Having all but two players who are 5-foot-9 or shorter and no players taller than 5-11, Watterson High School girls basketball coach Tom Woodford has been emphasizing the importance of creating turnovers and scoring in transition.
He said the Eagles learned that lesson during a three-day stretch in which they lost to Ready 43-30 in a CCL contest Dec. 12 but bounced back to beat Hilliard Davidson 62-36 on Dec. 14.
The Eagles are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the CCL.
"In the games we've won, we were able to create scoring chances with our defense and score a lot of points in transition," said Woodford. "We're a lot smaller than most of our opponents, so we've got to generate offense that way to be successful.
"Ready took us out of our offensive fluency and we didn't get any transition points at all against them, and it really hurt us. We created a lot of turnovers and scored a lot of points in transition against Davidson, and you can see the difference it makes for us just by looking at the scores of those games."
Makenzie Bevins, who is averaging a team-high 17 points, had a game-high 23 points against Davidson and Maggie McCarthy scored nine.
"Our kids wanted to right the wrong from our loss to Ready," Woodford said. "We pressed (Davidson) a lot and they didn't hit many shots. Our press created a lot of offensive looks for us, and Makenzie Bevins was on fire with her shooting.
"Makenzie is scoring in a number of different ways, whether it's with her outside shooting or at the free-throw line. She's also good at scoring around the basket and scoring off offensive rebounds."
In a 46-33 victory over Hartley in a CCL game on Dec. 5, Bryn McQuade led the Eagles with 13 points. Bevins scored 11 points and Dominique Garrett had 10 points and eight rebounds.
"We're still trying to figure out who we are as our players get used to their new roles on the team," Woodford said. "Dominique Garrett is our leading rebounder and Sydney Mayle is leading us in assists. Bryn McQuade and Maggie McCarthy are capable of scoring in double figures.
"Emily Amen defends against our opponents' best guards and Dominique Garrett is our top defender in the post. Bryn McQuade and Maggie McCarthy are strong defenders, too."
The Eagles' next two games will be part of the Watterson Christmas Classic. They will face Bexley on Friday, Dec. 27, and Hilliard Darby on Saturday, Dec. 28.
Watterson beat Darby 52-40 in the same event last year but did not face Bexley during Woodford's previous 12 seasons as coach.
"A lot of people are looking to go away from home this time of year, but it's nice to be home for the holidays," Woodford said. "It's neat to host a tournament and bring in a bunch of people to see our school and our gym, and it's nice to make a little bit of money for our school and our athletic department.
"Our energy level needs to be high for us to do well in these games. We must play strong defense first and foremost."
Boys basketball team out to strong start
The boys basketball team was 2-0 overall before playing Ready in its CCL opener Dec. 20 and playing Vincent Warren on Dec. 23.
Watterson trailed Bexley by 11 points in the second quarter before rallying to win 74-63 in its season opener Nov. 30. Matt Hughes led the Eagles with 27 points, with Cody Calhoun and Joe DiOrio adding 15 and 10 points, respectively.
"I was a little disappointed in our defense early on because we allowed a lot of uncontested jump shots and missed some easy shots of our own," coach Vince Lombardo said. "But once we settled down, we outscored Bexley in the middle quarters to take a 17-point lead, which was a big swing in the game."
The Eagles then defeated Whetstone 84-30 on Dec. 7 behind 18 points from Hughes, 17 from Matt Lehmann and 10 from Andy Grieser.
"We got out early, took control and didn't get sloppy," Lombardo said. "Matt Hughes had a couple of big games and Matt Lehmann bounced back with a big game, but the trademark of our team is our balance. Our guys did a good job of passing to the open man and making shots."
The defending Division II state champions, the Eagles will face defending Division IV state champion Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the Play 4 Cancer Shootout on Saturday, Dec. 28, at Massillon Jackson.
"We have a veteran group of players and we really needed to challenge our team, so we appreciate this opportunity to play a good opponent while raising money for a good cause," Lombardo said. "Playing two hours away against a quality team like this will give the game a tournament feel and be a big advantage for us when we play in the (district) tournament once again."
Villa Angela-St. Joseph, which was 4-0 before playing John F Kennedy on Dec. 20, has three college recruits in juniors Carlton Bragg (6-10, post player), Derek Pardon (6-8, post player) and Brian Parker (6-2, guard).
"St. Joseph is an outstanding team with some talented players," Lombardo said. "We'll need to play excellent defense, as we have in the past."
Swimmers getting set for Yule at the Pool
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams will compete Saturday, Dec. 28, in Grandview's Yule at the Pool at Columbus Aquatics Center.
The girls team finished second (456 points) in the six-team Catholic Showdown on Dec. 14 at St. Charles behind Columbus School for Girls (505), and the boys team finished sixth (28) behind champion Hunting Valley University School (96).