When the Hilliard Bradley High School girls basketball team began preseason practice last month, not only did it have to replace all but one starter from a year ago, but it had to prepare for a new league.
The Jaguars opened their fourth season Nov. 27 against Hilliard Davidson and begin play in the OCC-Cardinal Division on Friday, Nov. 30, at home against Hilliard Darby.
Last season, Bradley finished 15-8 overall and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to seventh-seeded Olentangy 51-47 in overtime. The Jaguars opened the tournament with a 60-42 win over Westerville North and defeated Lancaster 54-31 in the second round before falling to the Braves.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved into the OCC-Cardinal with Darby, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne after spending its first three seasons in the OCC-Capital.
Last season, the Jaguars went 9-5 in the OCC-Capital to place third, behind Olentangy Orange (14-0) and New Albany (12-2) and ahead of Big Walnut (7-7), Delaware (7-7), Watkins Memorial (4-10), Mount Vernon (3-11) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
"We are entering our first season in the OCC-Cardinal Division and will be playing many new opponents," fourth-year coach Kathy Lindsey said. "Our No. 1 goal is to win the OCC-Cardinal. We are a very young team, so another important goal is to improve every day in practice, every game and every week."
The Jaguars lost four starters from a year ago to graduation in guards Brooke Espenschied and Katie Lindsey, 6-foot post player Jasmine Junkins and forward Jenna Seagle.
Espenschied averaged 16.6 points last season and was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. Junkins was second-team all-league and Lindsey and Seagle were special mention and honorable mention all-league, respectively.
Lindsey was a three-year starter at point guard.
Junior guard Christy Tieman (5-7) is the lone returning starter.
"Christy Tieman is a very versatile player," coach Lindsey said. "She has played four different positions for us. This year she will be our starting point guard."
Bradley, which won six of its final eight games last season, also returns senior guard Feaira Crews (5-9), senior post player Kayce Pharazyn (5-7), junior guard Shelby Haworth, sophomore post player Ashley Hummel (6-1) and sophomore forward/post player Meredith Miller (5-10).
"Feaira Crews is an excellent defensive player," coach Lindsey said. "She also has excellent speed and gets down the floor on transition."
The Jaguars will be looking to get out in transition as often as possible.
"We want to play excellent team defense, rebound the ball and run the floor looking for transition baskets first and then setting up our half-court offense, working to get a good shot," coach Lindsey said. "We must play good team defense and rebound to be successful. ... We also must limit our turnovers on offense and work our offense for high-percentage shots."
Completing the roster are senior Amanda Fodor (5-8, post player), junior Jenna Fodor (guard), sophomores Zoe Banaag (guard) and Ashley Rondy (guard) and freshmen Juliet Allen (5-10, post player), Samantha Barton (guard) and Grace Fodor (guard).
"We may have lost four starters, but we have a lot of girls who have experience," Tieman said. "Everyone just has bigger roles. We're not real comfortable yet because we've had a lot of injuries and also had the flu bug going around. But we'll get things together, and we think we can win the (OCC-Cardinal). We have the talent to do it."
Last season's OCC-Cardinal champion, Olentangy, is now in the OCC-Capital.
"Westerville North was strong last year and they have a nucleus of young players," coach Lindsey said. "This is our first year in this league, so I'm not as familiar yet with this league. Westerville South is always strong and athletic."