Licking County News

Watkins Memorial Roundup

Girls team eager to turn up tempo

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Lorrie Cecil/ThisWeek
Senior post player Brittany Bronder (center) is one of three returning starters for the Watkins Memorial girls basketball team and first-year coach Jayme Gates.
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The Watkins Memorial High School girls basketball team plans to run the floor every chance it gets under first-year coach Jayme Gates.

Armed with quick guards and not having as much height as they did a year ago, the Warriors are looking to play an up-tempo style.

Watkins Memorial was 1-1 before beginning OCC-Capital Division play Nov. 30 against Olentangy Orange. The Warriors opened with a 55-39 win over Licking Heights on Nov. 24 and lost to Johnstown 64-24 on Nov. 27.

"We will look to move the ball up the floor quickly and create offense," said Gates, who spent the past five seasons as an assistant at Canal Winchester. "We have guards who have the ability to get up the floor quickly, but we need to control our tempo and not work beyond ourselves."

Last season under coach Kyle Oyster, the Warriors finished 5-16 overall and went 4-10 in the OCC-Capital to place sixth, behind Orange (14-0), New Albany (12-2), Hilliard Bradley (9-5), Big Walnut (7-7) and Delaware (7-7) and ahead of Mount Vernon (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).

As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy, which had been in the OCC-Cardinal.

Watkins Memorial lost fifth-seeded Dublin Coffman 63-16 in the second round of the Division I district tournament a year ago after having a first-round bye.

Oyster resigned in April after compiling a 14-69 record in four seasons.

The Warriors, who haven't had a winning season since finishing 12-9 in 2003-04, return three starters in 5-foot-10 senior post player Brittany Bronder, senior point guard Lou Nickel and senior guard Kiki Welker.

Bronder is the tallest player on the team following the loss of 6-1 post player Mathea Tenwalde to graduation.

"The three of us seniors have to step up as leaders," Bronder said. "We need the young girls to step up their play, so we have to lead them. We encourage them and have a mix of ways to do that. We don't want to be dictators, but we don't want to be team moms, either.

"We want to increase our wins, work together as a team, improve and have fun. Those are our goals."

A fourth-year varsity player who led the team in scoring as a freshman and sophomore, Nickel averaged 9.6 points last season and was special mention all-league. Bronder was honorable mention all-league.

"I think we'll end up doing real well," Welker said. "We're already playing together as a team a lot more than last season. We play good defense and have good team speed, so if we avoid foul trouble, we should win more games. We're excited about this season."

Junior guard Monica Foutty and sophomore guards Maddie Berry, Ivy Durbin and Olivia Kuhn also returned. Rounding out the roster are juniors Caitlyn Conley (guard), Bethany Gwinn (guard), Deja Scott (post player) and Vicki Smith (post player).

Nickel had 26 points and Kuhn scored 10 against Licking Heights, as the Warriors outscored the Hornets 20-3 in the third quarter after the game was tied at 19 at halftime.

Scott had a team-high seven points against Johnstown, which led 37-11 at halftime.

"Our goal is to work as a team to improve our skills each time we step on the floor," Gates said. "We are learning to trust each other and the system we are implementing. We have to continue to believe in one another."

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