Thirty seconds might as well have been five minutes for New Albany High School girls basketball players during a recent practice.
With the sting of two close OCC-Capital Division losses fresh in the Eagles' minds, coach Jeff Blunt ran a five-on-five drill in which one team had to hold the ball for 30 seconds without committing a turnover.
The idea was to simulate keeping the ball away from the opponent in late-game situations. A team that couldn't get through 30 seconds flawlessly had to run the length of the gym floor.
"It's just 30 seconds, it seems like at first," senior guard Jackie Drago said. "But when you're just standing there with the ball, it seems like you have it for five minutes continuously. It's really stressful."
And so it went -- at least seven times.
"Seven or so, anyway," senior guard Ally Vendetti said. "It took us a while to figure it out. We kept turning over the ball."
If the lesson pays off, Blunt hopes the team will look back on the day as a character-building experience. The Eagles, who were 8-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Capital before playing Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 14, had first-half league losses against Olentangy (45-30 on Dec. 20) and Mount Vernon by three (39-36 on Dec. 30) and one (34-33 on Jan. 10).
"The games we lost, it's been because we haven't gotten over the hump in terms of dealing with things during the course of a game that you need to deal with," Blunt said. "Some of it is (mental), yeah. Some of it has to do with how we show up to practice. When we did that five-on-five, half-court drill ... it got to tears. It was hard, and I wasn't backing down at all.
"As it got worse, I threw six (defenders) at them. I kept dialing it up instead of letting them slack. I kind of wanted them to hate me to love each other. I need them to come together and get it done."
Against Olentangy, the game was tied at 24 after three quarters before the Braves outscored the Eagles 21-6 in the fourth.
The second Mount Vernon loss was tough, too. Meche'la Cobb hit the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds left, but the Yellow Jackets' Kaitlin Dallas made the winning shot with 3 seconds to go.
"We have a skilled team, but we're not as tough as we could be," Vendetti said. "We're getting better at it lately in practices and, I think, games."
New Albany has had a stable starting lineup. Generally using four perimeter players and one player inside, the starting lineup has consisted of point guard Caitlyn Coss, shooting guards Taylor Snook and Vendetti, Cobb at forward and Kyra Zuiderwig at center.
Cobb was averaging a team-high 19.5 points through 13 games.
"For the most part, we've been executing well," Zuiderwig said. "But if we don't work together, like we had to in the drill, it might as well be one-on-six."
Boys basketball team takes 1st league loss
Alex Sparks scored a career-high 27 points, but the boys basketball team suffered its first OCC-Capital loss Jan. 10, falling 60-55 at Mount Vernon.
Bryson London added 11 points for New Albany. The game was tied at 38 after three quarters, but Mount Vernon took control with an 8-3 run to start the fourth and went 10-for-12 from the foul line in one stretch of the quarter.
Sparks was held to fewer than 14 points just once during New Albany's first eight games, averaging 16 per contest in that stretch. He had 11 and John Miller 14 in a 50-42 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 11.
Regardless, the Eagles still held sole possession of first place in the OCC-Capital before visiting Kilbourne on Jan. 14. They were 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the league, ahead of Franklin Heights and Kilbourne at 4-2.
Dinsmore, Berend lead at Northeast Classic
David Dinsmore won the boys diving competition with 535.35 points, and Taylor Berend was fifth in the girls 100-yard freestyle (54 seconds) and eighth in the 50 free (25 seconds) to lead the swimming and diving teams Jan. 11 in the Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Other top-10 finishers for the Eagles were the girls 200 free relay (eighth, 1:42.75), Amanda Jenny in the girls 200 free (eighth, 2:03.68) and Nick Noe in the boys 500 free (23.5). The girls team was 12th (71 points) behind champion Granville (186) as 38 teams scored, and the boys placed 34th (9) behind champion Strongsville (216) as 39 teams scored.
The Northeast Classic took place in the same pool that will play host to the Division I state meet Feb. 20-22.