The Olentangy Orange High School girls basketball team has learned the value of being all-inclusive.
Among the key players the last two seasons -- when the Pioneers won back-to-back OCC-Capital Division championships and were Division I district runners-up -- were six current seniors who have the program among the area's best again this winter.
That group also has made room for a newcomer who has become a key complementary piece to Orange's lineup.
Junior Sarah Sagerer, who is 6-foot-2 and has been playing in the post, is averaging 8.2 points in her first season with the program.
She came to the district at the beginning of the school year as an exchange student from Austria.
"It was kind of difficult at first because we've all known each other for so long on this team," senior guard Taylor Agler said. "Having to bring somebody new onto the team was hard, but we've got it now."
Sagerer is coming off one of her best games, scoring a season-high 15 points in a 56-33 win over New Albany on Jan. 18.
Agler's family is playing host to the 17-year-old Sagerer, who is planning to return to Austria for her senior year.
Agler and senior guard Kierstynn Myers were among the greeters with a sign that read "Welcome to Ohio, Sarah Sagerer" when she arrived a few months ago.
"It's fun having someone to teach everything to," Agler said. "It's like having a little sister."
Sagerer and her Austrian club basketball coach met Orange coach Mary Ann Grimes when Grimes was helping out at a basketball camp in North Carolina in summer 2011.
According to Grimes, Sagerer's father later contacted the school district once the family decided to send Sagerer overseas.
"I told my coach in Austria that I'd like to be an exchange student (in the United States)," Sagerer said. "I wanted to accept a challenge."
For Sagerer, there has been a learning curve regarding American culture as well as getting used to a more physical type of basketball.
Against Reynoldsburg's post duo of 6-3 Alyssa Rice and 6-1 Destini Cooper, Sagerer struggled with no points and two rebounds during the first half of a 63-58 loss Jan. 14.
Over the final two quarters, however, she had eight points, three rebounds and two steals.
"(Basketball) is not very good (in Austria)," Sagerer said. "It's not as physical. On my club team, I play all of the positions, and I play point guard, too. I've been growing a lot (as a player) since I got here."
"In Europe, everybody is a guard," Grimes said. "When she first got here, she thought she was a point guard and kept asking, 'Am I ever going to play outside?' If you look at all of the Europeans in the NBA, they all shoot outside.
"If you look at where she started at, she's learning quite quickly. You watch her play and you see she has the guard skills. She's been very delightful to get to know and she's a very bright girl. She speaks German and French and is in way-advanced AP calculus."
According to Grimes, Sagerer has received interest from colleges such as Wright State, Dartmouth and Texas A&M at Corpus Cristi.
Considering Agler's father, Brian Agler, is coach of the WNBA's Seattle Storm and that Taylor Agler has signed to play for Indiana University, basketball has been a much talked about topic in their home with Sagerer the past few months.
Sagerer and the Agler family attended the Indiana women's basketball team's 68-45 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 17.
According to Taylor's mother, Robin Agler, the family enjoyed watching Sagerer experience Thanksgiving and Christmas in America for the first time.
"To be honest, (students) are more social here," Sagerer said. "It's like they're always trying to talk. In Austria, we just hang around. (The Aglers) are pretty nice people. We watch a lot of basketball."
"It just kind of came about that there was an opportunity to have her stay with us and I think it's been very exciting," Robin Agler said. "We didn't know anything about Austria and she didn't know much about the states. It's been a good challenge.
"I think our culture has been a learning experience for her. Taylor and Kierstynn took her around to places they like to eat, and she likes Chipotle and ice cream. My husband's family all lives here, so we got to experience Thanksgiving together. They celebrate Christmas, although they celebrate it a little bit differently there. ... She's a really good kid (and) easy going."
Braves, Pioneers set for rematch
One of the biggest remaining games on the OCC-Capital schedule will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, when Olentangy plays host to Orange.
The Pioneers beat the Braves 57-52 on Dec. 15 as senior forward Mya Walker scored 15 points, Taylor Agler had 14, senior guard Maddy Joseph scored 12 and Sagerer added 11.
Olentangy was without senior guard Brooke Zwayer for the first matchup with Orange as she continued to recover from a knee injury. She has played the last eight games and scored a season-high 10 points in a 51-40 win over Big Walnut on Jan. 18.
Orange and Olentangy, which are 9-0 and 8-1 in the league, respectively, are the only OCC-Capital teams with fewer than three losses.
"It should be for all the marbles," Braves coach John Feasel said. "I got into coaching because I wanted to coach in venues like this."
Orange had won nine in a row before losing to Reynoldsburg, which was fourth in last week's Division I state poll.
Olentangy is on a five-game winning streak.
In last week's area coaches poll, Orange was third behind Reynoldsburg and Gahanna and Olentangy was tied with Pickerington North for fourth.
Liberty trying to bounce back
Liberty will be looking to snap out of a recent rough stretch when it plays host to Upper Arlington on Friday, Jan. 25.
Since winning games Dec. 28 and 29 in a KSA Events tournament in Orlando, Fla., the Patriots have lost five of six, including two in a row.
Liberty's last win came Jan. 11 when it beat Thomas Worthington 43-32.
On Jan. 18, the Patriots lost 45-40 to Central Crossing. They had beaten the Comets 53-30 on Dec. 7.
Liberty lost to UA 47-32 on Dec. 14 as the Golden Bears' Andi Norman scored a game-high 21 points. Kristen Levering led the Patriots with 11 points.