Big Walnut High School girls basketball coach Steve Palmer was impressed with how quickly his players adapted to a new system in his first season as coach.
Palmer, who had coached Worthington Kilbourne the previous six seasons after spending four seasons as coach at Tree of Life, took over the program from Bob Scott, who had stepped down after leading the Golden Eagles for 13 seasons. Under Scott, Big Walnut went 166-124 record and won a Division II district title in 2009.
"I came in and threw everything new at them -- new defense and offense," Palmer said.
Big Walnut finished 14-9 overall this season, losing to sixth-seeded Zanesville 44-29 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 20. The Golden Eagles were seeded 21st of 47 teams and had a first-round bye.
Big Walnut went 6-8 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Kilbourne for fifth, behind Mount Vernon (13-1), Olentangy (12-2), Delaware (9-5) and New Albany (8-6) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Golden Eagles split their two meetings with Kilbourne, losing 46-33 on Dec. 17 and winning 50-43 on Jan. 29.
"It's a tough conference, but we knew that going in," Palmer said. "We'll have to get ready for that a little better next year."
Palmer said among the season highlights were road victories over Centerburg (51-47 on Dec. 23), Licking Valley (57-55 in double overtime Dec. 23) and Olentangy (50-49 on Jan. 17).
Centerburg was seeded fifth in the district in Division III and Licking Valley (Division II) and Olentangy (Division I) were both district finalists.
"Those were probably our three best wins," Palmer said.
The Golden Eagles are losing five seniors, including their leading scorer in 6-foot guard Skylar Fleak, who averaged 14.8 points and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"She's leaving tough shoes to fill," Palmer said.
The other seniors are guards Hayley Apple, Hannah Seawell and Leah Shaw and 5-10 center Sara Petty.
Leading the list of expected returnees is junior guard Makenna Hammond, who was second on the team in scoring with a 12.8 average and made second-team all-league.
"She's ready to step into the (scoring) role," Palmer said of Hammond.
Also expected to return are juniors Erika Boehm (guard), Kailey Cagle (forward), Ashley Ratliff (guard) and Cassie Walaszek (guard) and sophomore Colleen White (forward).
Boehm was honorable mention all-league.
"They'll probably be a little better scoring next season," Palmer said. "We'll use (the offseason) to our advantage. It will be a time to work on things. As a program, we only get 10 (player-coach contact days). We'll use those to the best of our ability and as wisely as possible."
Swimming teams losing five district qualifiers
The swimming and diving teams, which capped their season in the district meet Feb. 14 and 15 at Ohio State, will be losing a total of five district qualifiers to graduation.
The boys team loses three seniors, including Division II district qualifiers Carter Marsch and Joel Windle.
Marsch and Windle competed in all three relays and the 50-yard freestyle at district.
They teamed with juniors Justin Beyer and Jens Paglialunga to place sixth in the 200 free relay (1 minute, 38.29 seconds) and eighth in the 400 free relay (3:42.75) and teamed with freshman Jonathan Schnipke and Paglialunga to finish 13th in the 200 medley relay (1:55.01).
Marsch placed 22nd (24.52) in the 50 free and Windle finished 25th (24.93, 25th).
Also competing at district were freshman Wes Hammond in the 200 individual medley (2:28.64, 23rd) and 500 free (5:42.19, 20th), Paglialunga in the 100 free (53.75, 23rd) and sophomore Bret Stacy in the 500 free (6:06.3, 28th).
Big Walnut scored 56 points at district to finish 11th behind champion Dover (259) as 41 teams scored.
The girls team loses four seniors, including three Division I district qualifiers in Jessica Osburn, Michelle Stefaniak and Katie Von Hollen.
At district, Osburn, Stefaniak and Von Hollen combined with sophomore Josie Sweeney-Rogers to finish 26th in the 200 medley relay (2:05.52) and Osburn and Stefaniak teamed with Sweeney-Rogers and sophomore Alison Hager to finish 27th in the 200 free relay (1:49.98).
Also competing at district were juniors Ashley White (430.15, seventh) and Bethany Rannebarger (119.2, 33rd) in diving, as the Golden Eagles finished 21st (12) behind champion Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 teams scored.
Both teams competed at sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington. The girls team finished 10th (28) of 13 Division I teams as Thomas (214) won, and the boys squad was one of three Division II teams and finished first (36), ahead of DeSales (29) and Buckeye Valley (5).
In the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 24 and 25, the girls team scored 82 points to place sixth, behind Olentangy (298), New Albany (282), Delaware (254), Orange (181) and Kilbourne (142) and ahead of Mount Vernon (49), and the boys team finished seventh (69), behind Olentangy (263), New Albany (246), Kilbourne (229), Delaware (200), Mount Vernon (144) and Orange (116).
Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.
Other expected returnees for the boys team are junior Caleb MacDonald, sophomores Sam Beckett, Michael Stanwick, Gabe Swim and Jacob Watson and freshmen Judah Armbrust, Dominic Cotungo, Lane Davis, Ilya Geraci, Zach McDonald, Chase Muhlbaier, Philip Roberto, Grant Wecker and Drake Wilson-Hobert.
Others eligible to return for the girls team are junior Jen Hupp, sophomores Gresa Brerisha, Kylie Stickrath and Madeline Wecker and freshmen Cora Standiford and Alyssa Zumpone.