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Versatile Norman boosting girls' squad

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Upper Arlington's Kyle Croxton goes up for a shot between Dublin Coffman's Grace Filler (left) and Griffin Tullis (right) on Nov. 30 at Coffman.
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Before the start of the season, Andi Norman of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team chuckled when asked to define her role.

Is the 6-foot junior a guard? A forward? A focal point?

"All of the above," she said. "I'm pretty much a 3-4 (small and power forward, respectively) for the most part. I'm a shooter, but I can also drive, so it kind of just depends on who's guarding me at the time."

Lately, opponents are having a tough time keeping a handle on her.

Norman is averaging a team-high 17.1 points. Her offensive production and the team's recurring ability to pull out close games have the Golden Bears 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Central Division heading into their game Friday, Dec. 21, at Hilliard Davidson.

"She can shoot it. She can handle it. She can post up," coach Chris Savage said of Norman, who played forward as a freshman and guard last season. "She's a coach's dream because she can do so much and she's so hard to match up against. ... It's our job as coaches to find good spots for her."

Norman scored 21 points, which included going 9-for-16 from the field, in a 47-34 win over Hilliard Darby on Dec. 4. She had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 47-46 win over Central Crossing on Dec. 11 and scored 21 points in a 47-32 win over Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 14.

A four-game winning streak that also included a 55-46 overtime victory Dec. 7 at Thomas Worthington was snapped Dec. 15 with a 60-41 loss at Eastmoor Academy.

Junior guard Kyle Croxton scored eight of her 12 points in overtime against Thomas, tying Norman for the team high in scoring. Croxton also had a team-high 12 points in a 52-51 loss to Dublin Coffman on Nov. 30.

"We're cohesive," Croxton said. "We need to work on finishing games more and working more as a team toward the end of a game so we can finish it out and win with more of, well, a wider span in the score, not just by a couple points.

"I'm mostly trying to contribute with my shooting, because that's what (Savage) wants me to focus on."

After facing Davidson, UA won't play again until Jan. 4 when it plays host to Marysville.

"As coaches, we just have to figure out the best way to use these girls," Savage said.

"I think we'll be OK, but we haven't figured everything out yet."

Akins stepping up for boys team

Junior guards Danny Hummer and Kevin Vannatta have been the boys basketball team's most dependable scorers this season, but sophomore guard Gabe Akins is making a case for being the Bears' third option.

Akins, a 6-3 sophomore, tied Vannatta for a team-high 10 points in a 57-37 loss to Liberty on Dec. 14 and scored seven points in both a 60-58 overtime win against Thomas Worthington in the opener Dec. 7 and in a 66-35 win at Central Crossing on Dec. 11.

Akins had only two turnovers through five games, with both coming against Thomas.

"Since the summer, he's listened to everything Danny and Austin Ping and I have told him and he's doing everything he can to help the team out," Vannatta said.

"We need him to be a scorer, take good shots, help out defensively and rebound, and he's stepped up into the roles we need him to play. I think he's surprised some people."

Vannatta is averaging a team-high 19.8 points, followed by Hummer (13.6).

UA plays host to Davidson on Friday, Dec. 21, before traveling to Richmond (Ind.) on Saturday, Dec. 22. Next week, the Bears will travel to Marietta College for the Marietta Classic, in which they will play St. Clairsville on Dec. 28 and Vincent Warren Local on Dec. 29.

"I think it's great," Vannatta said of the team's schedule over the holiday break. "We get to play in a lot of different environments, and I think that'll help us throughout the year."

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