NEWARK – Newark boys and girls basketball fans may want to buy a program this season, at least in the early going.
The girls have only one senior and return just one starter, while the boys have just three seniors and no returning starters.
Both teams showed their youth at times during Tuesday’s Newark Lions Club Foundation Games in Jimmy Allen Gymnasium, but also a lot of promise. The boys fought off Johnstown 49-41, while the girls beat Centennial 65-55 in Ohio High School Athletic Association benefit contests, which served as final tuneups for the fast-approaching regular season.
B.J. Duling, a 6-foot-7 junior transfer from New Albany, led the Newark boys with 17 points and 12 rebounds. To start the game, he scored a pair of baskets and also had two assists, one to Keshawn Heard, a 6-5 freshman starter.
Johnstown, still waiting on several football players, still gave the Wildcats trouble with its size and defense. Ohio University-bound Jason Carter (6-6) led the Johnnies with 15 points and nine rebounds, while 6-5 junior Kyle Matoszkia added eight points and seven boards.
Matoskzkia scored off a Carter assist, had a tip-in and scored on a rebound as Johnstown got within 30-25 in the third quarter, before Justin Carter drained a 3 for Newark.
In the fourth quarter, the Johnnies also got it down to five, after Michael Perkins hit a pair of 3s and Jeremy Neff made another. But Kobe Long-Weber sank a 3 and made two foul shots, and Duling had a foul-line jumper to keep the Johnnies at bay.
“We got spoiled having Jordy (Dartis), Khayle (Woods) and Shack (Darius Shackleford) for three straight years,” coach Jeff Quackenbush said. “We’re very young, and it might take a little while with such a young group. We’re just trying to run our offense and work on man-to-man defense. B.J. is very skilled, and he’s starting to bring the mentality to be a leader. Leadership is kind of by committee right now.”
Johnstown coach Kevin Martin was pleased with his team’s effort, despite not having a full roster. The Johnnies looked primed to contend for another Licking County League championship.
“It has hurt our depth in practice at the varsity level and put us a little behind,” he said. “Tonight, we weren’t able to execute offensively, but we’re trying to build on our defense from last season. We might have gotten a little tired tonight, but we’ll have plenty of numbers when we get everyone back.”
Newark girls coach J.R. Shumate graduated All-Ohioan Kym Royster and Ali Cartnal from a state semifinal team. Meanwhile, senior Tana Barrett decided to concentrate on track, while multi-talented sophomore Adrian Crockwell has moved into the Reynoldsburg district.
But the Wildcats showed Tuesday they will be a handful to deal with, combining returning guard Emily Paul and top sub Takia Barrett with some promising newcomers.
They were able to deal with Centennial’s tenacious, full-court pressure and score in transition, despite committing 30 turnovers. Olivia Fox, a 6-foot-1 junior post, led the way with 16 points including 10 in a pivotal fourth quarter that saw Newark out-score the Stars 24-17, opening a 52-33 lead.
“People don’t know about Olivia, but playing in the post in practice last year against Kym really helped her,” Shumate said.
Barrett added 10 points, while freshmen Morgan Sharps hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight first-half points. Classmate Katie Shumate added seven second-half points. Junior Carlee Street and sophomore Brooke Brown each made a pair of 3s.
“We’re focusing primarily on half-court man-to-man defense and running our transition,” coach Shumate said. “We turned it over way too much, but we’ll get better. We have a really good mix. We have five guards who can play all the time, and four posts.”