When Matt Allocco pushes the ball up the court, he's talking.
When the 6-foot-4 senior guard for the Hilliard Bradley boys basketball team is back on defense, he's talking with other players on the court, and not just his teammates.
And when he looks toward his bench and coach Brett Norris, he's barking out orders to his teammates.
Allocco never seems to stop talking, which led to his nickname.
"When Matt was young, he was always talking, talking, talking and asking questions and never shutting up," said Greg Allocco, Matt's father and an assistant coach for Bradley. "I remember one time calling him 'Mushmouse,' you know like in the cartoons with Punkin' Puss. I would say, 'There goes Mushmouse, just running his mouth.'
"As Matt got older, it started to stick around our house. Chris (Allocco, a 2015 Bradley graduate) started calling him 'Mush' all the time and (Chris') friends and teammates started picking up on it. Even my wife, Jean, calls him her 'Mushy,' adding the 'y' to the end to make it more loving. He probably responds to 'Mush' now more quickly than Matt."
Allocco also can be called a winner. He and senior Chris Mayfield have started on varsity since they were freshmen, during which time the Jaguars are 91-8 overall and went 54-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Allocco had a team-high 18 points as Bradley stretched its league winning streak to 57 games by beating visiting Darby 48-34 in its OCC-Cardinal finale Feb. 14. The Jaguars finished 14-0 in the league and enter the Division I district tournament at 20-2 overall.
"I think it speaks to our consistency," Allocco said. "We approach every game the same way. We want to win so we prepare the same way, having the same competitiveness and focus. We approach every game like it's our last one.
"I think it's our togetherness that drives everything. If we're playing together, no one cares about stats. If we care about winning and doing things the right way, then we'll be successful."
A Princeton recruit, Allocco is averaging a team-high 18.0 points and also leads the team in rebounds (5.9) and assists (3.8) per game. He ranks second in program history in career points with 1,348. Isaiah Speelman, a 2018 graduate, finished with 1,509.
"I think anyone would be shocked at how much time Matt has spent in our gym in the offseason," Norris said. "Especially with a sport like basketball, when everyone is poolside in July and August, he's in our gym working at his game. Just his commitment and his love of the game is evident, but it's really cool to see all that he has accomplished. The opportunity to play at Princeton is well-earned.
"He has a rare competitiveness about him. He's going to make guys around him that much better just with his competitive spirit and his enthusiasm."
Bradley is averaging 53.6 points and allowing 38.7 per game. Allocco said defense keeps the Jaguars rolling.
"(Defense) is not something you do individually but together, if that makes any sense," he said. "So if one guy is guarding the ball, the other guy is having an impact on the ball in gaps or in help-side. If you are doing your job, then it all works together. If you're a great defender, then you can be a great friend. I think there is a correlation.
"I think playing good defense helps the offense. It always seems that when you dig in and get more stops, the ball just seems to go in when you are playing with more enthusiasm and more energy. And I think it has an impact on the other team when they don't see the ball going in and they are struggling to score. It can wear on them and give you a big advantage."
The Jaguars are seeded second in the district tournament behind Gahanna. They will play host to 41st-seeded Central Crossing in the first round Saturday, Feb. 22. The winner plays 39th-seeded Lancaster in the second round Feb. 28 at the home of the better seed.
"I think we got a good draw and I like where we are on the bracket," Allocco said. "It's the tournament and anything can happen. You can't look ahead. You have to take it one game at a time."
Allocco, who has a 3.9 GPA, has yet to decide his major in college. But he doesn't plan to stop jabbering when he's playing for Princeton.
"I think my communication is my strength," he said. "I don't think it matters age-wise. If you have the ability to communicate and be a leader, then you should. I'm going to do my best to have that impact at Princeton and be a leader."
Swimmers end season at district
Kaitlyn Sims led the swimming teams in the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State.
The junior placed 14th in the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 11.5 seconds as the girls team finished 25th (3 points) behind champion New Albany (378) as 26 teams scored.
Sims also placed 23rd in the 100 butterfly (59.72) and was on the 20th-place 200 medley relay with senior Isa Brooks, freshman Cindy Yu and junior Madison Wester (1:59.2) and the 20th-place 400 freestyle relay with Wester, sophomore Paige Williams and Brooks (3:56.16).
The 200 free relay of Brooks and Williams and freshmen Grace King and Ava Riley was 25th (1:50.74).
The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advanced to the state meet Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.
The boys team did not score at district as Upper Arlington (381.5) won the title.
The 200 medley relay of sophomore Marshall Alspaugh, senior Carson Cross, freshman Tyler Moore and junior Ethan Razor finished 18th (1:47.06), the 400 free relay of Moore, Razor, sophomore Jacob Baxendell and Cross was 19th (3:36.74), Moore was 22nd in the 100 fly (55.45) and 24th in the 500 free (5:05.78), Cross was 24th in the 100 fly (55.72) and 25th in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.57), Razor placed 29th in the 500 free (5:15.95) and the 200 free relay was disqualified.
Wrestling team falls to Panthers
The wrestling team lost to visiting Darby 36-29 on Feb. 13 to finish 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal behind Delaware (7-0) and the Panthers (6-1).
Matthew Cooper (195 pounds), Kyle DeMoss (170), Caden Ellison (120), Logan Germaine (160), Deacon Sawchuk (132), Alex Schmidt (145) and Mason Wood (152) all won against the Panthers.
The girls basketball, bowling and gymnastics teams will open their postseasons this week.
The 10th-seeded girls basketball team opens the Division I district tournament Friday, Feb. 21, at home against 29th-seeded Marysville in a second-round game. The winner plays seventh-seeded Gahanna or 46th-seeded Briggs in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 26, at a site to be determined.
The boys bowling team will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at HP Lanes, with the girls competing the following day at the same venue.
The gymnastics team will participate in the district meet Saturday, Feb. 22, at Worthington Kilbourne.