While winning two of its first five games, Canal Winchester High School girls basketball coach Gary Burke said his team played with a lot more passion than it did last season when it started 1-8 en route to finishing 5-16.
"A lack of intensity really hurt us the past few years, but we've played with a lot of emotion this year," Burke said. "We're playing with a lot of intensity in practice and we played with a lot of intensity in each of our first five games. If we keep that up, I'm confident we'll keep improving and win more games."
The Indians have been reducing their number of turnovers as the season has progressed. After having 30 turnovers in their season-opening 59-36 loss to Worthington Christian on Nov. 24, they had 14 turnovers in their fifth game, a 52-37 win over Amanda-Clearcreek in an MSL-Buckeye Division contest Dec. 11.
"Turnovers also were a big problem for us the past couple of years, but we're cutting down on our turnovers and improving our number of assists," Burke said. "That's because we're playing with more patience, looking for each other and taking good shots instead of trying to do too much as individuals."
While the Indians lack a dominant scorer, they have developed a balanced offensive attack. Kaleigh Whitlatch, a senior guard, was averaging a team-high 11.2 points through five games, followed by post player Sarah Miles (10.8), forward Raven Hamilton (9.0), post player Marina Rarrick (7.0) and guard Taylor Thompson (4.2).
In a 67-44 win over Bloom-Carroll in their league opener Dec. 1, Rarrick scored 16 points, with Whitlatch and Miles adding 14 and 12 points, respectively. Hamilton led the way against Amanda-Clear-creek with 12 points, followed by Whitlatch with 11 and Miles with eight.
"We don't look for one person to carry us in any area of the game," Burke said. "We spread the ball around on offense and we've had different people score well in different games. And everyone on this team is playing better defense than they played in the past."
According to Burke, Hamilton, Miles and Rarrick were the team's leading rebounders through five games and Whitlatch was leading the team in steals. He also lauded the defensive play of guard Kaylee Guiler and Thompson.
Canal Winchester will be challenged when it travels to Teays Valley for an MSL-Buckeye contest Friday, Dec. 21.
The Vikings were 3-0 in the league before playing Bloom-Carroll on Dec. 15 and have been led by freshman guards Shayna Harmon and Baylee Kuhlwein and 6-foot-3 post player Janelle James.
Teays Valley swept the Indians last season, winning 84-42 at Canal Winchester and 48-29 at home, en route to finishing third (11-3) in the MSL-Buckeye behind Fairfield Union (13-1) and Logan Elm (12-2).
The Indians placed sixth in the league last season at 4-10.
"Teays Valley is out to a great start in our league and that's our No. 1 goal, so this is a big game for us," Burke said. "Harmon is the real deal and James has a lot of size in the post, so we'll need to defend real well.
"We still need to win a game that we're not supposed to win. We let tight games against Westerville South (46-44 loss on Nov. 27) and Logan Elm (62-56 loss on Dec. 7) get away from us and we've got to do a better job of finishing our closer games."
The Indians were outscored by Westerville South 14-6 in the fourth quarter.
Swim teams focusing on individual success
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams will compete in the Grandview Yule at the Pool on Dec. 29 at Columbus Aquatics Center.
"We're going to be swimming against a lot of bigger teams there, so the kids just want to drop their times, because we're a small team and we don't have enough boys or girls to score many points," coach Julie Pastor said.
The Indians opened Dec. 8 by competing in the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State. The girls team scored one point to finish last behind eight-time defending Division I state champion Upper Arlington (439) as 48 teams scored.
Sophomore Lexie Meade finished 20th in the 200-yard freestyle in 2 minutes, 6.43 seconds to account for the Indians' lone point.
"Lexie was the only one from our entire team who made the finals at Ned Reeb and she swam well overall that day," Pastor said.
With only three swimmers in its lineup, the boys team failed to score, as UA (370) placed first with 48 teams scoring.