
"Caden has basically started since he was a freshman and he's now a junior. He's done a nice job leadership-wise. Aidan started on and off for us as a freshman. I think he has grown so much mentally. He's kind of taken on our (top) defender (role) and I'm really tickled with what he's doing there."
Juniors Mitchell Tomasek (6-4, forward) and Travis Mecklenburg (6-4, forward) also are key returnees.
"Mitchell is an Energizer bunny," Souder said. "He plays hard and he defends. He's going to have to defend everybody's big guy. You don't think of a quarterback (for the football team) as that kind of a guy, but Mitchell is tough. He is a good athlete and can beat (defenders) in a lot of different ways with his toughness and his ability to move.
"Travis is a guy that tore his ACL in January and got (medically) cleared (to play) Oct. 18. He gets better and stronger every day. He has such a great work ethic and he just does what you want him to to get things done."
Rounding out the team are seniors Will Alban (5-11, guard), Braydon Biehn (6-0, guard) and Blake Gardner (6-2, forward), juniors Mitchell Abahazie (6-1, forward) and Brian Wilson (6-0, guard) and sophomores Nick Hirschy (6-1, forward), Bryce Taylor (6-1, forward) and Luke Wolford (5-11, guard).
"Blake has really worked hard to get his conditioning where we want it," Souder said. "Braydon played on our regional soccer team. He's going to be able help us out. Will is a three-sport kid. He's going to be able to give us some good minutes, too."
Girls bowling team has new lineup
The girls bowling team has an entirely different lineup from last season, when it finished 7-11 overall, 5-6 in the COHSBC-B and 2-5 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Wolves lost their top six bowlers from a year ago to graduation, including Aleks Tavella, who now bowls at Muskingum University.
"My entire varsity girls team graduated last year, so I am started with brand-new faces on varsity," fifth-year coach Susan Bond said. "I have two girls (freshmen Delaney Rossette and Brenna Burnell) that are really seasoned that have bowling experience in the past.
"(Rossette) has just gotten better as she's gotten older. She's just an elite athlete and has great mechanics. I fully expect her to do well."
Sophomore Samantha Darby has limited varsity experience, having appeared in two games last season in which she averaged 93 pins.
Junior Grace Meisel and sophomore Ellie Needleman round out the roster.
The boys team, meanwhile, returns six bowlers from a year ago, when it finished 8-10 overall, 5-6 in the COHSBC-B and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal and placed 16th in the Division I district tournament.
Among the returnees are three key bowlers in juniors Connor Burke, Cole Niemantsverdriet and Donovan Rossette.
Last season, Burke averaged 172 pins in 37 games, Rossette averaged 170.9 in 39 games and Niemantsverdriet averaged 154.8 in 39 games.
"(Burke) just doesn't seem to get rattled easily," Bond said. "He's a very intense player, so he takes on the challenge himself. He doesn't seem to cave under pressure. (Niemantsverdriet) has great leadership skills and has worked really hard on his game. I look for great things from Cole this year. (Rossette) will help the underclassmen come along and learn what they need to get to the next level."
Also back are senior Preston Woodrum, junior Will Bartram and sophomore Miles Roberts.
Last season, Woodrum averaged 156.7 pins in 21 games, Roberts averaged 135.7 in 17 games and Bartram averaged 131 in 10 games.
Senior Kerim Pintol and sophomore Samuel Knuth round out the roster.
"The boys advanced to district last year and I see no reason why they can't advance again this year," Bond said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*Dec. 10 -- At Hilliard Darby
*Dec. 6 -- At Jerome
*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Darby
Dec. 7 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Palace Lanes
*Dec. 10 -- Groveport at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Gahanna at HP Lanes
Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Central Crossing, Franklin Heights, Upper Arlington and Westland
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 5 -- At Thomas with Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South
Dec. 7 -- At Thomas with Dublin Scioto
Dec. 10 -- At Thomas with Bloom-Carroll and Olentangy Berlin
Dec. 7 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at UA