Delaware Hayes Roundup: Pacers girls basketball team tuning up for tournament

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Alyssa Griner's return from injury should be a boost for the Pacers as they prepare for their Division I district tournament opener Feb. 16 against Canal Winchester.

The Delaware Hayes girls basketball team is “finally at full strength” after getting two key players back from injury and looking to fine-tune its game ahead of the Division I district tournament. 

Chloe Jeffers returned from injury in late December and Alyssa Griner returned in mid-January, providing much-needed reinforcements for the Pacers, who were 10-7 overall and 6-5 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Dublin Scioto on Feb. 5. 

“We’re finally at full strength,” coach Lou Tiberi said. “We’re just hoping to get everybody on the same page because we haven’t had a lot of time together.”

Alexis Amabile, who reached 1,000 career points in a 62-37 loss to Westerville North on Jan. 22 and had 1,019 total before Feb. 2, had done a lot of the heavy lifting while Jeffers and Griner were out. Amabile was averaging a team-leading 21.6 points through 16 games, while Jeffers was second at 12.5 points. 

“Chloe’s kind of like our Swiss Army knife. She does a lot of everything for us and does it really well,” Tiberi said. “She runs the point for us a good deal of the time. She often will draw the team’s best perimeter player.

“She calls the offensive sets a lot of times. She rebounds. She constantly plays at a high level and is somebody we can’t afford to lose again.” 

Jeffers said her return to the court has been seamless. 

“I have been feeling more and more like my old self pre-injury,” she said. “My foot is healed and I’ve been able to play full minutes and contribute on both ends of the court.” 

With Jeffers’ return to form, Tiberi said the burden no longer rests entirely on Amabile. 

“She and Chloe have been really similar. They’ve been close to 20 points a game the last couple of weeks, and have done a good job playing off of each other,” Tiberi said. “We just need to find that third wheel as a consistent scorer, but for the most part Alexis and Chloe have been (scoring) consistently upper-double figures for us.” 

Griner, who had missed the entire season up until her return, is still working her way back to being 100 percent, Tiberi said. 

“We’re just gradually getting her back into form,” he said. “It’s a little bit tougher with her because she didn’t have a preseason or anything like that.” 

But when she’s back to full strength, Tiberi said Griner – who was second-team all-league last season – can be a difference maker. 

“She plays with a high motor and she runs the floor real well,” he said. “Just getting any bit of her back to near that form from last year is going to be a plus to what we have currently going on there.” 

On the defensive side, Amabile was averaging a team-high 1.4 steals through 16 games. Porter Barickman was averaging a team-best 6.6 rebounds. 

Amabile said she thinks the Pacers will be ready for the postseason. They are seeded 17th for the district tournament and play host to 27th-seeded Canal Winchester on Feb. 16 in a first-round game.

Four days earlier, Delaware will wrap up its regular season at Canal Winchester. 

“We are still trying to work out some of the little kinks we have left in our offense, but outside of that I think we have a real shot at getting past the first round, if not even the second,” Amabile said. “I’m very excited to see what we can accomplish with this group in the tournament.” 

If the Pacers win their postseason opener, they’ll play host to 20th-seeded Teays Valley on Feb. 19.

Ryan Smudz was second on the Delaware boys basketball team in scoring through 13 games, averaging 10 points.

Boys basketball team

showing progress 

Boys basketball coach Adam Vincenzo said his team has made progress since the season began in mid-December. 

“Just our overall execution on both ends of the floor (has been better),” he said. “We’re growing, and it’s good to see. We had a lot of close games early on (and) we had a lot of guys that just weren’t experienced in those types of situations. 

“We’ve had a lot of close ones, but it’s neat to see how much we’ve learned from that, and how much we’ve grown.” 

The Pacers were 3-10 overall and 2-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing at Canal Winchester on Feb. 3. Delaware endured a winless month to start the season but since has defeated Big Walnut 39-38 on Jan. 19, Westerville North 46-42 on Jan. 22 and Caledonia River Valley 45-39 on Jan. 26. 

“We knew going in we had some inexperience, even with our upperclassmen,” Vincenzo said. “So we kind of took on the mindset from the get-go it was all about growth this year. And where we are right now compared to where we were Dec. 18 is night and day.” 

Jesse Burris, a freshman, was averaging a team-high 13.3 points through 13 games, followed by Ryan Smudz at 10 points. Burris also was averaging 4.8 rebounds. 

“Jesse Burris has been consistent. He’s leading us in scoring, and Ryan’s right up there, too,” Vincenzo said. “But some other guys have also shown a ton of growth as we’re getting more and more experience.” 

Vincenzo said freshman Jake Lowman, Hezekiah Russell and Anthony Wilson also have shown progress this season. Wilson had 32 rebounds, 16 steals and 24 assists through 13 games. 

“Jake Lowman has come on strong. He’s had some big games for us,” Vincenzo said. “And then Hezekiah Russell and Anthony Wilson have shown a lot of growth as well.” 

Delaware is scheduled to play Mount Vernon on Feb. 9 and Canal Winchester on Feb. 12 at home.

The Division I district tournament draw is Feb. 7, with first-round games scheduled for Feb. 23.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve