Big Walnut High School girls basketball coach Bob Scott is hoping his team reaches its full potential this season.
That hasn't been the case in recent years, in large part because of injuries.
Last season, starter Emily Chucta missed 12 games because of a dislocated left kneecap. The 5-foot-9 senior forward averaged a team-best 9.4 points in 11 games.
"She's healthy," Scott said of Chucta, who averaged 5.2 points as a starter during her sophomore season. "Hopefully she stays healthy."
During the 2010-11 season, guard Alexis Newman averaged 11.6 points and was named second-team all-OCC-Capital Division and honorable mention all-district despite missing the final eight games with a right knee injury.
"The last couple years we've had some injuries that have affected us," Scott said.
Last season, Big Walnut finished 13-10 overall for its eighth consecutive winning season and went 7-7 in the OCC-Capital to tie Delaware Hayes for fourth, behind Olentangy Orange (14-0), New Albany (12-2) and Hilliard Bradley (9-5) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (4-10), Mount Vernon (3-11) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Golden Eagles, who opened Nov. 30 with a league game against Franklin Heights, lost three starters from a year ago to graduation in guards Kayleigh Hammond and Calen Williams and 5-10 forward Megan Walters.
Walters averaged 8.6 points last season and was honorable mention all-league. Hammond was the starting point guard the past two seasons and averaged 7.5 points a year ago and made first team all-league. Williams averaged 2.3 points.
"Hopefully others will step up and take their spots," said Scott, who is in his 13th season leading the program. "We had some younger kids get some (varsity) play and experience. Maybe that will help us this year."
Also back are seniors Stephanie Adkins (5-5, guard) and Samantha Klinedinst (5-5, guard) and juniors Skylar Fleak (6-0, post player), Sara Petty (5-11, post player), Hannah Seawell (5-6, guard) and Leah Shaw (5-6, guard).
Fleak averaged 6.7 points last season and was special mention all-league and Klinedinst averaged 5.4. Petty and Adkins averaged 4.6 and 2.2 points, respectively.
"They have some experience," Scott said. "Some of them didn't start or play as much, but there's an opportunity for all of them to step up."
Scott has been emphasizing the importance of playing well defensively and limiting turnovers.
"We're working on it," he said. "It's an ongoing process. We've been concentrating on what we need to do."
According to Fleak, she and her teammates will commit fewer turnovers if they communicate on the court.
"I think we need to work on communicating with each other," she said. "In our scrimmages, we've had some sloppy passes, but we're working on it. That should help us a lot."
Big Walnut plays host to Licking Heights on Tuesday, Dec. 4, before traveling to league newcomer Olentangy on Friday, Dec. 7.
Last season, the Braves went 21-3, won the OCC-Cardinal championship and were a Division I district finalist.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital to replace Bradley, which moved to the OCC-Cardinal.
"It doesn't do us any favors," Scott said. "Olentangy has a lot of talent."
According to Scott, every league game will be crucial for the Golden Eagles, who won their only OCC-Capital championship in 1997-98, their first season in the OCC after moving from the now-defunct BAC.
"Orange is very good," Scott said. "New Albany is very good. There are a lot of good basketball (teams) in our division. You don't get too many nights off. We're going to have to be at the top of our game to compete."
Big Walnut also is striving for a district title. Last season as the 12th seed, the Golden Eagles defeated Columbus South 47-27 and fourth-seeded Brookhaven 47-28 in the first two rounds of the Division II district tournament before losing to sixth-seeded Licking Valley 48-41 in double overtime in a semifinal. It marked the seventh consecutive season in which Big Walnut advanced past the second round.
The Golden Eagles last won a district championship in 2008-09.
"I tell the kids every year we should be looking to compete for the district final," Scott said.