DeSales boys basketball coach Pat Murphy struggled to recall one particular moment that stands out about 5-foot-6 guard Austin Mann's season -- something he attributed to the junior's consistency in his first season as a starter.
After a moment, Murphy recalled Mann's 20-point first half in a 66-49 home win over Hartley on Dec. 13, a stretch punctuated by a 3-pointer from approximately 30 feet as the buzzer sounded.
Still, Murphy is just as likely to discuss Mann's defense and off-the-ball work as his offense, even though Mann is averaging 11.1 points.
"He's consistently changed games for us in a positive way just with his pressure on the ball and his toughness and grit, getting deflections and getting his hands on 50-50 balls," Murphy said. "He's still one of the best shooters, I think in the state, in high school basketball, but now he's also a really good defender. He is taking care of the ball, pressuring the ball (defensively) and making a lot of the hustle plays that we talk about being very important."
Having logged the second-most minutes on the team, Mann has helped the Stallions to a 9-3 overall record and sole possession of first place in the CCL at 4-0 entering a Friday, Jan. 17, game at Watterson.
Mann's 40 minutes per game through 11 contests were second only to leading scorer Desmond Watson's 41. He was 21-for-45 from 3-point range before playing Beechcroft, third-best in the area as of last week, as well as 24-for-26 from the free-throw line.
"This is what I expected," Mann said, citing a rigorous offseason dedicated to rounding out his game. "Last year, I was just a 3-point shooter and I just wanted to grow more as a player and develop my game more, so I started doing pull-ups, driving more and working on my finishing.
"My defense has gotten a lot better this year. I feel like I'm looked at as more of a primary defender on our team. I stay in front, mostly. That's been my key."
Mann's 20 points against Hartley were a career high. He had five double-digit scoring games entering last weekend.
"He can score in several different ways, but his defense is crazy," said Watson, who is averaging 23 points. "He is probably the best on-ball defender that we have and he's small, but quick. He can score for his height really well. He's a sharp shooter.
"The weight room has been everybody's friend this season. We all hit the weight room like crazy in the offseason and that has helped all of us and boosted everybody's ability. Austin can get the hoop and finish now over much bigger guys. Sometimes I don't know how he gets the points he does."
Mann smiled when recalling his half-court shot against Hartley.
"I was on the wing. Des was dribbling down the court, he made a crossover and Kobe (Righter) set a screen for me. I went behind Des, I was calling for (the ball), he pitched me the ball and I just shot it and made it," Mann said. "But overall, I just have to be consistent. No matter if I am making shots or not, I always have to keep a high motor and play the best defense I can."
Mann had 15 points in the Stallions' 63-50 win over Watterson on Dec. 7. Watson had a game-high 23 points and Righter added 14.
"Austin doesn't just catch and shoot. He's able to make plays at the rim and make the right pass (and) the right decision to shoot or pass," Murphy said. "He is just evolving into more of a complete guard."
Swimmers posting solid times
With two events remaining before the CCL meet Jan. 25 at St. Charles, swimming coach Ryan Buechner thinks his athletes are positioning themselves for postseason success.
Buechner pointed to Brady McInerney's times of 21.94 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle and 47.88 in the 100 free during the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 14 at Ohio State, and Libby Ruff's personal-best time of 5:20.63 in the 500 free that same day.
McInerney placed fifth in the 100 free and seventh in the 500 free at the Ned Reeb and Ruff was 12th.
"Both (of McInerney's) times are the fastest by any Division II swimmer in our district," Buechner said. "Our boys 200 free relay's time from early in the season (1:38.56 on Dec. 7 in the Catholic Showdown at St. Charles) is still ranked second in the district in Division II. ...
"I have definitely seen a lot of progress from my first-year swimmers where they have gone from an E or F relay to my B relay. They include Elie Bogue, McKinley Miracle and Cate Leithauser. We've had some impressive times."
While the boys team competes in Division II, the girls team is in Division I.
Seven swimmers -- six boys and Ruff -- competed in the Northeast Classic that concluded Jan. 11 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Swimmers had to meet time standards to compete in the event, which was held in the same facility that will play host to the state meet for the 41st consecutive year Feb. 19-22.
McInerney was sixth in the 200 free (1:44.82) and 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.62) to score all of the boys team's 17 points. DeSales finished 29th of 42 teams as St. Charles won (227).
Also participating but not making the finals were boys swimmers Reece Hanley, Wyatt Hanley, Will Jordan, Leo Sears and Aaron Spittell.
Boys swimmers in the meet were Reece Hanley, Wyatt Hanley, Will Jordan, McInerney, Leo Sears and Aaron Spittell.
Wrestlers heading to Licking Heights
After having last weekend off, the wrestling team will participate in the Licking Heights Invitational on Friday, Jan. 17, and Saturday, Jan. 18.
The Stallions last competed Jan. 4 in the Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto, getting three top-seven places to earn 62 points and finish 12th out of 21 teams as Oregon Clay won (248).
Cole Potts finished first at heavyweight, Josh Morse was third at 132 pounds and Owen Eagan placed seventh at 120. Potts' four wins by pin in that tournament came in a combined 4 minutes, 13 seconds.
That same day in the Pioneer Classic at Olentangy Orange, girls wrestler Rebekah Oladokun finished third at 150. She went 4-1 and defeated Morral Ridgedale's Nya Miller 5-0 in the third-place match.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- At Watterson. The Stallions defeated the Eagles 63-50 on Dec. 6.
Jan. 18 -- At Linden-McKinley
*Jan. 16 -- At Watterson
Jan. 18 -- At Delaware
*Jan. 16 -- Africentric at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 17 -- Watterson at Capri Lanes
Jan. 19 -- Winter Shootout at HP Lanes
Jan. 18 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 18 -- Harbor Creek (Pa.) and Parma Normandy in Ehrnfelt Memorial Tournament at OBM Arena in Strongsville
Jan. 19 -- Kettering Alter in Ehrnfelt Memorial Tournament
Jan. 20 -- TBD in Ehrnfelt Memorial Tournament
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 17 -- Canal Winchester and Watterson at Mount Carmel Fitness Center
Jan. 21 -- At Columbus Academy
Jan. 17-18 -- Licking Heights Invitational