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Girls team seeking right blend

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

When it comes to individual talent, there's little doubt what the Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team has in seniors Alyssa Rice and Nicole Orr.

The 6-foot-3 Rice is a post player who signed with the University of Kentucky after making first-team all-district and being named OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year last season.

Orr is a Butler signee who made honorable mention all-district and all-league in her first season with the program after transferring from Whitehall.

How quickly several former backups settle into key roles could determine whether the Raiders can continue one of the best runs in program history.

Reynoldsburg has won four consecutive Division I district championships and reached state semifinals in 2010 and 2012.

The Raiders went 24-3 overall and were fifth in the final state poll a year ago, and they take a 45-game league winning streak into their OCC-Ohio opener Friday, Nov. 29, at home against Groveport.

"We're trying to find out what we're good at right now," coach Jack Purtell said. "In the past we were a good full-court man team and a good full-court zone team. We're not very deep, so I think it'll be a little bit harder to go full-court this year. We'll have to use our fundamentals rather than our athleticism."

Reynoldsburg opened Nov. 23 by losing to Cincinnati Princeton 56-46 and beat five-time defending Division II state champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 47-20 on Nov. 24 in games in the Gary West Tipoff Classic at home.

Princeton and Hathaway Brown are among seven teams on the Raiders' schedule that won district championships a year ago.

Purtell also expects his team to be challenged when it plays three out-of-state teams in the Wolverine Winter Classic on Dec. 27, 28 and 30 at Cumming (Ga.) West Forsyth.

The progression Rice has shown on offense is "like night and day," according to Purtell, after she averaged 15.1 points and eight rebounds last season.

Orr, a 5-10 wing player, averaged 9.3 points a year ago.

Expected to take over at point guard is senior De'Shay Thomas (5-6), who averaged 4.4 points a year ago. Senior forward Shanice Johnson (5-9) and juniors Chandlar Hines (5-6, guard/wing player), Hannah Leppla (wing player) and Courtney Purtell (5-9, wing player) also are moving into more prominent roles.

Junior guard Leah Wallace (5-8) is back with the program after not playing last winter. Other juniors are Jaime Montague (5-3, guard) and Jayla Turman (5-9, guard/forward).

Senior guard Allison King (5-4), who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and freshman guard Molly Van Horn (5-9) also are looking to contribute.

"We're kind of a work in progress right now," Purtell said. "We've got five people in new roles. Alyssa has got to score more and Nicole is going to have to score more. Some of our role players in the past are going to be in bigger roles now. It'll be fun. Every year is fun. We've been fortunate with the talent we've had the last five or six years."

With three Division I recruits a year ago in 2013 graduates Destini Cooper (Ohio University), Yamonie Jenkins (Ohio) and Shiloh Murphy (Morehead State), the Raiders went 14-0 in the OCC-Ohio to win their third consecutive league title.

In the postseason, Reynoldsburg beat Upper Arlington 62-22 in a district final but lost to North Canton Hoover 51-48 in a regional semifinal.

That loss drove Rice throughout the offseason.

"We have some players that don't necessarily have as much experience, but they're doing a good job of stepping up," Rice said. "You don't realize it until you are a senior, but as a senior you want it that much more."

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