While winning five of its first six games, the Hilliard Davidson High School girls basketball team had four victories by nine points or fewer, including three by six points.
Coach Joy Taylor said the Wildcats' commitment to defense made the difference in all of those wins.
"All of our first six games have been a battle that could have gone either way," Taylor said. "We've had a defense-first mentality this season, and we definitely wouldn't be 5-1 (entering this week) if we didn't play good team defense to hold our opponents' scorers in check."
The Wildcats have alternated between playing man-to-man and a variety of zone defenses, depending on their opponents' style of play and size.
Davidson held three of its first six opponents to 37 or fewer points -- in wins over Hilliard Bradley (43-37 on Nov. 27), Dublin Coffman (42-20 on Dec. 7) and Central Crossing (43-37 in overtime Dec. 14).
"We've played four or five different defenses this year, depending on what we need," Taylor said. "We've had great effort and our chemistry has been good. The girls help each other out when someone gets beat.
"Lauren Bates is a good defender who guards the other team's best player when we play man-to-man. Michaela Cunningham and Lea Edler have played good defense, as have all of our big kids. It's definitely been a team effort."
Bates and Ashley Hurt carried Davidson's offense through its first six games, as Bates averaged 14.8 points and Hurt averaged 10.2 during that stretch, followed by Faryn Buchanan (6.2), Hannah Fecht (4.8), Edler (3.3) and Bri Ekanem (3.2).
"The kids are working hard, playing together and learning something each game," Taylor said. "Things are going our way right now, but there's a lot that we need to improve on still."
The Wildcats play host to Upper Arlington in an OCC-Central Division game Friday, Dec. 21. The Golden Bears swept Davidson last season, winning 59-39 and 51-45.
UA lost to Eastmoor Academy 60-41 on Dec. 15 to drop to 4-3 overall and defeated Olentangy Liberty 47-32 on Dec. 14 to improve to 3-1 in the OCC-Central.
Six-foot senior forward Andi Norman scored 21 points and 6-0 junior guard Chiara Paradiso scored nine against Liberty.
"Upper Arlington is a good team and they're always hard to beat," Taylor said. "We'll need a good team effort."
Boys squad snaps losing streak
After losing its first three games by 11 or more points, the boys team defeated Central Crossing 64-44 in an OCC-Central game Dec. 14 as Michael Simon scored 23 points and Kyle Martin scored 10.
"We're starting to become a more consistent rebounding team after we didn't rebound as well as we should have in our first couple of games," senior forward Scottie Munson said. "Against Central Crossing, we played with more intensity and got the ball out in transition better than we did in our other games."
Through four games, Simon was averaging 20.5 points, well ahead of the Wildcats' other leading scorers in Munson (5.8), Luke Brorein (4.8) and Martin (4.8).
Simon was Davidson's only true post player through its first three games, which 6-5 Nick Potts (collarbone) and 6-4 Michael Kreiser (sprained ankle) missed with injuries.
Kreiser made his season debut and scored two points against Central Crossing, and Potts is expected to return by early January at the latest.
"It will definitely help our overall size when Nick and Mike return, but Michael Simon has scored the ball well in the post for us," Munson said. "Kyle Martin's done a good job of running our offense and Luke Brorein has been knocking down a lot of shots."
Davidson will compete in a league game at Upper Arlington on Friday, Dec. 21. UA swept the Wildcats last season, winning 60-43 and 59-43.
The Golden Bears are 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central.
"We need to keep the pace of the game where we want it instead of getting caught in a high-paced game," Munson said. "We need to work our offense, get the ball in the post and work off of cuts and screens to get to the basket."