A game Friday against Olentangy Orange is the last shot the New Albany High School girls basketball team has to make the case to the other Division II programs in the district that the Eagles should receive the top seed for the district tournament.

A game Friday against Olentangy Orange is the last shot the New Albany High School girls basketball team has to make the case to the other Division II programs in the district that the Eagles should receive the top seed for the district tournament.

Coaches are supposed to submit their seed voting forms no later than 9 p.m. Friday. The votes will be counted Saturday, and the seeding and drawing meeting will be Sunday.

New Albany defeated Orange 53-39 on Dec. 19. The game Friday could sway area coaches, but given the strength of New Albany's schedule, coach Jamie Puryear is hoping what other teams think of the Eagles doesn't come down to that.

Since taking over before last year, Puryear has placed an emphasis on eliminating the lower-division teams that were on New Albany's schedule. With six of New Albany's seven non-league games coming against Division I teams, the Eagles appear to be tested and ready for the postseason, which opens Feb. 16.

"Playing against these Division I schools this season is making us a lot tougher," Puryear said. "Teams are bigger than us. They have more depth. They have a lot of numbers."

Before a game last Tuesday against Division I Watkins Memorial, New Albany was 8-3 against Division I teams.

"I'm sort of happy with the fact that these (non-league) Division I teams were willing to play us," Puryear said. "What does a Division I program have to gain by playing a smaller division school?"

Two years ago, when New Albany was in its first season in the OCC, the non-league schedule included several Division II teams including Buckeye Valley, Granville, Licking Valley and Whitehall.

The only non-Division I team on this year's non-league schedule was Hamilton Township, which the Eagles defeated 71-22 on Dec. 9. Those teams aren't scheduled to play next season.

"(The schedule) definitely feels tougher," guard Hannah Robertson said. "It gives us a lot of confidence when you're playing against these big Division I teams."

New Albany defeated Hilliard Davidson 58-40 on Jan. 20 and Hilliard Darby 47-44 last Saturday. The Eagles dominated the second quarter against Davidson, outscoring the Wildcats 17-3.

"(The win over Davidson) was a big confidence-booster," Robertson said. "We knew they were a good team with a lot of depth and now we're like, 'I guess we can do this against (bigger schools).'"

In last week's area coaches poll, New Albany and Big Walnut were tied for first. Also receiving first-place votes were third-ranked DeSales (1) and fourth-ranked Eastmoor (2). New Albany received two first-place votes and Big Walnut received one.

Before last Tuesday, Big Walnut had nine wins against Division I teams. Eastmoor and New Albany had eight and DeSales had one.

The main blemish on New Albany's record was a 55-51 loss Nov. 29 to Olentangy, which has struggled. The Braves were 4-11 overall before last Tuesday. It was the opener, and Puryear missed it. Big Walnut beat Olentangy 51-43 three days later, but New Albany beat Big Walnut 52-50 on Jan. 6.

As of last Friday Puryear and his coaching staff were acting like it will be one of those four teams that received first-place votes in that Division II coaches poll that will be awarded the top seed for Sunday's draw.

Eastmoor, Puryear said, could be a big factor for the top seed simply based on the number of City League teams in Division II -- seven -- that he expects to support the Warriors.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule of the New Albany girls basketball team:

Jan. 20 -- Defeated Hilliard Davidson 58-40. Haley Robertson scored 22 points and Hannah Robertson had 13.

Last Saturday -- Def. Hilliard Darby 47-44. Hannah Robertson scored 19 points and Ayanna Colvin-Jones had 12.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Watkins Memorial

*Friday -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange. The Pioneers, who lost to New Albany 53-39 on Dec. 19, lost to Mount Vernon 61-53 last Friday to drop to 5-10 overall and 2-6 in the OCC-Capital.

*Tuesday -- At Franklin Heights. The Falcons, who lost to New Albany 64-24 on Dec. 23, lost to Delaware 63-39 last Friday to drop to 4-9 overall and 1-8 in the OCC-Capital.

Of note: The Eagles were 11-3 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Capital before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Capital game

Getting over the hump has proved to be a little more difficult than the New Albany High School basketball team would have liked.

It appeared the Eagles finally had made it after a 52-49 win Jan. 20 over Upper Arlington, which was seventh in the Division I state poll at the time. But four days later, the progress seemed to stall once again as they lost to Hilliard Darby 56-38. Darby entered the game at just 4-7.

"Upper Arlington was a big win and maybe our heads were a little full," forward Peter Kobelt said.

New Albany enters the final seven games of the regular season without momentum, but it does have some positive signs. The Eagles can't live off the win over UA, but coach Sam Davis said they can learn from what went well in that game.

"They gained the belief in what we've been telling them, that when we do execute down the stretch, we're going to win games," Davis said. "We made free throws. We only had eight turnovers, and we've been averaging double-figure turnovers."

The Eagles also gained some confidence in their ability to pull out close games, which is something they had struggled with to that point. Before playing UA, New Albany was 0-3 in games decided by three or fewer points, including a 55-53 loss to Mount Vernon on Jan. 16. Against UA, New Albany rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter and won the game on a 3-pointer by Kobelt with three seconds remaining.

"We all huddled together and said that we've had our fair share of bad luck, and it was our turn to win a big game," Kobelt said. "We all had that frame of mind that we were going to win this game."

Last Saturday, Kobelt said it seemed that New Albany was unable to match Darby's intensity from the outset. The Eagles still trailed just 31-29 entering the fourth quarter, but Darby pulled away.

Neither UA nor Darby were OCC-Capital Division opponents, however, leaving New Albany at 1-5 in the league before playing Watkins Memorial last Tuesday. Entering last Tuesday, the Eagles were in sixth place, but as evenly matched as the division has been, they still should be able to make a run toward the upper half if they can put together a strong finish.

Olentangy Orange was first at 6-1, followed by Franklin Heights (5-2), Mount Vernon (5-2), Big Walnut (4-3), Delaware (3-4) and New Albany and Watkins Memorial (0-7).

Part of the reason Davis and his players are confident they can be a factor in the league down the stretch is because they finally have found a steady rotation of eight or nine players. After a shoulder injury last month to point guard Steven Chang, who likely won't return this season, the Eagles struggled to adjust their lineup.

Now, though, Davis said senior Chase Sutton has settled into the starting point guard spot. With Sutton at point guard, Ryan Mayle has seen increased action at the other guard spot and was averaging 9.8 points over the past five games before last Tuesday. Scott McDonald has continued to start at center, and Jeffrey Ware and Wes McKeever each have provided solid minutes at power forward, allowing Kobelt to slide back to his natural small forward spot.

"The kids are starting to play together a little bit," Davis said. "Since Steven's been hurt, we've had four or five different lineups. We're really kind of sticking now to about eight or nine players. It's that time of year where everyone has a chance to get into that top eight or nine. So we're beginning to play more like a team."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the New Albany boys basketball team:

Jan. 20 -- Defeated Upper Arlington 52-49. Chase Sutton scored 25 points and Peter Kobelt had 12.

Last Saturday -- Lost to Hilliard Darby 56-38. Sutton and Ryan Mayle scored 11 points.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Watkins Memorial

*Friday -- At Olentangy Orange. The Eagles lost 55-42 on Dec. 19.

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Eagles lost 93-92 in three overtimes Dec. 23.

Of note: The Eagles were 5-7 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Capital before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Capital game