The Centennial boys basketball team dealt with a string of injuries and illnesses that decimated the roster earlier this season, but now the Stars are nearly healthy.
Only 6-foot-5 junior guard Travonne Jackson remains out after he broke a thumb early in the season, and he is expected back soon after recently getting the cast removed.
Syquee Womack, a 6-0 junior guard, returned for a 103-82 win over Whetstone on Jan. 21 after missing time with a concussion, and 6-3 junior guard Jaylen Gilbert came back for a 71-60 loss to Briggs on Dec. 27 after sustaining an Achilles strain during a 73-62 loss to Northland on Dec. 17.
The Stars also saw the flu sweep through the locker room, forcing coach Roosevelt Osborne III to dip into the junior varsity roster for a time. During a tournament in late December, only two players weren't injured or battling the flu, according to Osborne.
After all of those setbacks, Osborne believes the Stars are starting to get into a rhythm. They were 7-9 overall and 5-5 in the City League-North Division before playing Linden-McKinley on Jan. 28.
"My confidence is really high," Osborne said. "With everybody healthy, I think the sky's the limit. We're going to surprise some people. I think it's coming."
Gilbert said the players who missed time are working their way back into shape.
"We're not completely healthy with (Jackson) being out -- that's a main part of our team -- but we're looking good right now," Gilbert said. "We're just trying to get back in shape after everybody gets healthy, trying to get our legs under us. But other than that, our chemistry is building and we're getting back in shape."
It was challenging for a while, as Osborne and the Stars had to retool their offense.
"We had to change our style, because we lost all our big guys early in the season," he said. "And then as they gradually came back, we were able to run more of our traditional offense, but it was an adjustment for the guys who had already been playing, because now you're talking about entry passes and things like that versus perimeter play."
Osborne said the offense was predicated around five guards at one point, and the lack of size limited what Centennial was able to accomplish.
"There was no perimeter, there were no entry passes being thrown, and we were focused on running the ball up the floor (with) five out and kept the lane open," Osborne said. "Now we have guys that close to the lane, and the system's a little bit different.
"We're trying to get an even balance of inside shots and outside shots. Before it was all a lot of dribble-drive stuff and working your way from the outside in, (and) now we're going inside out."
Cameron Kates, a 6-1 senior guard who saw a lot of playing time during that stretch of illness and injury, said the Stars maintained a next-man-up philosophy.
"Everyone just stepped up and did their part," he said. "It sucks to have that many people out, but at the end of the day, we have to get back to what we do.
"We definitely have a lot more trust in some guys and a lot more confidence in some guys. I thought we got stronger as a group. I don't think we're where we need to be yet, but we're really close."
Girls basketball team dealing with injuries
The girls basketball team is dealing with injuries to three of its top six players.
Sophomore Z'niya Peterson, a 5-8 forward, is out for the year with a torn ACL while 5-10 sophomore forward Lauren Bailey and 5-11 junior forward CiCi Dingess are battling injuries.
Coach Pete Baumann said he isn't certain when Bailey and Dingess will return.
Centennial was 11-6 overall and 8-4 in the City-North before playing Linden on Jan. 28.
Because of the injuries, the Stars have had to bring up some j.v. players to play alongside their remaining top three of 5-8 senior forward Naa Dromo Korley, 5-5 senior guard Jayana Harley and 5-8 senior forward Tyler Johnson.
"It's forcing some of our younger kids (into the rotation)," Baumann said. "It's kind of trial by fire, but they're stepping up to the challenge and doing a good job."
Baumann said 5-6 freshman guard Brooke Loudner and 5-6 sophomore guard Jessica Leach have been getting more playing time while Bailey and Dingess recover from their injuries.
"Those two have really had to step up their minutes and they've done a good job," he said.
Wrestlers fall to Bruins, Scots
Sophomores Oliver Koehler (113 pounds) and Alvin Forte (160) won matches against Briggs during the wrestling team's duals with the Bruins and Walnut Ridge on Jan. 23.
Forte was 18-7 and Koehler was 14-8 entering the John Deno Invitational on Jan. 25 at Athens.
Centennial lost both matches Jan. 23, falling to Briggs 42-30 and Walnut Ridge 66-6.
At Athens, the Stars placed 14th (51) of 20 teams behind champion New Lexington (455.5). Forte had the top finish, placing fifth at 160.
Below are the coming schedules for the Centennial boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. International. The Stars defeated the Lions 85-45 on Jan. 7.
*Feb. 4 -- At Mifflin. The Stars lost to the Punchers 56-53 on Jan. 10.
*Jan. 31 -- At International. The Stars defeated the Lions 63-33 on Jan. 7.
Feb. 3 -- Home vs. Wellington
Feb. 4 -- At Briggs
*Feb. 4 -- West at Game of Western Columbus
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 1 -- City League meet at Columbus Aquatics Center
*Jan. 30 -- At Linden-McKinley
*Feb. 5 -- At Whetstone