Even though his team's opponent had lost a pair of 1,000-point scorers to graduation, Reynoldsburg girls basketball coach Jack Purtell knew from past history what his squad could gain when it played host to Newark on Dec. 10.
The Raiders, who split with the Wildcats last season, including winning the second matchup 47-40 in a Division I regional semifinal, were within one point at halftime and trailed by as few as six early in the fourth quarter before falling 62-43.
Going forward, it was just the kind of game Reynoldsburg might need if it is to emerge as a district title contender again this winter.
"I thought this game would be really good for our young guards," Purtell said. "We're starting three sophomores and we only have a couple kids with any varsity experience. We turned the ball over an awful lot and there's some teachable things we can move forward with from that. By tournament time, and we always talk about tournament time, we'll be able to correct them."
The Raiders were 3-2 overall before playing Canal Winchester on Dec. 17. They are 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division heading into their game Friday, Dec. 20, at Pickerington Central, which was the state runner-up after beating Reynoldsburg three times last season, including for the regional title.
Reynoldsburg beat Grove City 70-42 on Dec. 13 as senior guard Kyria Walker made eight 3-pointers and finished with 32 points.
While Walker was averaging a team-high 17.8 points through five games, sophomore guards Makiya Miller and Mya Perry had stepped up to average 14.2 and 13 points, respectively.
Miller averaged just 3.7 points last year while Perry spent most of the season on junior varsity.
Another sophomore who has been seeing significant action is guard Jamiona Ross.
Against Newark, Perry had eight points in the second quarter and finished with 13, and Miller scored 14.
Perry believes her team's fast pace and ball pressure were a big part of it cutting a double-digit deficit to two possessions early in the fourth quarter against Newark.
Her development also has been one of the positives of an early stretch in which Reynoldsburg's other loss was 74-62 on Dec. 6 to Gahanna, which was a district runner-up last season.
"There are a lot of things we can work on like not turning the ball over, making our free throws, taking good shots," Perry said. "This is my first varsity year and I've really liked it a lot, going out and playing against harder teams than I did on j.v. I think I play better against higher competition so it just felt natural and it wasn't anything scary."
The Raiders follow the game with Central by traveling to West Palm Beach, Florida, where they'll play Dec. 27, 28 and 30.
"There are some really good Florida schools," Purtell said. "They'll go down and enjoy themselves."
Boys bowlers off to great start
Before facing Hilliard Darby on Dec. 16, the boys bowling team was 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the COHSBC-B.
The Raiders put together a season-best performance when they beat Marysville 2,429-2,120 on Dec. 13 as senior Logan Gapen rolled a 457, followed by seniors Logan Jeffers (422), Cameron Brosious (420), Owen Chisley (379) and David Robinson (343). Gapen had a 254 in his second game and Jeffers had a 247 in his first game.
Entering the week, Jeffers was leading the Raiders in league average at 206.1, ranking him 11th overall in the COHSBC, followed by Gapen (195.9), Chisley (191.3), Brosious (178.7) and freshman Caleb Defenbaugh (174.5).
Others in the program include juniors Mark Drake and Cristopher Weatherly and freshman Alijah Walker.
"Any of the bowlers have the potential to be outstanding this season," coach Jamie Gapen said.
The girls team was 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the COHSBC-B before facing Darby.
The Raiders beat Marysville 1,528-1,469 as senior Kimmee Shook rolled a 288, followed by sophomore Lizzy Folk (263), junior Jenan Alkhatib (252), senior Kay Hetterscheidt (248) and junior Katie Morgan (217).
Hetterscheidt was leading the team in league average at 144.9 before Dec. 16.
Boys basketball team finding identity
Following back-to-back losses, the boys basketball team took a step toward what it hopes to become by beating Grove City 66-54 on Dec. 13 and Eastmoor Academy 52-50 on Dec. 14.
The Raiders are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio entering their game Friday, Dec. 20, at Pickerington Central.
They made 10 3-pointers against Grove City and Eastmoor.
"We're not really big," coach Scott Davis said. "We weren't big last year, but we weren't small either. Sahmi (Willoughby) and Ben (Fort, who were 2019 graduates) were (6-foot-4) and sneaky long. We're smaller than we were last year, that's for sure, but we do feel like we can shoot it decent."
Reynoldsburg, which closes the 2019 portion of its schedule Dec. 27 against Dayton Ponitz and Dec. 28 against Dublin Coffman in the Stephen Gussler Invitational at Thomas Worthington, lost 67-43 to Gahanna on Dec. 6 in its league opener.
After falling 47-45 to Newark on Dec. 10, sophomore Cooper Davis made four 3s and scored 19 points, seniors Nick Wallace and Sean Moore both scored 14 and senior James Dean added 12 against Grove City.
Then against Eastmoor, Davis made seven 3s, including one with 30 seconds remaining to give the Raiders a 52-47 lead, and finished with 23 points. Moore blocked a shot during the closing seconds to help seal the win.
Reynoldsburg has lost 10 consecutive times to Central, including three times last winter when it fell to the Tigers 50-49 in a Division I district final.