The New Albany High School girls basketball team has started to find some answers to what type of team it's going to be this season.

The New Albany High School girls basketball team has started to find some answers to what type of team it's going to be this season.

The Eagles returned three starters in Maddie Miller, Elyse Naddaff and Hannah Scipio, but those three were role players last season. They've had to go from supporting roles to leadership roles, and when the season began, it wasn't clear what kind of transition that would be.

But after winning four of its first five games, New Albany appears to have established itself as a contender for the OCC-Capital Division title. The telling win to the Eagles' start was a 48-47 victory at Hilliard Bradley on Dec. 7.

"I think our kids realized after the Bradley game that if they do what the coaches expect of them, they have as good a chance as anybody to win the title," said coach Jamie Puryear, whose team was 3-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Franklin Heights last Tuesday.

Bradley returned all of its starters from last season when it was a Division II district finalist. Leading New Albany against the Jaguars was Scipio, a point guard who scored 20 points and was named ThisWeekSPORTS.com's Player of the Week. Scipio is one of three sophomores in the starting lineup, with the others being guard Chrissy Harris and forward Emily Rolwing.

"Hannah played a phenomenal floor game," Puryear said. "She went 30 minutes and had zero turnovers. I think Bradley was determined to keep her out of the paint and she basically did everything she wanted."

Puryear called the win over Bradley an early-season turning point, as New Albany lost the lead for the first time in the third quarter before rallying for the win in the fourth quarter. Rolwing said the win was a confidence builder.

"It was a really exciting win," Rolwing said. "It has really motivated us to work harder. We knew that if we could beat Bradley, we have a good chance to win the title."

But after New Albany lost to Olentangy Orange 54-36 last Friday, it appears the road to a league title goes through the Pioneers. The Eagles play host to Orange on Jan. 28 in the rematch.

New Albany trailed Orange 24-19 at halftime before the Pioneers started to flex their muscle on the glass. Puryear said his team must rebound better if it is to remain in the hunt for the league title.

One positive in the loss, he said, was the players' attitude at practice the next day.

"We've got to figure out a way to compete a little bit better around the rim," Puryear said. "But coming off a tough loss (against Orange), our kids came in and this might have been one of our more competitive practices. I think our kids came in to compete. Coming in off a tough loss, you worried about the kids' confidence coming back to practice. I'm happy with how we competed."

The Eagles' next OCC-Capital game is Jan. 3 at Big Walnut.

Before last Tuesday, New Albany was tied with Bradley and Delaware for second in the league at 3-1, behind Orange at 4-0. Big Walnut was fifth at 2-2, followed by Mount Vernon at 1-3 and Franklin Heights and Watkins Memorial at 0-4.