The Whetstone High School girls basketball team is trying to make the most out of a difficult situation.
Third-year coach Scott Radde abruptly resigned four games into the season with no explanation, leaving the players to question if continuing the season was worth the effort.
"My first thought was, 'Should we just give up?'" said guard Allie Thomas, one of three seniors on the roster. "But I love the game and my teammates too much, so it fell on the shoulders of us seniors to keep the young girls together and keep their heads from spinning.
"We bonded and now we depend on each other. There are no real hard feelings toward (Radde), but it's hard to watch someone you've been with for three years just walk away."
With no junior varsity and no other paid staff position, athletics director Kathleen Coughlin stepped in as coach for three games so that the Braves did not have to forfeit. She then hired Bucky Walters as coach.
A 1974 Whetstone graduate, Walters coaches the boys and girls tennis teams at his alma mater and previously had coached boys and girls basketball at Tree of Life and girls basketball at Linden-McKinley.
Whetstone was 5-11 overall before playing Westland on Jan. 22 and is 3-8 in the City League-North Division. The Braves went 1-3 under Radde and 1-2 under Coughlin and entered the week 3-6 under Walters.
Before playing Westland, the Braves had won two of their previous four games, having defeated Beechcroft 60-57 on Jan. 8 and Columbus East 32-29 on Jan. 15 and having lost to Centennial 65-38 on Jan. 11 and Northland 88-20 on Jan. 18.
"We got off to a bit of a slow start because I think the girls were shell-shocked about the situation," Walters said. "But I've been real pleased with their change in attitude and their effort. They're playing hard and working hard in practice, which is key. We practice at game speed and I'm not sure they were used to that at first. I tried to bring some pep and vigor to practices because I thought it was important for these seniors to salvage a good season. They deserve to go out well."
The Braves' other two seniors are guard Arionna Darling and post player Taylor Thomas.
"Things are going well right now, but the way the change came about wasn't ideal," Allie Thomas said. "But that helped us pull together as a team and evolve as players and not as individuals. We have a common goal to improve and we're more of a family now with more trust in each other."
The rest of the roster consists of six freshmen, one sophomore and three juniors. According to Walters, the leadership displayed by the seniors and junior forward Kalie Mascarello has been a beacon for the younger players.
"I couldn't ask anything more from these seniors and Kalie Mascarello, who is a junior captain and a three-year starter," Walters said. "They made adjustments and responded to the things I wanted to incorporate. They kept the underclassmen in it. They just picked the ball up and continued to run with it. They've listened and have been great leaders."
Walters said his team needs to continue to work hard to improve its defense and rebounding, but he is pleased with the progress that has been made.
"We have a lot of freshmen, but they've all played a lot of basketball," he said. "They're trying to blend everything together. I was surprised at how well (guard) Lily Morris has adapted as a freshman point guard. Going against girls two and three years older while handling the ball is pretty daunting. She has done well, as has freshman (guard) Cecilia Bulgrin."
Boys basketball team hits rough stretch
The boys basketball team entered the week looking for its first win in 2013.
Whetstone was 3-10 overall and rode a four-game losing streak into a game against Groveport on Jan. 22. All four losses during the skid occurred this month and have been in City-North play, with the latest coming against Northland, 87-36 on Jan. 18.
Senior guard Steve Foster had a team-high eight points against the Vikings.
The Braves also lost to Beechcroft (61-48 on Jan. 8), Centennial (72-55 on Jan. 11) and Columbus East (64-31 on Jan. 15) during the skid.
Whetstone is 1-8 in the City-North.
Wrestlers preparing to face Centennial
The wrestling team competed against Westerville North in the first round of the inaugural Division I state team tournament on Jan. 23.
The Braves were seeded seventh of eight teams in Region 5-B of the dual-format tournament and North was seeded second.
The winner faces third-seeded Hilliard Bradley or sixth-seeded Westerville South in the second round Wednesday, Jan. 30, at a site to be announced. The regional semifinals will be held that same day at the same site.
The regional final will be held Feb. 6 at a site to be announced.
If Whetstone did not advance to the second round in the team tournament, it will turn its full attention to preparing to compete against host Centennial for the Golden Grappler Trophy on Jan. 31. The Braves lost to the Stars 43-33 last season.