New Albany High School girls basketball coach Jeff Blunt had a hard time finding just one leader on the team when he took over before the season.
The Eagles have several, and that has paid off with four wins in the first six games.
Blunt said senior guard Chrissy Harris has displayed "phenomenal" leadership skills, as has senior forward Kyasia Duling. But he was careful not to overlook other contributions, such as those from freshman wing player Meche'la Cobb and senior point guard Hannah Scipio, who returned to the lineup two weeks ago from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee suffered during the closing minutes of last season.
"That's exactly what we need," Blunt said. "Chrissy has been a phenomenal leader. Kyasia Duling (has been), too. And Hannah's adjusting back into playing full time."
Blunt needed to look no further than a Dec. 8 practice to see his team's resilience. The previous night, the Eagles were outscored 20-4 in the middle quarters of a 49-24 loss to OCC-Capital Division foe Olentangy Orange.
"That practice was one of the best we've had," Blunt said. "We were ready to go and the girls went hard. I give that credit to the leaders on this team."
New Albany, which takes records of 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital into a Friday, Dec. 21, game at Olentangy, believed it would be solid with six seniors. But the contributions have come from lower grades, too.
While Harris scored a game-high 11 points in a 73-21 win over Franklin Heights on Dec. 14, and Duling led the team in scoring twice (12 points against Orange and 10 in a 45-35 win over Delaware on Dec. 11), Cobb had game highs of 11 and 16 points, respectively, against Mount Vernon (39-34 win Nov. 30) and Teays Valley (54-36 win Dec. 4). Junior guard Ally Vendetti added 11 points against Franklin Heights.
"(Cobb is) talented and wants nothing more than to play well and help the team," Blunt said. "We leaned on her in a few games. We expect a lot from her because she is talented. We're in a good place relationship-wise."
The Eagles play Division II power Eastmoor Academy in the Gahanna Cage Classic on Dec. 27. Gahanna and DeSales, who were district champions in Divisions I and II, respectively, last year, are the other teams in the field.
"We have nine or 10 games against what I'd consider the top 10 teams in the area," Blunt said. "The schedule doesn't get any easier. Like I've told the girls, we're getting better and we want to get to the point where we're playing our best ball in February and March."
Balance fueling boys squad
Boys basketball player Devon Pitts said he wasn't sure before the season how balanced the Eagles would be. But the number of names he rattled off while discussing the Eagles' 4-1 start underscored how many contributions the team has received.
"I figured Jack (Serbin) and Jalen (Rhea) and I would be double-figure scorers most nights," said Pitts, a senior guard. "But now Avery (Schneider) is playing real well defensively and that's transferring to the offense. Darrell Miller's scoring for us. Trey Quillin's good on defense. We're getting good play from everybody."
Rhea, an American University recruit, is averaging 18.2 points. Pitts is second at 10.4, followed by Serbin (9.2) and Miller (6.4). Schneider had a season-high 13 points in a 77-59 win at Delaware on Dec. 11, when Rhea's 26 points led four scorers in double figures.
Serbin scored 12 of his season-high 17 points on 3-pointers in a 68-54 win over Orange on Dec. 7. Twelve players scored in a 71-23 rout of Franklin Heights on Dec. 14.
The exception to the rule of balance was the Eagles' 42-37 win at Upper Arlington on Dec. 15. Rhea scored a game-high 26 points and Serbin, the next highest scorer, had six.
New Albany gets little rest during the holiday break. The Eagles visit Olentangy on Saturday, Dec. 22, then have non-league home games against Whitehall on Dec. 27 and Westerville Central on Dec. 29 before resuming league play Jan. 4 at home against Big Walnut.
"I don't mind," Pitts said. "It's good to keep playing. We won't have homework over the break after exams (which end Friday, Dec. 21), so it'll be all about basketball."