This winter, the Groveport Madison High School girls basketball team is striving to make steady improvement as the season progresses.
The Cruisers are inexperienced and undersized, but second-year coach Tirrell Sturdivant expects the youthful mistakes to decrease over the course of the season.
"We are very young," said Sturdivant, whose team opened Nov. 27 against Central Crossing and begins OCC-Ohio Division play Friday, Nov. 30, at home against defending league champion Reynoldsburg. "We make inexperienced mistakes. Our goal is to play intelligent basketball together as one. Our strength is our intelligence. As a team, we are sitting on a high B average. They are all sponges and retain a great deal of what we are teaching them."
Senior guard Brittany Morgan (5-foot-9) is the lone returning starter from last season, when the Cruisers finished 1-20 overall and 0-14 in the OCC-Ohio.
Groveport finished eighth in the OCC-Ohio, behind Reynoldsburg (14-0), Pickerington North (12-2), Gahanna (9-5), Newark (8-6), Pickerington Central (6-8), Lancaster (5-9) and Grove City (2-12).
The Cruisers lost to top-seeded Reynoldsburg 90-32 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"(Morgan) is our top player," Sturdivant said. "She has a great understanding of the game and makes it look effortless at times."
Morgan, who was named honorable mention all-league last season, is joined on the team by senior Arkeysha Williams (5-9, guard), juniors Zaria Brinkley (5-6, guard), Dai'jah Frazier (5-10, forward), Tisha Lane (5-8, guard) and Hayley McKinley (5-11, forward), sophomores Cassidy Brinkley (5-6, guard) and Kisha Lane (5-5, guard) and freshmen Carliss Hayes (5-4, guard) and Jordan Walton (5-8, forward).
"We're working on the fundamentals all the time in practice because that's what we need to work on most as a team," Morgan said. "I think we're going to have good ball movement and try to make some of the bigs in our league work hard on defense so we can tire them out. We're also going to use our press to score and wear teams down."
"We are a very small team compared to other OCC teams," Sturdivant said. "We possess the skills to run with anyone and we're getting better at understanding the slow-down, half-court game.
"But we'll have to take advantage of our quickness, given our lack of overall size, against these taller OCC teams. We can't just run to run, either. We'll have to convert (scoring chances) and not turn the ball over when we get those opportunities."
Sturdivant will be keeping a close eye on how the players mesh with one another. He knows he may have to mix and match his lineup in the early part of the season in order to find the right chemistry.
"To have team success, we will need a complete effort from top to bottom," he said. "We need everyone competing in every practice and every game."