Notebook: Thomas Worthington Cardinals boys basketball squad gears up for postseason

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Joey Zalewski was third on Thomas in scoring 
and second in rebounding through 11 games. Coach Sean Luzader said he believes Zalewski is one of the top sophomore players in central Ohio.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Thomas was on a four-game winning streak after a 4-4 start. This clarifies that it was a six-game winning streak after a 2-4 start.

After starting 2-4, the Thomas Worthington boys basketball team was on a six-game winning streak heading into an OCC-Cardinal Division matchup against Dublin Jerome on Jan. 22.

Considering the schedule included tough out-of-area opponents Lima Senior, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Springfield and Canton McKinley, coach Sean Luzader was happy with the Cardinals’ record.

The point of the non-league schedule was to challenge Thomas, which hopes to replicate last year’s postseason run that resulted in a Division I district title. The Cardinals didn’t get a chance to play in the regional tournament because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“We (were) 4-4, but part of that is it’s something almost as simple as just looking at the competition,” Luzader said. “All of those teams were ... at least in the unofficial preseason rankings. They were all in the top-10 in the state. 

“These are really good teams and that was the plan, to get us prepared for a tournament run later this year.”

The Cardinals, who were 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Jerome, improved to 8-4 overall with a 60-55 win at Hilliard Darby on Jan. 19.

The game before that, Thomas picked up a 73-63 win against visiting McKinley on Jan. 16. The Bulldogs were ranked ninth in the Jan. 18 state poll. 

Jalen Sullinger has picked up where he left off last year in terms of scoring, averaging a team-high 18.4 points through 11 games. 

Luzader said Sullinger’s leadership and defensive contributions have progressed, as he also was leading the team in deflections (15) and steals (15) and had grabbed 40 rebounds. 

“I think the biggest thing is he’s been our leader just from a senior standpoint and just a leadership standpoint,” Luzader said. “I like that he’s taken more ownership on the defensive end, so that’s been a big teaching point over the past several years and he’s done that.

“And obviously stat-wise, he continues to fill up the stat line. I think he’s played overall very well.” 

Sophomore Joey Zalewski was third on the team in scoring (10.5 points) and second in rebounds (66) through 11 games. 

“There’s been talk around central Ohio about a few different sophomore standouts in the area, and one name that continues to get overlooked is Joey Zalewski,” Luzader said. “He’s started every game for a team that got to the regionals last year and has high aspirations again. Every game he’s flirting with double digits (in points) and close to double-digit rebounds. He’s had an excellent start for us.” 

Senior Tyrese Hughey had a team-high 84 rebounds and was second in scoring (11.4 points), while senior Omari Effiong has taken on the Cardinals’ toughest defensive assignments and has been “kind of an unheralded playmaker for us on the defensive end,” Luzader said.

After facing Gahanna on Jan. 23, Thomas has games scheduled at Olentangy on Jan. 29, at home against Kilbourne on Jan. 30 and at Olentangy Orange on Feb. 2. 

Senior Cayden Dougherty has been a key contributor in Kilbourne's strong start. The Wolves were 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Dublin Scioto on Jan. 22.

Kilbourne boys

enjoy fast start 

The Kilbourne boys basketball team has enjoyed a strong start after going 11-12 last season. 

The Wolves were 7-2 overall and first in the OCC-Capital at 5-1 before playing Dublin Scioto on Jan. 22.

“I think going into the year, I think the kids and coaches and everybody involved in the day-to-day kind of expected us to be good. We’re trying to figure out how good,” coach Tom Souder said. “I love how the kids have fought through all the adversity and everything they’ve gone through.”

Through eight games, senior Ian Schupp was averaging team highs of 18.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. 

Senior Travis Mecklenberg was averaging 12.1 points and 7.3 rebounds, and junior Ayden Parsons was averaging 11.7 points. 

Souder said the contributions of senior Cayden Dougherty, junior Luke Wolford and senior Mitchell Tomasek also have been a factor in the Wolves’ success. Tomasek returned from injury to make his season debut in a 69-66 loss to Westerville North on Jan. 8. 

“We’re getting some scoring from a lot of guys. I’m really pleased somewhat on the offensive end,” Souder said. 

The Wolves were averaging 59.1 points through eight games while holding opponents to 45.6.

“Defensively, we still have some work to do,” Souder said. “I don’t think we’ve totally committed to the defensive end yet. If we want to make that next step into being really special, we’re going to have to be a lot better defensively.” 

The Wolves played Marysville on Jan. 26. They have games scheduled at Delaware on Jan. 29, at Thomas on Jan. 30 and at home against Big Walnut on Feb. 2. 

Thomas hockey team

finding success 

The Thomas hockey team has had a good month, winning four of its first five games in January entering a contest against Gahanna on Jan. 24. 

Thomas was 11-9-0-1 overall and third (6-3-0-1) in the CHC-White behind Berlin (8-3-1) and Cincinnati Moeller (8-0-1). 

Forward Sebastian Evardsen continues to be the Cardinals’ scoring leader, as he had a team-high 10 goals. Forward R.J. Stoller had seven goals while Hayden Carrier, Collin Stegemiller and Evan Kendall all had six goals. 

Defenseman Alex Piero was leading the Cardinals in points (16) and assists (13). 

The Cardinals are scheduled to play DeSales on Jan. 29 at Chiller Ice Works, Moeller on Jan. 30 at Northland Ice Center in Cincinnati and New Albany on Jan. 31 at Chiller Dublin. 

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve