Allee Overmyer of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team believes the Golden Bears will have another season with double-digit victories despite losing five players from a year ago to graduation, including three starters.
The Bears, who opened Nov. 27 against Pickerington North, finished 16-6 overall and 12-2 in the OCC-Central Division last season. Seeded 10th in the Division I district tournament, they beat Mount Vernon 40-24 in the first round before losing to 11th-seeded New Albany 34-24 in the second round.
"Last year, we were a very bonded team," said Overmyer, a 5-foot-9 senior forward. "This year, it was weird to go into things not knowing as many people. This year we combined the (junior varsity) and varsity during practice, so it's been a good experience getting to know the younger girls. Also, to figure out their playing styles and how we mesh is a new thing, but that happens every year."
UA is trying to replace the production of the graduated starters: guard Michela Paradiso and forwards Olivia Menden and Maddie Spielman.
Last season, Paradiso averaged a team-high 10.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Menden averaged 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and Spielman averaged 5.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
The Bears' returning starters are 6-0 senior forward Andi Norman and 6-0 junior guard Chiara Paradiso. Norman averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds last season and was special mention all-league.
Also on the team are seniors Holly Holsapple (5-7, guard), Katie Kapusta (5-9, forward) and Macaulay Mikes (5-8, guard), juniors Kyle Croxton (5-4, guard), Kellye McGlumphy (5-4, guard) and Annika Wachtman (5-6, guard), sophomores Nikki Blevins (5-9, forward) and Taylor McGlade (5-5, guard) and freshman Kortney Eisenman (6-2, forward).
"We have a core of strong seniors," sixth-year coach Chris Savage said. "But anytime you lose that many girls who played that many minutes, you're going to have some growing pains. We're just trying to fill their roles right now. We're going to hit some early bumps, but after we get past those, I think we're going to be pretty good."
Savage said McGlade probably will be the starting point guard and he expects Eisenman to be a full-time varsity player.
"We have some really good, in-shape players who are fast," Norman said. "It's nice to make an outlet pass up the court to players and you know they're going to get the job done."
The Bears finished second in the OCC-Central last season, behind Dublin Coffman (13-1) and ahead of Central Crossing (11-3), Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8), Hilliard Darby (4-10), Westland (2-12) and Worthington Kilbourne (1-13).
Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment last summer and have been replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
UA, which went 20-2 in 2009-10 and 17-6 in 2010-11 and won OCC-Central championships in both seasons, opens league play Friday, Nov. 30, at Coffman.
"(Those winning records) get us excited and pumped and give us a motivation to continue winning," Overmyer said. "We want to win. We're trying to crank it up."