Olentangy Valley News

Girls Basketball

New-look Pioneers build bonds

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With a new coach and with nearly all of their key players from a year ago no longer in the program, the Olentangy Orange High School girls basketball team is attempting to look at this season as a fresh start.

That even goes for how it has approached practice, according to first-year coach Kelly Joseph.

"I'm trying to build a lot of unity," Joseph said. "We've been having the (junior varsity) and varsity practice together. My seniors and juniors are (helping) the freshmen and sophomores.

"They're very mature and they're tough, tough competitors. They know what it's like to have the pressure on them."

Orange, which opened Nov. 23 by losing 54-34 at Olentangy Liberty and began OCC-Capital Division play Nov. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne, is coming off the best season in program history.

However, 5-foot-7 junior Lexi Werling (forward/guard), who averaged 2.0 points last season, is the only player who saw significant minutes for a team that went 26-3 overall and reached a Division I state semifinal.

Emilia Martin (5-5, guard), who is the only senior in the program, and juniors Bri Barron (5-7, guard) and Mikaela Lyons (5-10, forward) were on varsity last year but played little.

Sophomores Lena Mancini (5-6, guard) and Bree McCague (5-6, forward) have moved up from junior varsity.

Freshmen Megan Erickson (guard), Nia Lee (guard), Schae Lilley (guard) and Hannah Sargent (forward) are others looking to contribute.

"It is definitely a lot different," Werling said. "I think we're coming together. We're going to be better than what people expect. We're definitely working with everyone and with the younger girls we're trying to build the program as a whole."

Joseph took over in the spring for Mary Ann Grimes, who retired after leading the Pioneers to a 69-8 record in three seasons.

Joseph was a middle school boys basketball coach in the Olentangy school district the last two years and is leading a varsity program for the first time. Her daughter, Maddy, is a 2013 graduate who made second-team all-OCC-Capital a year ago when the Pioneers went 14-0 to win the league title.

In addition to Maddy Joseph (8.5 points per game), Orange had four other 2013 graduates who were key players in Taylor Agler (15.7 ppg), Mya Walker (14.3 ppg), Kierstynn Myers (7.2 ppg) and Tori Davis (3.6 ppg).

Also gone from that team is Sarah Sagerer, who averaged 9.6 points in her only season with the program as a junior exchange student from Austria.

Agler was the league's Player of the Year and was joined on the all-league first team by Walker. Agler was first-team all-district, Walker made the second team and both players made the ThisWeek Super 12.

With future collegians Agler (Indiana), Walker (Northeastern State), Myers (Ohio Wesleyan) and Maddy Joseph (Ohio Christian) leading the way, the Pioneers beat Dublin Coffman 60-47 to win their first district championship and North Canton Hoover 61-55 to win their first regional title.

Werling, Martin, Barron and Lyons all played during the final minute of a 73-63 state semifinal loss to Twinsburg.

"I think we'll win some games people won't expect us to win," said coach Joseph, whose husband, Chris, coached Worthington Christian's girls team from 1996-2005 and is in his second season as the boys coach at Gahanna Christian. "We're going to all need to figure out who we are. We've got girls who like each other and I think we're getting better."

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