Ryan Cutler is a soft-spoken guy off the court, but has been breaking out of his shell this winter to lead the Olentangy Orange boys basketball team.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward has become more vocal as he works to get the Pioneers on track heading into the postseason.
Orange lost to Newark 64-53 in a Division I district final a year ago to finish 17-8. This season, the Pioneers were 12-8 overall before playing Central Crossing on Feb. 11 but have not reached their expectations.
"It's not going the way we would have liked it to go," Cutler said. "We had expectations to start the year and we haven't met them. We're working on playing together and the results will pretty much come."
Coach Anthony Calo said Cutler has morphed into the kind of leader the Pioneers need.
"Sometimes when you're a senior and your team doesn't play to expectations, you won't physically quit, but you will mentally," Calo said. "Ryan's not like that. He's handling things really well. He's frustrated, but he's trying to lead, he's trying to make adjustments and he's trying to get out of his comfort zone.
"Ryan is not a very vocal guy. He's a quiet guy and challenging people vocally is not his thing. He's getting out of his comfort zone by holding people accountable because he knows it's good for the team. I have told him and his parents that I'm proud of his determination to make us better."
Cutler averaged 9.6 points last season as a first-year starter. He was averaging 14.7 points through 20 games this season, including a 27-point performance in a 79-38 win at Franklin Heights on Feb. 4.
"My leadership has gotten a lot better and I can be relied on to score when we need it," Cutler said. "I have a lot more of a role as a senior and you have more say than when you are a sophomore or junior."
Cutler scored 16 points in a 54-51 loss to visiting Olentangy on Feb. 7 as the Pioneers dropped to 2-7 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"Ryan is a bigger guard, for sure," Calo said. "Whether it's Ryan or (junior guard/forward) Jason (Foster) out there (on the perimeter), it's a mismatch.
"Ryan is 6-4 and Jason is 6-5, and they can play inside or out. (Cutler) had never posted up much, but he and Jason are kind of doing that naturally when there are mismatches. Both of those guys are very versatile."
The Pioneers are seeded 20th in the district tournament and will play host to 33rd-seeded Dublin Jerome in the first round Feb. 22.
"It's been a challenge," Cutler said. "We know we have the talent, but we're not playing together right now. We're starting to come together and if we do that, we can do well come tournament time."
Fisher leads swimmers into district meet
Kayla Fisher leads a contingent of swimmers into the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
Also that day, Jenna Durst, Paige Kadar and Josie Vance will compete in girls diving.
In a sectional Feb. 8 at Kenyon College, Fisher placed third in the 100-yard freestyle (54.1 seconds) and seventh in the 100 backstroke (1:00.96).
She also joined Emma Logan, Brooke Farren and Ava Row on the fourth-place 200 medley relay (1:52.8) and Alex Knodel, Farren and Logan on the fourth-place 400 free relay (3:45.33), while the 200 free relay of Joanna Ross, Lauren Muffley, Row and Knodel placed eighth (1:47.61) as the girls team finished sixth (165 points) of 11 teams behind champion Dublin Coffman (398).
The boys team finished seventh (114) of 10 teams at sectional, behind champion Jerome (420.5), as Tuckor Lambert was sixth in the 100 back (56.07) and Graham Weidenhamer placed seventh in the 100 breaststroke (59.85).
The two joined Tannor Lambert and Noah Crowe on the fifth-place 200 free relay (1:35.8) and the sixth-place 200 medley relay (1:43.3), while the 400 free relay of Ben Reusser, Samuel Evers, Connor Huckeby and Jack Helmer was eighth (3:41.38).
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advance to state Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded in each event based on district times statewide.
The top four girls divers advance to state Feb. 20.
Hockey team wins CHC-White title
The hockey team won the CHC-White title, finishing 11-5 with 22 points to edge out runner-up Berlin (10-6, 20).
The Pioneers are 20-10 overall and are seeded sixth in the Blue Jackets Cup. They open Thursday, Feb. 13, against third-seeded Liberty at Chiller IceWorks, with the winner playing second-seeded St. Charles or seventh-seeded Berlin in a semifinal Saturday, Feb. 15, at OhioHealth Ice Haus. The final is Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Ice Haus.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys basketball and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 14 -- At Westerville North. The Pioneers lost to the Warriors 42-41 on Jan. 10.
*Feb. 13 -- Boys: At Olentangy
Feb. 15 -- Boys: All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome