Notebook: St. Charles Cardinals basketball squad enjoyed memorable season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Ryan Carretta is among the expected top returnees for the St. Charles basketball team, which captured its second consecutive CCL championship.

Many coaches will remember 2020-21 as the COVID-19 season, but that’s not the case for St. Charles basketball coach Michael Ryan.

Instead, Ryan will remember it as his first season leading the Cardinals and for winning a CCL championship, and he said his team figured out what was expected as the season rolled along.

“I think the players learned how to be tougher and defend better,” said Ryan, whose 16th-seeded team finished 10-7 overall after losing 59-54 at 14th-seeded Olentangy on Feb. 26 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. 

“We lowered our opponents’ points per game significantly from the previous year. We did a much better job of winning the rebounding wars, and that made a big difference.”

The Cardinals won their second consecutive league championship by going 6-2 in the CCL, finishing ahead of runner-up DeSales (5-3).

They had three seniors in guard Tommy Cloran and forwards Alex Herzberg and Ryan Utt (7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 22-for-61 on 3-pointers for 36.1 percent).

“This senior class is obviously special to me, as they’re my first group of seniors,” Ryan said. “They all impacted the program in different ways, and they all made everyone around them better. We would not have been as successful without that group.”

Except for Utt, St. Charles expects to return all of its starters led by junior guard Doogie James. The three-year starter posted team-high averages of 14.6 points, 4.7 assists and 2.9 steals and was named third-team all-district and first-team all-league.

Sophomore forward Chase Walker (honorable mention all-district, first-team all-league) averaged 10.8 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds. Junior guards Juan Reeder (3.4 points) and Isiah Wilkins (7.8 points) rounded out the starting lineup.

Junior forward Isaac Searls (6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds), sophomore guard Zach Auletta (4.3 points) and sophomore center Ryan Carretta also played key roles.

“We have four of our five starters back from a CCL title team and even more guys with game experience back, unlike this past year,” Ryan said. “This will be massive as we hope to repeat as league champions and make a tournament run. 

“I see us being able to hit the ground running in the summer and next preseason and continue to expand on our defensive philosophy. Defense and rebounding won us a league title this year. If we want to repeat as CCL champions and make a tournament run, it will be even more essential.”

Sophomore Isaac Bonowitz, who competed at 182 pounds, was second-team all-MSL-Ohio for Bexley.

•The Bexley wrestling team did not have any seniors, so everyone is expected to return. Sixth-year coach Chris Bragg believes those numbers might rise even more, however. 

“We had a lot of kids that didn’t come out this year because of COVID,” said Bragg, whose team finished fourth (1-2) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Buckeye Valley (3-0). “I spoke with several of them and they might be coming back. I know a lot of the juniors who didn’t come out plan to come back next season.”

Sophomore Sean Palmer (113 pounds, 9-3 overall) placed fifth in the Division II sectional tournament Feb. 27 and 28 at Licking Valley. Bragg said having just one sectional in the Central District made it difficult for his young squad.

“We had two freshmen and the rest were sophomores, but they did pretty well considering where they were at,” Bragg said. “Having that one sectional in the Central District made it pretty tough when you have freshmen and sophomores taking on juniors and seniors. If they would’ve had two (sectionals) like they did five years ago, we probably would’ve had three or four get out (to district).”

Sophomores Ezra Kerns (160) and Zeke Poulos (138) were first-team all-league, and junior Tarun Rai (120), sophomores Isaac Bonowitz (182) and Palmer and freshman Alex Faulkner (145) were on the second team. Freshman Muhammad Jallaq (152) made honorable mention.

“(Junior heavyweight) Isaac Macintosh and Turan Rai both were injured and didn’t wrestle at the end of the season,” Bragg said. “It was a tough season with everything going on with COVID. We had to come back three times from everything, and it’s tough to get back in shape when you do that. I commend the kids who stuck with it.”

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

ST. CHARLES BASKETBALL

Record: 10-7 overall

CCL standings: St. Charles (6-2), DeSales (5-3), Hartley and Ready (both 4-4), Watterson (1-7)

Seniors lost: Tommy Cloran, Alex Herzberg and Ryan Utt

Key returnees: Zach Auletta, Ryan Carretta, Doogie James, Juan Reeder, Isaac Searls, Chase Walker and Isaiah Wilkins

Postseason: Defeated Zanesville 60-28; lost to Olentangy 59-54 in second round of Division I district tournament

BEXLEY WRESTLING

MSL-Ohio standings: Buckeye Valley (3-0), Columbus Academy and Whitehall (both 2-2), Bexley (1-2), Grandview (1-3)

Seniors lost: None

Key returnees: Isaac Bonowitz, Alex Faulkner, Muhammad Jallaq, Ezra Kerns, Sean Palmer, Zeke Poulos and Turan Rai

Postseason: 14th (25.5) at sectional behind champion Jonathan Alder (196)