Travon Bodrick of the New Albany High School boys basketball team got behind a defender for an uncontested layup following an inbounds pass from the sideline during a recent OCC-Capital Division game.

Travon Bodrick of the New Albany High School boys basketball team got behind a defender for an uncontested layup following an inbounds pass from the sideline during a recent OCC-Capital Division game.

The play gave the Eagles a 48-35 lead with only 38.5 seconds remaining in what would become a 51-38 victory at Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 21. Still, coach Sam Davis jumped to his feet and implored his players to get back on defense.

"That's definitely the mentality he has," senior forward Tommy Smotrich said. "It's always about defense with him."

Such an emphasis has served the Eagles well. They were 10-1 overall and, more importantly, 8-0 in the OCC-Capital with a two-game cushion over both Olentangy Orange and Mount Vernon before playing Watkins Memorial on Jan. 25.

New Albany was giving up an average of 38.6 points in league play and 42.8 overall entering that game.

"Offense comes and goes, and we proved that here tonight," Davis said after the win over Bradley. "We were stagnant in our moves and I was frustrated, but we played pretty well defensively again. That's been our calling card."

It's becoming clear that as the defense goes, so go the Eagles.

Defensive letdowns paved the way for the first setback of the season, a 61-51 loss at Upper Arlington on Jan. 22. The Eagles, who were playing games on consecutive days for the first time this season, gave up a season-high eight 3-pointers as well as a season-high 61 points. The latter total was seven more than Olentangy Liberty managed when New Albany prevailed 66-54 in its opening game on Dec. 4.

That isn't to say the Eagles had been seriously entertaining thoughts of an undefeated regular season.

"We hadn't really talked about it, to be honest," Davis said. "We have talked about winning the league a lot."

The Eagles, who are in a stretch that has them playing six games in 12 days, travel to Orange for their next OCC-Capital game on Friday, Jan. 28. The Pioneers beat Mount Vernon 56-48 on Jan. 21 to pull into a tie for second place with the Yellow Jackets. Orange was 10-2 overall and riding a seven-game winning streak after edging St. Charles 56-55 on Jan. 22.

"Orange and Bradley are probably the two most improved teams in our league since the start of the season," Davis said.

New Albany also faces second-round league games Feb. 8 at Big Walnut and Feb. 18 at Mount Vernon in the regular-season finale.

"Playing defense is the key, especially when you're on the road," Smotrich said. "Getting defensive stops is a good way to take the crowd out of it."

AT A GLANCE

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

*Jan. 14 - Defeated Mount Vernon 44-29. Nick Sosh scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead the Eagles, who led 14-2 after the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets' point total was their lowest of the season.

*Jan. 21 - Def. Hilliard Bradley 51-38. Ryan Mayle scored all 13 of his points in the first half and Sosh got nine of his 13 in the second half.

Jan. 22 - Lost to Upper Arlington 61-51. The Eagles allowed a season-high eight 3-pointers. The Golden Bears outscored New Albany, which got 15 points from Sosh, 19-7 at the free-throw line.

*Jan. 25 - Played Watkins Memorial

*Jan. 28 - At Olentangy Orange. The Eagles beat the Pioneers 50-45 on Dec. 17 as Sosh scored 16 points and Travon Bodrick scored 14.

Jan. 29 - Home vs. Pickerington North

Feb. 1 - At Westerville North

Of note: The Eagles were 10-1 overall and 8-0 in the OCC-Capital before Jan. 25. Sosh led the Eagles in scoring average (12.6 points) through 11 games.

*OCC-Capital game