Natalie Carpenter has worked to improve her game for her senior season with the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team.
The 5-foot-5 guard is on the verge of becoming the program's all-time leading scorer, but the adjustments she has made have most impressed coach Carl Dufford.
"Natalie has always been a good scorer, but she has worked to become a triple threat for us," said Dufford, whose team was 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the LCL before playing Granville on Dec. 14. "She has worked on her free throws and she also has been good at getting the ball to her teammates. She had five assists (in an 81-27 win Dec. 9) against Northridge. She brings good balance."
Carpenter is aiming to better a junior season in which she averaged 17 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals and was named MBC Player of the Year and first-team all-district in Division III.
She had 1,072 career points before playing Granville. She was 52 points from surpassing the 1,123 scored by program leader and 1997 graduate Stacy Wright.
"I have been working to improve my ball-handling and shooting free throws. I only was at (61) percent on free throws last season," said Carpenter, who averaged 17.5 points through four games, including 25 points in a 60-54 loss to Newark Catholic on Dec. 5. "And I always work on my shot. I shot every day over the summer."
Despite having 19 points with four 3-pointers against Northridge, it took Carpenter awhile to find her shooting touch.
"I wasn't hitting (shots) when we came out in warm-ups and I had to get focused," Carpenter said. "When you hit that first shot, it's always good. It gives you confidence."
Dufford said Carpenter's mental toughness helped her find her shot against Northridge.
"Natalie brings a mentality to the game, which is one of her stronger points," Dufford said. "She can be at the 3-point line, give the defender a ball fake and go in for the 8-foot jumper or drive to the basket. She has really become good on the 8-footer."
Carpenter said she plans to continue playing basketball in college and major in early childhood education. She is considering Bluffton, Mount Vernon Nazarene, Ohio Wesleyan and Rio Grande.
"I always just loved to play the sport since I started playing basketball," Carpenter said. "I always knew it was the sport I wanted to play and play in college."
The Johnnies defeated Utica 67-37 on Dec. 7 as Makenzie Spang led with 20 points, Paige Cannon had 17 and Carpenter and Laiken Valentine both scored 10.
Against Northridge, Spang had 26 points, eight rebounds and four blocks and Cannon had 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Valentine had nine assists.
Carpenter led five Johnnies in double figures with 15 points in a 72-32 win over Watkins Memorial on Dec. 12. Cannon and Valentine both had 14 points, Kerrigan Williams scored 13 and Spang added 11.
Boys basketball team out to strong start
The boys basketball team was 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the LCL before playing Watkins Memorial on Dec. 13.
The Johnnies picked up a pair of LCL wins by defeating Newark Catholic 56-43 on Dec. 7 and Utica 65-55 on Dec. 10.
Through four games, Will Orr was averaging 22 points and Jason Carter was averaging 19.3 points.
Orr had 26 points and four 3-pointers against Newark Catholic in a game that was moved from Dec. 6 because of bad weather. Carter had 12 points and five rebounds, Cody Farley scored seven points and Jake Taylor had five points.
Against Utica, Orr had 29 points with six 3s and Carter scored 16 points. Taylor had eight points and Kaden Welch scored five points.