The sense of urgency Elijah Monroe brought into his senior season for the Groveport Madison boys basketball team became even more acute when he had to sit out the first two games and three of the first five because of a bone bruise.
Once the 6-foot-1 guard was healthy, it didn't take him long to round back into form and become the leader he and coach Ryan Grashel expected.
That didn't come without Monroe making some adjustments to his own game, however.
"I'm getting more aggressive, scoring more, getting more assists and pushing the ball," Monroe said. "This is my senior year. I have to do something. I'm trying to win, most importantly. The team needs me to score, get assists and get rebounds. Toward the middle of the season, I became more aggressive and realized what I needed to do to help us win."
Monroe averaged 9.5 points through his first 17 games, and Groveport is 10-11 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Capital Division entering its regular-season finale Friday, Feb. 14, at home against Big Walnut.
After being kneed in the side of his left knee by a teammate in a preseason practice, Monroe returned Dec. 10 and saw limited action in a 90-44 loss to Pickerington Central. He played in the Cruisers' next game, a 54-52 home loss to Canal Winchester on Dec. 13, and missed an 85-72 loss at Grove City on Dec. 17 before returning again, this time for good, with 14 points in a 65-57 overtime loss at New Albany on Dec. 21.
His 16 points the next night in a 57-47 home win over Granville helped Groveport begin a seven-game winning streak.
Monroe also had been ill on and off for about a month before the season.
"We noticed a difference when he came back," Grashel said. "We're trying to move him off the ball and then get him back on the ball this year. Coming into his senior year and then having the injuries and being sick, it was a tough start. But we've played our best ball when he's been on the court. He played well against Lancaster (in a 60-44 home win Feb. 4) with an efficient 16 points. He got other guys involved. We play well whenever Elijah Monroe plays well, and that's a testament to him."
Monroe also had five rebounds against the Golden Gales.
"He makes us young guys work harder and pay attention to detail," sophomore guard Marlon Elliott Jr. said. "He helps us be well-rounded and be focused at times when we need to be mature."
Grashel thinks even more of Monroe's play because he is filling a new role for the third consecutive season. He played spot minutes on varsity as a sophomore while battling some injuries and moved to varsity full-time as a junior and alternated playing on and off the ball.
"Whenever you're a senior, you want the ball in your hands as much as possible," Grashel said. "He can be consistent wherever we need him."
Seeded 30th in the coming 49-team Division I district tournament, the Cruisers will travel to 11th-seeded Westerville South for a first-round game Feb. 22.
"I enjoy being a leader," Monroe said. "I am trying to win. I need to make sure everybody is together and good with each other. I think I lead more by example."
Swimmers set for district meet
Girls swimmer Madison Newsom qualified individually and helped the 200-yard freestyle relay earn a berth to the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
Newsom finished sixth in the 500 free (5 minutes, 39.67 seconds) in a sectional Feb. 8 at Upper Arlington, leading the Cruisers to 31 points and 10th place behind the host and champion Golden Bears (403) as 11 teams scored.
Newsom also was on the sixth-place 200 free relay (1:50.94) with Sydney Chandler, Gabby Monjaras and Jazlyn Winski.
The boys team's season ended at sectional, where they scored 30 points and placed last of 10 teams behind champion UA (467). Trevor Keane led the Cruisers by finishing ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.75) and 11th in the 100 free (54.75).
The winner of each event automatically qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on times statewide.
Girls basketball team preps for tourney
The girls basketball team will try to snap a six-game losing streak to end the regular season when it visits seventh-seeded Gahanna for the first round of the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 15.
Groveport, which is seeded 38th of 48 teams, is 5-16 overall and finished 2-8 in the OCC-Capital with a 73-34 home loss to league champion Newark on Feb. 7.
Casey Humphrey's 14 points led the Cruisers, who are seeking their first win since Jan. 17, when they defeated host Franklin Heights 57-37 in an OCC-Capital game.
Humphrey's seven points paced Groveport in a 47-21 loss at Lancaster on Feb. 4.
Gahanna is 16-6 and tied Pickerington Central for the OCC-Ohio championship.
The Cruisers-Lions winner will play host to 46th-seeded Briggs in a second-round game Feb. 21.
Athletes announce college decisions
Ten student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 5.
Emmanuel Anthony and A.J. Joyce will play football at West Virginia State, Jake Benline will play men's soccer at Finlandia, Kiarra Chambers will play women's basketball at Columbus State, Tykel Hancock-Anderson will play football at Findlay, Skyler Mouser will play football at Urbana, Jasiyah Robinson will play football at Michigan State, Darrell Smoot will play football at Notre Dame College, Austin Snyder will play men's soccer at Findlay and Nick Wheeler will play football at Georgetown in Kentucky.
Below is the coming schedule for the Groveport Madison wrestling team:
*Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Newark
Feb. 15 -- Canal Winchester Invitational