Members of the Whetstone High School girls basketball team are hoping to have less chaos and more success than they had last year when Bucky Walters replaced Scott Radde as coach four games into the season.
It took time for the Braves to jell and adjust to Walters' quicker-paced practices and offensive and defensive philosophies. The team also had to deal with late-season injuries on its way to finishing 8-15 overall.
"We're entering this season on the same page and everyone understands what is expected," said Walters, whose team opened Nov. 22 at Village Academy before playing Beechcroft on Nov. 26 in its City League-North Division opener. "But our height is a weakness. Eight of our 10 girls are guards, so we can't afford injuries to our two forwards."
Whetstone did not have its starting post players for most of its 83-40 loss to third-seeded Olentangy Orange in the first round of the Division I district tournament last season. Taylor Thomas, a 2013 graduate, missed the game because of illness and classmate Arionna Darling left the game in the first quarter with an injury.
The Braves return three starters in 5-foot-7 senior guard Kalie Mascarello, 5-8 junior forward Liz Khoury and 5-4 sophomore guard Lily Morris.
Mascarello, a fourth-year starter, was named honorable mention all-league last season.
"Mascarello is a strong ball-handler and good shooter who has the most experience," Walters said. "She also has shown a lot of improvement and she likes the new coaching style because she's able to implement more of her game. It's a great sign when your most experienced player is also very coachable.
"Although young, Morris understands the game very well and she's also a good ball-handler. What I love about her game is that she is so fearless. She's hard-nosed and not afraid to drive. Plus, she's a good outside shooter."
Also expected to be starters heading into the season were 5-8 senior forward Emily Tuttle and 5-5 sophomore guard Cecilia Bulgrin.
Tuttle and Khoury are the tallest players on the team.
"Bulgrin is a slasher," Walters said. "She's quick and doesn't mind contact. She's also versatile. She can make 3s and we can post her up inside."
Also vying for playing time as guards are senior Colleen Kelly and sophomores Adrionna Mills, Brenna O'Sullivan and Sophie Rizzi.
Whetstone went 5-9 in the City-North last season to tie Columbus East for fifth behind Northland (14-0), Brookhaven (11-3), Centennial (11-3) and Beechcroft (6-8) and ahead of Mifflin (4-10) and Linden-McKinley (0-14).
This season, the Braves are playing Beechcroft, Centennial, Columbus International, East, Mifflin and Northland twice each in City-North play and both Brookhaven and Linden once for a total of 14 league games.
"We're obviously hoping for a better record this season," Walters said. "We need to grasp what the term 'team' means. We've got to be unselfish and play for each other. We need to cut down on turnovers, be better decision-makers and play with more consistency.
"What I love about this group is the interchangeable parts. This will be a balanced team. We want to take advantage of our quickness, play passing lanes, apply on-ball pressure and force turnovers, and we've got a lot of guards who can do that."