Canal Winchester High School girls basketball coach Gary Burke had several reasons to feel good about his team's 50-46 victory at Westerville Central on Jan. 24 in OCC-Cardinal Division play.
Not only did the Indians snap a four-game losing streak by beating an opponent that entered the contest with an 8-6 record, but they finally won a close game after losing their first seven that were decided by eight points or fewer.
Most importantly, Canal Winchester didn't crumble against Central's full-court press and limited its turnovers.
"This is the win against a quality opponent that we've been looking for all season and it came at a time when we really needed it for some confidence and momentum," said Burke, whose team was 5-12 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Hilliard Darby on Jan. 28. "I'm really pleased with the way we finished and the way we played overall.
"The biggest thing is they pressed us the entire game and we were able to break it and score some easy buckets. We've had trouble handling pressure all season, but our kids were very patient in this game and they played together instead of letting one turnover turn into four or five in a row."
The score was tied at 42 with a minute remaining, but Canal Winchester finished on an 8-4 run.
Raven Hamilton and Jasmine Smith each had 17 points and Noelle Saeger scored 10 points to lead the Indians.
"Our girls could have packed it in after we lost so many games, but they haven't lost faith in our system," Burke said. "Raven and Jasmine have been our leading scorers and rebounders, but we've had different people do good things for us every game."
The Indians will play OCC-Cardinal games Friday, Jan. 31, at Hilliard Bradley and Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Dublin Jerome. They lost to both in the first round of league play, falling to Bradley 45-37 on Dec. 20 and Jerome 48-41 on Jan. 3.
"Turnovers have been the primary difference between us winning or losing games this season because we've been successful when we've executed our offense," Burke said. "Based on the way we've lost some of our games, I would press us if I was scouting us, so we need to show we can beat the press the way we did at Westerville Central. We just need to get the ball to people who are open on a consistent basis."
The Division I district tournament draw will be held Sunday, Feb. 2. Burke is hoping that his team will be relatively healthy when the tournament gets underway Feb. 15.
The Indians lost starting guard Kaylee Guiler and backup guard Arena Paige to season-ending knee injuries before the start of the season, and backup guard Rachel Hawkins recently sustained a knee injury that will sideline her for the remainder of the season, Burke said.
Earlier this season, Saeger, a post player, missed five games with a dislocated knee cap and guard Taylor Thompson was sidelined for five games because of a concussion and an ankle injury.
"We've been missing a lot of our better ball-handlers with so many guards injured," Burke said. "We've lost three of them for the season, but I'm hoping everyone else will be fully healthy by the start of the tournament."
Girls swimmers place fifth in league meet
The girls swimming and diving team finished fifth (119 points) in the OCC-Cardinal meet held Jan. 24 at New Albany and Jan. 25 at Thomas Worthington behind Jerome (403), Westerville Central (197), Darby (177.5) and Westerville North (133) and ahead of Westerville South (102.5), Bradley (81) and Dublin Scioto (80).
Lexie Meade placed third in both the 200-yard freestyle (2 minutes, 4.69 seconds) and 500 free (5:34.46), and Miaya Green placed fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:03.86).
The boys team failed to score in the OCC-Cardinal meet and finished eighth, behind Darby (258), Jerome (240), Westerville Central (208), Scioto (179), Westerville South (171), Westerville North (151) and Bradley (62).
Boys basketball team looks to avenge losses
The boys basketball team will be looking for redemption when it plays host to Bradley on Friday, Jan. 31, and Jerome on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Canal Winchester lost to both opponents in the first round of OCC-Cardinal play, falling to Bradley 44-41 in overtime on Dec. 20 and Jerome 51-47 on Jan. 3.
The Indians were 6-9 overall and 1-8 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Darby on Jan. 28.
"We're hoping to show progress in the rematches and turn those earlier results around in our favor," coach Kent Riggs said. "We had our chances to beat both of these teams in the fourth quarter in our first meetings with them, so we just need to find a way to make a few more plays in our favor."
Canal Winchester entered the week on a three-game losing streak that included losses to league opponents Westerville North (61-55 in overtime on Jan. 21) and Westerville Central (64-50 on Jan. 24).
The Indians led North 21-13 at halftime but were outscored 36-28 in the second half and 12-6 in overtime.
Brendan Snyder had 25 points and DeAndre Slappy scored 13 against the Warriors.
"We played our best game of the year against Westerville North," Riggs said. "We led the first 24 minutes of the game and Kyle Anelick made a field goal with 7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. They're a very good team and they scored early in overtime to beat us."
Daltyn Colley and Kamon Craine each had 14 points and Slappy scored nine against Central, which led 35-26 at halftime and outscored the Indians 16-9 in the fourth quarter.
"DeAndre Slappy had two good games in a row, and we're starting to get more guys scoring, which is something we'll need to help us down the stretch," Riggs said.