Despite the fact the Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team won only one of its first six games, guard Kelsey McAlpine believes the Cardinals aren't far from changing their fortunes.

Despite the fact the Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team won only one of its first six games, guard Kelsey McAlpine believes the Cardinals aren't far from changing their fortunes.

Thomas may have started to do so last Friday, as it nearly upset defending OCC-Central Division champion Dublin Coffman. The Cardinals hung with the Shamrocks, who finished 25-1 overall last season and reached a Division I regional final, through regulation before losing 55-51 in overtime.

"We need to get things together," said McAlpine, who scored 13 points in a 67-58 loss to Marysville on Dec. 15 and scored 16 against the Shamrocks last Friday. "Instead of this being the 'improving year,' this is 'the year.' We still have some things to improve on, but we're starting to play as a team and get things done."

"Right now we're not where we need to be," coach Laurie Barr said. "Offensively, we're doing some good things, but we need to get better defensively."

Thomas will participate in the North Canton Hoover Invitational on Monday and Tuesday, playing Youngstown Ursuline the first day and North Canton Hoover the second day.

The tournament, which marks the only time this season Thomas will play on back-to-back nights, will be a test of the Cardinals' endurance.

"This is something we've wanted to do for a while," Barr said. "We get to see some different teams and see where we are compared to them. We get to focus some on basketball and have some fun during the holiday season."

Road trips can help a team bond. Barr said a preseason tournament in West Virginia last season brought her team closer together.

"When you go away on a trip, you're bound to get to know each other. You're with your teammates the whole time. You get to know someone and you develop some respect for each other. That all comes together on the court."

"Our team is doing really well right now compared to the last couple of years," McAlpine said. "We're becoming more of a family. We have a lot of good athletes. We have a freshman (Frannie Frazier) who has definitely stepped up and the seniors have been playing together for so long now, we're starting to play together."

That has shown on the offensive end, where Thomas is averaging 52.2 points a game. Last year, the Cardinals averaged 44.5 and only topped the 60-point mark three times.

While McAlpine is the team's leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points through six games, typically seven or eight players contribute offensively each game.

"We're not just depending on one player this year," Barr said. "We've had several different players have good games at different times. That's a nice thing to have."

Communication is essential, according to McAlpine, for tightening a defense that was allowing an average of 56.8 points through six games. Thomas held a first-quarter lead in its first five games and was allowing an average of 20.2 points in the first half through six games.

However, the Cardinals were outscored 128-98 in the fourth quarter through six games. Barr is having a difficult time putting her finger on what changes defensively in the fourth quarter.

"I don't think there is just one thing that has to come together," she said. "There's that old saying among coaches -- offense brings in crowds, free throws win games, but defense wins championships. We're clicking on the offensive end, but it's really important to bring the defense around. It's going to be one of the things we have to focus on the next couple of weeks."

"Talking is such an important part of girls basketball," McAlpine said. "If we can really talk on defense, I think we will improve."


At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Kilbourne and Thomas girls basketball teams:

KILBOURNE

*Dec. 15 -- Lost to Hilliard Davidson 44-23. The Wildcats outscored the Wolves 18-1 in the second quarter. Laken Harris scored seven points.

*Last Friday -- Defeated Westland 57-34. Darby McMullen scored 16 points.

Jan. 5 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

Of note: The Wolves are 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Central.

THOMAS

Dec. 15 -- Lost to Marysville 67-58. The Monarchs outscored the Cardinals 28-19 in the fourth quarter. Erika Rousculp and Kelsey McAlpine scored 13 points each.

*Last Friday -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 55-51 in overtime.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Westland

Monday -- At North Canton Hoover Invitational vs. Youngstown Ursuline

Tuesday -- At North Canton Hoover Invitational vs. North Canton Hoover

*Jan. 5 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby

Of note: The Cardinals were 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game