How well the Whetstone High School girls basketball team fares this season may depend on how much its freshmen contribute.
The Braves return four starters from last season, when they finished 7-14 overall, and have six freshmen on their roster.
"We'll have six girls on the team who play AAU but five of them are freshmen, so it could take us awhile to jell," said 5-foot-7 junior forward Kalie Mascarello, a third-year starter. "Basketball IQ is very important and they have that. They know when to make back-door cuts, how to set solid screens and how to play good, aggressive defense. The chemistry will improve, but I'm excited about this year."
Whetstone opened Nov. 26 against Village Academy and played Chillicothe on Nov. 28. The Braves begin City League-North Division play Friday, Nov. 30, at Beechcroft and play host to Brookhaven in a league game Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The other returning starters are seniors Arionna Darling (5-4, guard), Allie Thomas (5-5, guard) and Taylor Thomas (5-8, center). The Thomas girls are not related.
Also on the team are juniors Colleen Kelly (5-6, forward) and Emily Tuttle (5-7, center), sophomore Elizabeth Khoury (5-8, center) and freshmen Cecilia Bulgrin (5-5, guard), Lily Morris (5-4, guard), Emily Morrison (5-4, guard), Brenna O'Sullivan (5-4, guard), Quasia Poole (5-5, forward) and Sophie Rizzi (5-4, forward).
"Kalie Mascarello will be relied on heavily to score, rebound and lead this team," third-year coach Scot Radde said. "Elizabeth Khoury will have to be strong in the middle and play big for us and Cecilia Bulgrin will see plenty of floor time as a freshman."
With no players taller than 5-8, Radde is hoping the Braves can offset what they lack in height with their speed by pressing their opponents, creating turnovers and scoring in transition.
"We want to play up-tempo and get a lot of shots," he said. "We're a small team and we will have matchup concerns throughout the year."
Whetstone's goal is to contend for the City-North championship. Last season, the Braves went 4-10 in the league and placed sixth, behind Northland (14-0), Centennial (12-2), Brookhaven (10-4), Mifflin (8-6) and Columbus East (5-9) and ahead of Beechcroft (3-11) and Linden-McKinley (0-14).
Whetstone lost to third-seeded Olentangy Orange 72-31 in the first round of the Division I district tournament last season.
"We're a good shooting team and we're going to have to be in order to have a winning season," Mascarello said. "We're so small and that will be a factor. If we have trouble rebounding, we better take good shots and make a good percentage. We've got good quickness and that will be what we need to use to beat some of the teams in our league.
"We did beat East and Beechcroft last season and we hadn't done that in a real long time. I hope we can get Brookhaven this year and go out there and surprise a lot of teams."