Watterson Roundup: Slow start not fazing Eagles boys basketball team

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Watterson's Noah Grayem drives past Hilliard Darby's Blake Horvath during the Eagles' 56-49 home victory Dec. 29. Grayem said he and his teammates have been making strides after a slow start.

Even having the beginning of its season postponed until late December didn’t force the Watterson boys basketball team into scramble mode. 

The Eagles were just 2-5 overall after beating Westerville North 62-50 on Jan. 9, including losing 51-41 on Jan. 8 to Hartley to fall to 0-2 in the CCL, but they’ve overcome slow starts in recent seasons. 

In both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Watterson opened by losing five of its first eight games and yet went on to a Division II district runner-up finish in the second of those seasons. 

Last winter, the Eagles also opened 2-5 before finishing 11-12. 

Sharing athletes with other sports at the school – including having seniors Davis Boone, Jake Hoying and Sam Intihar competing for the football program and senior Noah Grayem from the baseball team – means January is sometimes when the basketball team begins to thrive. 

“Five of our seniors are dual-sport guys, so we always feel like we’re getting to this part of the year where we’re starting to be where we want to be,” coach Vince Lombardo said. 

Boone has played sparingly because of a back issue that occurred during football. A 6-foot-3 post player who figures to provide a consistent presence inside when fully healthy, he had 18 points and nine rebounds in a 56-49 victory over Hilliard Darby on Dec. 29. 

Against North, sophomore Cole Rhett had 17 points, Grayem scored 12 and senior Noah Gruver added 10. 

After the 2020 baseball season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Grayem spent most of last summer competing for his travel baseball team and had limited basketball competition or practice. 

“We’re making good strides on defense and coming together as a team," Grayem said. “On offense, it’s the same thing. We’re not dominated by one person on the offensive end, so we’re trying to work the ball, get good looks and play together as a team on both ends of the court. I’ve earned a bigger role on this team than in years past and have been looking forward to contributing this year.” 

Rhett is part of a sophomore class that also includes Pete Mangold, a 6-1 guard whose playing time has gradually increased. 

Rhett is a 6-5 post player who has seen more action with Boone on the sidelines. 

“Boone has been having some back issues,” Lombardo said. “He’s one of our leading scorers, but our guys have stepped up and played really well. We’ve been right there in all of our games and we think we’re getting better.” 

Lucia Cherok and her teammates in the Watterson swimming and diving program have been dealing with a limited schedule this winter.

Girls swimmers 

focusing on positives 

There are 16 competitors on the girls swimming and diving team, including four who competed in last year’s Division I state meet. 

Simply having a season has provided inspiration for athletes such as sophomore Grace Rider, who was 12th in the 100-yard breaststroke and also swam on two relays at state. 

“It’s exciting,” Rider said. “We’ve been practicing, hoping we were going to get a season, and we’re glad we’re getting one. We’ve just been cheering each other on and staying positive.” 

Watterson opened Jan. 8 with a 75-35 win over DeSales at Mount Carmel Fitness Center, which is in Lewis Center and is considered the Eagles' home pool. 

There is no CCL meet currently scheduled. Watterson will face Hartley in a dual meet Jan. 29 at Mount Carmel Fitness Center, while Ready has only two competitors. 

Sectional competition is slated to be held during the second week of February. 

“We’re so thankful we can get more time and more memories with our team,” senior Clare Galuzny said. “Our first practice was Nov. 21 and our coaches do a ‘Swimmer of the Week,’ which is a reward for working hard and putting in the effort. The fact that we’re still dropping time, we’re happy with that.” 

The pool at Mount Carmel Fitness Center is set up in meters rather than yards. 

Watterson had most of its top competitors swim their “off events” against DeSales rather than the ones they’re likely to specialize in during the postseason, according to coach Dan Cherok. 

Junior Olivia Oyster won the 200-meter freestyle (2 minutes, 16.3 seconds), Rider won the 200 individual medley (2:31.64) and 100 butterfly (1:08.82), junior Lucia Cherok won the 100 free (1:04.92) and 100 breast (1:22.18) and sophomore Teagan Price won the 50 free (29.05). 

Watterson also won all three relays, with Lucia Cherok, Oyster, Rider and junior Lucy Louden on the 200 medley relay (2:07.48) and 200 free relay (1:56.09) and Loudon, senior Isabella Roscoe, junior Molly Shanahan and freshman Peyton Graham on the 400 free relay (4:34.43). 

The Eagles then lost 98-71 on Jan. 9 against Gahanna at New Albany. Winning for Watterson were its 200 medley relay of Lucia Cherok, Loudon, Oyster and Rider (1:52.81) and Oyster in the 50 free (24.49) and 100 free (54.36). 

“It means a lot (to compete) being that this is our last year and we didn’t think we’d be able to have a season, so we’re thankful,” Roscoe said. “We practiced over Christmas break and during Christmas break, we had incentives. We also do acknowledge those in lanes one and two because we all work hard here and we all are putting in the time and effort.” 

Young boys swim 

team growing 

There are only five competitors on the boys swimming team, and all five are freshmen. 

During Watterson’s opener against DeSales, the Eagles entered all but one event and lost 87-49. 

Finishing first were Danny Muldoon in the 200 free (2:20.9) and 100 fly (1:11.07), Dominic Rubino in the 100 free (1:06.17) and Julian Cherok in the 100 backstroke (1:09.46). 

Watterson lost 116-42 to Gahanna. Winning were the 200 medley relay of Julian Cherok, Muldoon, Rubino and Elliott Schmidt (1:56.84) and Muldoon in the 200 free (2:05.6).

L.J. Kramer is the other competitor.

“The boys did fantastic,” coach Cherok said. “We’ve only got five of them and they’re all freshmen, so we’ve really been talking to their parents to encourage participation. Freshman boys swimming against juniors and seniors is hard, so if they can tough it out, they can have a really good run when they’re juniors and seniors.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek