Boys Basketball: Bexley looks to overcome COVID-19 disruptions

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Bexley's Chris Mitchell dribbles around St. Charles' Josh Whiteside during a game last season. Both players are among the top returnees for the Lions and Cardinals. Bexley's season has been delayed because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Coach Todd Phillips is trying to maneuver his Bexley boys basketball team through the roadblocks of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic with the hopes of having some semblance of a season.

The Lions were told to halt workouts and games until Dec. 18, but Phillips hopes the shutdown will be eased to allow practices at an earlier date.

“It’s concerning because everyone is doing different things,” said Phillips, whose team finished 7-18 overall and 0-12 in the MSL-Ohio Division last season. “Right now we have no practices or anything until Dec. 18, and some other schools in the league are practicing and playing games.

“It’s concerning how things may shake out. We might get to go back earlier (than Dec. 18), maybe not. Whenever we’re able to practice again, we’ll work to get as many games in as we can. The kids have to be careful because just one case can shut you down for 14 days. If we could get to 12 or 15 games, I’d take it right now.”

Senior guard/forward Cade Phillips averaged 6.0 points last season and is one of three returning starters. The 6-foot-4 son of coach Phillips said the Lions need to make the most of every chance they have to be together this season.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to play through COVID,” he said. “When we get back, we have to make sure we give 100 percent when we’re in the gym. We have to make the most of our time.”

MSL commissioner Jim Hayes announced a tentative MSL-Ohio schedule Nov. 24. Teams will play one round of league competition, with the Lions scheduled to start Jan. 9 at home against Whitehall, and then be seeded for a league tournament Feb. 5-12.

Two juniors — post player Tucker Harpe (6-6) and forward Chris Mitchell (6-4) — are the other returning starters. Mitchell (honorable mention all-league) averaged 5.7 points and a team-high 5.2 rebounds, while Harpe averaged 4.2 points and 4.1 rebounds.

The Lions must replace their leader in most categories, 2020 graduate Damian Davis, who is playing at Bluffton. He led Bexley in scoring (18.2 points), assists (2.8), steals (1.2), free-throw shooting (112-for-153, 73.2 percent) and 3-point shooting (65-for-180, 36.1 percent). He was named honorable mention all-state, second-team all-district and first-team all-league.

“Damian was such a big loss, but last year we had him and a bunch of inexperienced varsity players,” said coach Phillips, who is in his sixth season. “This year, those guys have been through the fires once and will be ready to go.

“We have more depth as well. Last year, teams could shut down Damian and beat us. This year we have five kids who can score for us. That balance will help us.”

The Lions also have two additions at guard in senior Will Cordle and junior Henry Brandt. Cordle started as a sophomore, but his family moved to Texas before returning over the summer. Brandt missed last season with a knee injury.

Sophomore Dom Gutter will spell Cordle at the point, and senior post player Grant Sheridan and junior guard Griffin Wagenbrenner also are expected to play significant minutes.

St. Charles' Doogie James goes up against Bexley's Cade Phillips last season. James, a junior point guard who has started since he was a freshman, will run the Cardinals' offense.

Cardinals counting 

on deep lineup 

Coach Michael Ryan has high expectations in his first season leading St. Charles.

The longtime assistant under 11-year coach Jacob Daniel was ready to take over the Cardinals, who finished 18-6 overall last season and won the CCL for a fourth time in six seasons by going 7-1.

“It’s like a dream job for me,” Ryan said. “I played on the team that was Jacob’s first as a head coach, and I was an assistant with him for 10 years.

“We’re deep. We’ve played nine guys in both scrimmages, and that’s with one or two guys out for various reasons. We have 10 or 11 guys that we can put on the floor, and that helps a lot. We have a lot of guys with the same strengths.”

Running the offense will be junior point guard Doogie James (second-team all-league), who has started since he was a freshman.

Also back are starting junior forward Juan Reeder along with senior forward Ryan Utt, junior forward Isaiah Wilkins and sophomore forward Chase Walker (6-8).

Junior forward Josh Whiteside (6-7) played only the first 11 games a year ago before having to sit out the remainder of the season because of OHSAA rules after transferring from Gahanna.

Junior Jared Frey, a two-year starter at guard, returned to his home school of Hilliard Davidson.

“This year, we’ll count on everyone to score, and we’ll be able to spread that out,” Ryan said. “If someone has an off night, we have four or five guys who can pick him up.”

Junior forward Isaac Searls and sophomore guard Zach Auletta have had strong preseasons, according to Ryan. The roster also includes seniors Tommy Cloran (guard) and Alex Herzberg (forward) and junior Andy Boateng (guard) and sophomore Ryan Carretta (forward) .

“The biggest focus coming into the season was getting back into the fundamentals of defense that we used in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when we gave up around 45 points per game,” Ryan said. “The last couple of years we got away from that. We need to be winning the 50-50 balls, rebounding, taking charges and things like that. Some nights, the ball doesn’t go in, but there’s no such thing as not being able to play good defense.”

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BEXLEY

Coach: Todd Phillips, sixth season

Top players: Will Cordle, Tucker Harpe, Chris Mitchell and Cade Phillips

Key losses: Damian Davis and Bryan Williams

Last season: 7-18 overall

2019-20 MSL-Ohio standings: Whitehall and Worthington Christian (both 9-3), Grandview (8-4), Buckeye Valley and Wellington (both 6-6), Columbus Academy (4-8), Bexley (0-12)

2020 postseason: Defeated Watterson 42-38; def. Lakewood 54-50; lost to Jonathan Alder 48-26 in Division II district semifinal

ST. CHARLES

Coach: Michael Ryan, first season

Top players: Doogie James, Juan Reeder, Ryan Utt, Chase Walker, Josh Whiteside and Isaiah Wilkins

Key losses: Jared Frey, Spencer Martin and Victor Searls

Last season: 18-6 overall

2019-20 CCL standings: St. Charles (7-1), DeSales (6-2), Ready (5-3), Watterson (2-6), Hartley (0-8)

2020 postseason: Def. Big Walnut 47-28; lost to Delaware 49-30 in second round of Division I district tournament