As was the case a year ago, the New Albany High School girls basketball team found itself trailing Olentangy Orange by a game in the league standings heading into the rematch.

As was the case a year ago, the New Albany High School girls basketball team found itself trailing Olentangy Orange by a game in the league standings heading into the rematch.

Once again, the Eagles came up short, losing at Orange 46-39 on Jan. 27.

"We're really close," coach Jamie Puryear said. "The major key for us (against Orange) was to limit them in transition. We did a great job of that in the first half. In the third quarter when they were able to get ahead is when we lost track of our man in transition."

New Albany led 19-16 at halftime but was outscored 14-6 in the third quarter. The Eagles dropped to 9-2 in the OCC-Capital Division, two games behind Orange (11-0) with three league games remaining.

Hilliard Bradley is third at 8-3, followed by Big Walnut (6-5), Delaware (6-5), Watkins Memorial (3-8), Mount Vernon (2-9) and Franklin Heights (0-11).

The Eagles also lost to Orange 38-29 on Dec. 16 at home.

With New Albany's entire team expected to return next season, this group will get another shot at its league rival. Like New Albany, Orange also is expected to return its nucleus, including guards Taylor Agler, Maddy Joseph and Kierstynn Myers, each of whom is a junior.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Gliha helped keep New Albany close in the rematch by scoring seven points in the fourth quarter.

A move-in from Dresden Tri-Valley, Gliha was a post player who started the season transitioning to guard. But around midseason, Puryear said he made the decision to let her play in the post.

Whichever position she plays, the Eagles are looking for her to make an impact off the bench.

"She knows when she's on the floor we're asking her to be a sparkplug with her defending and her scoring," Puryear said. "She's a slasher kind of player offensively."

The second Orange game was the Eagles' final chance for a signature win before the Division I district tournament drawing on Sunday, Feb. 5. Orange is a strong candidate for a high seed.

The best of New Albany's final three regular-season opponents is Big Walnut, which was 9-7 overall before playing Horizon Science Academy on Jan. 31. The Eagles play at Big Walnut on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

On Friday, Feb. 4, the Eagles play host to a Franklin Heights team it beat 69-18 on Dec. 20. The Falcons are 1-16 overall.

New Albany ends the regular season on Feb. 10 against a Delaware team that was 8-8 before playing Dublin Jerome on Jan. 31.

The Eagles struggled in their rematch against Watkins Memorial on Jan. 24 before pulling out a 41-31 victory. The Eagles had won the first meeting 76-26 on Dec. 9 at Watkins Memorial.

"We definitely need to play better defense and hit more shots," guard Chrissy Harris said. "That way we can get into a better flow."