Mackenzie Wilson seemingly had little choice when it came to playing basketball.
The 5-foot-8 senior guard for the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls basketball team has grown up in a household where the sport is revered.
"My dad (Jeff) played basketball in high school and college," Wilson said. "I have an older brother (Justin) and three older sisters (Courtney, Devon and Aubrey) who all played at Kilbourne. I couldn't help but like the game because I was around basketball games and practices my whole life. I learned so much just by watching."
Wilson admitted she's not quite the scorer that some of her siblings were, but coach Steve Palmer said her impact on the team can't be measured solely by her offensive statistics.
"She kind of goes under the radar on our opponents' scouting reports," he said. "She doesn't score a lot, maybe six to eight points per game. She doesn't have outstanding averages in any one category. But, in Christmas terms, she's a stocking stuffer. She gets stats in every category. She does so many things consistently for us, maybe three or four rebounds, two steals and three assists and countless loose balls and deflections."
Wilson also contributes with her leadership, serving as one of the team's captains.
"Mackenzie has stepped up her game and is a strong leader for us," Palmer said. "She is dedicated to helping her teammates any way possible. She's fantastic in the locker room because of her happy-go-lucky attitude. During the summer when most parents are working and some girls had trouble getting rides to the gym, she'd be offering everyone rides.
"She did that again during the holiday break, making sure everyone was on the same page, could get to practice and could work hard to improve as a team. She's just a glue type of girl that everyone would love to have on their team."
Palmer is hoping the team's progression will quicken now that the Wolves are back at full strength. Injuries forced their leading scorer, junior guard Kayla Pack, as well as junior guard Brianna Bell and 6-0 freshman post player Sydney Warinner to miss some time.
Kilbourne improved to 4-7 by beating Thomas Worthington 51-47 in the Worthington Holiday Invitational on Dec. 28. Four of its losses were by 11 points or fewer.
"A play or two here or there and instead of being (3-7, we could be 5-5 or 6-4)," Palmer said, referring to losses to DeSales (59-51 on Nov. 30), Westerville South (34-25 on Dec. 7), Westerville Central (43-39 on Dec. 14) and Hilliard Darby (56-45 on Dec. 18). "Even though we lost to Darby by 11, we had our chances."
Wilson believes the Wolves are capable of turning around their season.
"We had six new faces and some injuries, so the on-floor chemistry is just starting to build now," she said. "We had a good lead (against Westerville Central), but it seemed like we didn't play as hard after we got the lead as we did when we built the lead. We've got to make sure we finish games strong and have a successful season. That starts in practice."
Palmer said one of the keys to the Wolves winning more games is improving their perimeter shooting.
"We've seen more zone (defenses by opponents) this season than we have in my five previous seasons (as coach) combined," he said. "Our outside shooting has gone as cold as the weather has gone. We need to make a few (perimeter shots), see the ball go through the basket, to change our mindset and regain our confidence.
"Otherwise, we'll continue to see zone defenses the rest of the season."
Cardinals rebound from slow start
Thomas won only one of its first four games but was 4-5 after losing to Kilbourne in the Worthington Holiday Invitational.
The Cardinals defeated Columbus School for Girls 56-33 on Dec. 27 in the holiday tournament, as junior guard Laura Gomez scored 16 points, senior guard/forward Frannie Frazier scored 11 and junior forward Ally Lucas scored 10.
Thomas beat Marysville 64-61 on Dec. 21 in an OCC-Central Division game. Senior forward Maria Bonilla had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Frazier had 12 points and 12 rebounds.