When the Watterson High School girls basketball team struggled to execute its half-court offense against the junior varsity squad's zone defense Nov. 19, 12th-year coach Tom Woodford halted the five-on-five drill six times within a 10-minute span to give his players personal instruction.
Sensing that his players were getting frustrated after failing to score on three consecutive possessions, Woodford stopped the drill one more time after 5-foot-11 senior guard Kayla Cook passed the ball inside instead of taking a shot while she was open outside the 3-point arc.
Cradling the ball in his arms and facing Cook, Woodford said, "When a defender cuts under a screen and leaves you open, a shooter needs to shoot the ball. Are you a shooter?"
Cook nodded her head and Woodford emphatically replied, "Then shoot it!" drawing laughter from the players.
Watterson scored on four of its next five possessions, drawing praise from Woodford and applause from the players on the sideline.
"I do get after them sometimes, but you can't do that all of the time with this group," Woodford said. "This team needs to be pushed differently than teams we've had in the past. There are times when I need to yell and there are times when they respond better when I teach with a sense of humor. What encourages me is that they've been committed to keep getting better, even when they're out there having fun doing it."
The Eagles, who finished 18-5 overall last season, opened Nov. 27 against Dublin Scioto. They play host to Logan on Saturday, Dec. 1, before beginning CCL play Wednesday, Dec. 5, at home against Hartley.
Watterson returns three players who started multiple games last season in Cook, 5-11 senior center Emma Nikolai and 5-10 senior forward Annie Gavin.
An Ohio Dominican University recruit, Cook averaged 8.4 points last season and was named honorable mention all-district and first-team all-CCL. Gavin and Nikolai averaged four and two points, respectively, last season.
Also on the team are seniors Alexis Mayle (5-10, post player) and Alex Statczar (5-6, guard), juniors Emily Amen (5-5, guard), Makenzie Bevins (5-7, guard), Dominique Garrett (5-9, post player), Rachel Limes (5-10, post player) and Amber Preston (5-7, guard) and sophomores Sydney Mayle (5-8, guard) and Maggie McCarthy (5-7, point guard).
Mayle averaged 4.6 points last season.
"As you can see, we're a pretty relaxed team and we laugh all the time and have fun doing what we love to do, but we're also very focused," Cook said. "What makes this team special is how well we get along. When we had a day off practice a few weeks ago, we chose to spend that time together anyway."
Last season, the Eagles went 6-2 in the CCL to tie DeSales for first, marking their fifth consecutive league championship. Hartley (5-3) was third, followed by Ready (3-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
Seeded ninth in the Division I district tournament, Watterson defeated Grove City 69-34 in the first round and beat Hilliard Darby 51-33 in the second round before losing to top-seeded Reynoldsburg 66-33 in a semifinal.
"This year we're considered underdogs in the CCL for the first time in a long time because Hartley is now the favorite and DeSales is good, too," Gavin said. "That's just making us all work harder because we want to win the CCL again. We still have some good players and I think our team chemistry is going to make a difference this year."
Hockey team looks to make progress
The hockey team opened its season by going 0-4 in the Scotton Memorial Tournament held Nov. 23-25 in Indianapolis.
The Eagles lost to Noblesville (Ind.) 6-2 on Nov. 23 before losing to Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern B 4-3 and Lawrence (Ind.) 7-1 the following day.
Watterson lost to Valparaiso (Ind.) 5-2 on Nov. 25.
The Eagles, who finished 1-22 overall last season, open Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division play against Dublin Scioto on Friday, Nov. 30, at Chiller Dublin.
Last season, Watterson finished last in the CHC-Blue at 0-14-0-2 (2 points), behind DeSales (9-6-0-1, 19), Worthington Kilbourne (6-9-0-1, 13) and Dublin Scioto (2-14, 4). The division now consists of Watterson, Gahanna, Kilbourne, Olentangy and Scioto.
The Eagles lost to Gahanna 4-1 in the first round of last year's Blue Jackets Consolation Cup. They lost to Centerville 10-0 in the first round of the district tournament.
Playing forward are seniors Denis McPhillips and Grant Stover, juniors Jaesuk Bae and Scott Engram, sophomores Tommy Hatem, Zac McKenna, Sam Magee, Derek Petrucci and Noah Slade and freshmen Nick Naderhoff, Johnny Shultz and Nate Simpson.
Junior Aaron King and sophomore Sean Roark are the goaltenders.
Defenders are seniors Bobby Bryant, Henry Buster, Kyle Lister, Tim Silleck and Tim Smyke and freshmen Adam Schrepferman and Mark Zelnik.
McPhillips, Silleck and Stover are captains.
"I am so very excited about this team," coach Don Lewis said. "They have been working so very hard and we are going to have an amazing year."