As the pain of last season's disappointing ending began setting in, Dublin Coffman boys basketball player Keaton Turner took action.
Turner was one of two key players from the junior class last season when the Shamrocks lost just one regular-season game and entered the Division I district tournament as the No. 1 seed but were upset by 13th-seeded Olentangy Orange 77-67 in a district semifinal.
When Dominiq Penn announced in August that he was transferring to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for his senior year, Turner's urgency heading into this season increased.
"Last year when we lost early in the tournament, I texted all the young guys and said that this year is my last year and I'm not going through that again," Turner said. "Last year, we were projected to go all the way and I'm not going through that. We didn't really lock in defensively and (Orange) played great. They were well-coached, too."
Inheriting the role of leader and go-to player has suited the 6-foot-1 senior guard well this winter.
Turner had a 29-point performance in a 77-70 win over Olentangy on Dec. 10 and was even better in his next game, producing 33 points in a 92-65 victory over Westland on Dec. 13.
Turner, who scored 22 points in a 78-65 win over Dayton Ponitz Tech on Jan. 4, was averaging 22 points through 11 games for Coffman, which was 8-3 overall before facing Pickerington North on Jan. 7.
After averaging 8.5 points and making special mention all-league last season as a seven-member senior class and Penn did most of the scoring, Turner has taken more than just an incremental step forward.
"He's been really good for us," coach Jamey Collins said. "Last year, we had a lot of really good players and it was easy to slip through the cracks with what we had. He's had to step into more of a leadership role. He's done a lot of work on his game. He's done a good job distributing the ball and done a good job of taking what's given to him."
The Shamrocks are 3-1 in the OCC-Central Division as they prepare to play Friday, Jan. 10, at home against Upper Arlington, which was the only other team to beat Coffman last season as the programs split their two regular-season meetings.
Marysville defeated UA 57-55 on Jan. 3 and is leading the league at 4-0 entering its game Jan. 10 against Hilliard Davidson.
On Dec. 20, Turner made five 3-pointers and had 34 points but the Shamrocks lost to the Monarchs 80-78.
Coffman also fell 58-46 at Parkersburg (West Virginia) South on Dec. 14 and 64-54 to Westerville South on Dec. 23 at home.
In the Stephen Gussler Invitational at Thomas Worthington, the Shamrocks beat Licking Heights 77-52 on Dec. 27 and Reynoldsburg 61-51 on Dec. 28.
Turner had 16 points, junior Hammond Russell scored 12 and junior Nash Hostetler and sophomore Ajay Sheldon added 11 apiece in a 64-48 league victory over Central Crossing on Jan. 3.
Turner has been receiving interest from a list of schools that includes Lincoln Memorial, for which 2019 Coffman graduate Luke Bartemes is playing, as well as Drexel, South Dakota State and James Madison.
He believes he gets some of his athleticism from his mother, Pia Shaw, who competed in women's track and field for VMI.
"It's nothing short of a blessing, honestly," Turner said. "I've been waiting for this moment for my whole high school career. I wasn't the main player my junior year but played an assignment role and did what I had to do and now I'm the leader of the team.
"(Last season, at times,) was definitely fun. (Penn) is my guy and the seven seniors showed me how it's done. I went into my junior year not knowing what to expect, so my first few games were rough. I started to get the hang of things and those guys gave me confidence and told me that you've got to put the work in and got to go do it. Not to sound braggadocious, but I believe in myself and I've put in the work."
Girls basketball team set for UA rematch
On Friday, Jan. 10, the girls basketball team will visit UA to open the second round of OCC-Central action.
Coffman, which beat the Golden Bears 76-32 on Dec. 3 to begin its league schedule, was expected to be back at full strength when it took a 10-0 overall record into its non-league game Jan. 7 at Pickerington North.
Sophomore guard Imarianah Russell, who was averaging a team-high 13.9 points through eight games, missed time with a concussion but was expected to be cleared to play against North.
The Shamrocks improved to 5-0 in the league with an 86-28 victory over Central Crossing.
Freshmen Jenna Kopyar and Tessa Grady led with 17 and 15 points, respectively, and sophomores Cassidy Lafler and Tara Flynn added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Juliana Burris, who is one of three seniors in the program, had 18 points in a 74-59 victory over Jonathan Alder on Dec. 28.
"(UA is) a good team," coach Adam Banks said. "They came out and fought (Dec. 3), but we got putbacks and in the second half we defended better and were moving with a purpose on defense.
"It was a big challenge for (Burris) switching to be the leader of the team and she's been an incredible leader every day. There's not been one bad practice in terms of her energy and focus and it helps that she's a pretty good basketball player."
Hockey team preps for CHC challenges
The hockey team will play two teams from the CHC-Red Division, which is considered the top tier in the conference, on consecutive days this weekend.
The Shamrocks will face New Albany on Saturday, Jan. 11, and Jerome on Sunday, Jan. 12. Both games will be at Chiller Dublin.
Coffman is 3-11-2 overall and 3-3-1 in the CHC-White, the conference's middle tier, after beating Scioto 16-3 on Jan. 4.
The Shamrocks' other two victories came against Gahanna (6-1 on Nov. 24) and DeSales (12-2 on Dec. 19). Both the Lions and Stallions are in the CHC-Blue, the conference's bottom tier.
On Dec. 29, Coffman lost to Olentangy Liberty 7-1 as Thiago Jeronimo scored.
Against DeSales, Owen North and David Shevetz both scored two goals and Brady Hall and Aidan Magyar each scored one.
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 10 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Jan. 11 -- At Toledo Scott
*Jan. 10 -- At Upper Arlington. Coffman beat the Golden Bears 76-32 on Dec. 3.
Jan. 11 -- At Teays Valley
Jan. 14 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
*Jan. 11 -- New Albany at Chiller Dublin. The Shamrocks lost to the Eagles 9-1 on Dec. 7.
*Jan. 12 -- Jerome at Chiller Dublin. The Shamrocks lost to the Celtics 4-2 on Dec. 7.
*Jan. 9 -- Home vs. Central Crossing