COLUMBUS — For the third time in three years, DeSales made its way to Value City Arena.
After a forgettable performance during Saturday’s Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic, the Stallions are now hoping the fourth time will be the charm.
DeSales was taken out of its game plan early against state-ranked Northland and lost in a one-sided 62-40 game.
It was an eye-opener as much as anything for No. 11 DeSales (10-3), which still has its sights set on advancing to the state semifinals for the third straight year. But the decisive loss showed coach Blair Albright there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“As we move forward, everything is important for the growth of this team,” Albright said. “We’ve had a difficult couple of weeks.
“We have to understand the importance of execution. We have to continue to understand how important that and the game plan is.”
Falling behind 13-3 in the opening minutes didn’t help DeSales against an impressive Northland team.
But DeSales wasn’t operating on all cylinders, either.
Thanks to injuries and other team issues, the Stallions were limited off the bench and quickly worn down by Northland.
DeSales might not be full strength for Friday’s mammoth match up against Worthington Christian as well. The Warriors, now a full-fledged member of the CCL, are ranked No. 2 in Division IV and beat DeSales 59-58 in early December.
But Albright said games like Saturday’s against Northland should help the Stallions down the stretch and into the tournament, where the Stallions hope to make another run to Value City Arena.
“There’s no question that you always want challenges,” Albright said. “It’s important for our group to avoid peaks and valleys. Hopefully we’ll learn from this, use it as motivation and take this as a challenge.”
“Anytime you’re in a tournament-type atmosphere it’s big, especially for our team. We’ve got a lot of new faces and it was interesting to see how they responded.”
Despite some familiar faces, Albright is correct when talking about DeSales having several new ones.
The Stallions lost 1,000-point scorers Alex Kellogg and Elijah Allen off last year’s team and career assists leader Dane Johnson also graduated.
But plenty remains, starting with super sophomore Nick Kellogg, who is averaging 22.1 points per game.
Seven-foot center Sean Hobbs is shooting 60 percent from the field and Ike Ariguzo is averaging 10 rebounds per game.
But getting back to Value City Arena will be difficult.
In the Central District alone, Canal Winchester and Ohio State signee B.J. Mullens is eighth in the state and Eastmoor is ninth. Other top teams in central Ohio include Buckeye Valley, Watterson, Bexley, Granville and Utica.
Dayton Dunbar is No. 1 in the state and other top teams include Toledo Libbey (No. 2), Poland Seminary (No. 3), St. Paris Graham (No. 4) and Chillicothe (No. 5).
Even in the win, however, Northland standout Jared Sullinger thinks DeSales can play with any of those teams.
“They’re a good team,” Sullinger said. “Kellogg played his heart out and their big man had some blocks and played a nice game.”
But Albright clearly wanted more from his team on Saturday. He said Northland controlled his team and DeSales never responded.
The Stallions responded from the Northland loss by beating Dublin Coffman 64-50 on Tuesday and win against a hot Worthington Christian team might give them all the momentum they need heading into the tournament.
Having Kellogg, one of the top-rated sophomores in Ohio, doesn’t hurt, either.
“I’m willing to take my chances with him every single night,” Albright said. “But we kind of sit back and expect him to do everything. We’ve got to find ways to be balanced on the offensive end.”