Even as a freshman, Meche'la Cobb was so concerned with the overall performance of the New Albany High School girls basketball team that she didn't care whether teammates balked at her sometimes heated methods of communication.
"In the very first scrimmage last year, she got all over a senior because she didn't switch (on defense) appropriately. All over her, and the next thing I know I have a firestorm on my hands," coach Jeff Blunt said with a smile of Cobb, now a 6-foot sophomore center. "Last year, some of the girls must have thought: 'Hey, here's some punky freshman that's speaking her mind.'
"Her court demeanor won't change that way. She's highly competitive and she's highly demanding. I kind of like that. I need to help the kids understand that she's doing that because she cares. It's not personal."
Reminded of that moment last week, Cobb -- who averages team bests of 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks -- laughed but didn't back down.
"I just want to get the best out of whoever I'm playing with," said Cobb, whose team was 11-7 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Delaware on Jan. 28. "If that means saying something to help a teammate, I will. I don't care about my age. I won't hold back to help my team."
Those traits are a big reason why Blunt and Cobb's teammates don't hesitate to call her the team's best player. Cobb is the Eagles' only returning starter from last year, when she averaged 6.7 points and was special mention all-league. She led the Eagles in scoring in each of her first three games as a freshman.
This season, Cobb was New Albany's high scorer in 17 of its first 18 games. She had a season-high 33 points in a 62-33 win over Westerville South on Dec. 28 and was 112-for-238 (47.1 percent) shooting from the field.
Cobb also hit the winning layup with 40 seconds left in a 34-32 win over Westerville Central on Jan. 25.
"If we need a basket, we'll just get the ball to her and she can finish," senior guard Jackie Drago said. "Even though she's a sophomore, that doesn't mean much to all of us. Our ages don't really matter. Liza Hernandez is getting time and she's a sophomore.
"Brooke (Isabel) is a freshman. As seniors, we don't care if they're younger, just that they're helping the team. Meche'la knows what she's doing. She has the fire inside of her that she wants to win and spur our team."
Cobb, who plays AAU basketball for All-Ohio Black, said she has received attention from Division I schools including Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Villanova and West Virginia. Cobb likely would be a shooting guard or small forward in college.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play college basketball," she said. "I definitely know I won't play in the post in college. I'm not nearly tall enough. Playing more on the wing is something I've been working on on my own for some time.
"Right now, we just don't have enough big players for me to be outside most of the time. But hopefully by my senior year, I'll be more accustomed to that and will be doing it more. I just need to work at it."
Swimmers fall short of league title sweep
The swimming and diving program's five-year stranglehold on the OCC-Capital came to an end Jan. 25, when Olentangy swept the boys and girls championships in the league meet in New Albany's home pool.
Both Eagles teams placed second.
The boys scored 246 points to finish behind Olentangy (263) and ahead of Worth- ington Kilbourne (229), Delaware (200), Mount Vernon (144), Olentangy Orange (116) and Big Walnut (69). The girls had 282 points to finish behind Olentangy (298) and ahead of Delaware (254), Orange (181), Kilbourne (142), Big Walnut (82) and Mount Vernon (49).
The boys had won seven consecutive league titles, and the girls had won five in a row.
For the girls, Jessica Zaper won the 50-yard freestyle (25.22), was second in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.28) and helped the 200 free relay to first place (1:41.82) with Amanda Jenny, Olivia Neff and Taylor Berend. Estee Pryor won the diving title (545.3 points) ahead of teammate Nikki Watters (482.35).
New Albany claimed the top two spots in boys diving, with David Dinsmore winning (595.9) ahead of Gabe Robbertz (427.05). The Eagles also took first, second and third in the 100 butterfly, with Carson Barnes (54.77), Brendan Murphy (54.98) and Blake Bergere (56.72).
New Albany will compete in a Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington.
Schaub pacing boys basketball team
Austin Schaub's career-high 28 points led the boys basketball team in a 70-63 loss at Reynoldsburg on Jan. 21, and he scored another 22 in a 51-39 win over Franklin Heights on Jan. 24.
The victory kept the Eagles in first place in the OCC-Capital entering a Jan. 28 game at Delaware. New Albany was 6-7 overall and 6-2 in the league, a half-game ahead of Delaware and Kilbourne (both 6-3).
Schaub, a 6-0 junior guard, came off the bench early in the season as part of the "second five," a group coach Sam Davis promised playing time in the first quarter for their efforts in practice. Schaub is among five juniors on the team, with Jacob Budin, Chris London, John Miller and Alex Sparks. London, Miller and Sparks have started most of this season.
"It's a nice mix," Davis said. "That junior class, that's a really strong class."