Worthington Kilbourne High School girls basketball coach Steve Palmer was pleased with his team's defensive performance against Westerville North in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16.
However, the Wolves, seeded 36th of 43 teams, struggled with their shooting, rebounding and turnovers in a 58-33 loss to the sixth-seeded Warriors.
"We held (point guard) Symone Simmons to three points and she had 16 against us the last time (in a 61-38 loss on Feb. 8)," Palmer said. "We used a triangle-and-two defense and a 1-3 (zone) with a chaser. Unfortunately, it's tougher to rebound when you play zone. They hurt us with second and third chances and all of their putbacks."
Kilbourne, which finished 5-18 overall, had 13 first-half turnovers and trailed 30-16 at halftime against North, which improved to 21-1 and advanced to play ninth-seeded Pickerington North in the second round Feb. 20.
"We did a better job in the second half, but by then it was too late," Palmer said. "We also didn't shoot well, but give credit to (Westerville) North because they're athletic and aggressive and they made us rush some shots."
Junior guard Kayla Pack had 15 points to lead Kilbourne, which hasn't won a tournament game since the 2007-08 season.
The Wolves went 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place seventh, behind Westerville North (14-0), Dublin Scioto (9-5), Dublin Jerome (9-5), Hilliard Bradley (8-6), Westerville Central (7-7), Westerville South (5-9) and Hilliard Darby (4-10).
"We only won five games, same as last year, but I think we showed lots of improvement," Palmer said. "Instead of losing most games by 15 or 20 points like in the past, we were much more competitive. We lost maybe seven games by less than 10 points, and most of those were closer late in the game.
"Next year we have to take the next step and make our improvement show up in the win-loss column. Five of our top eight players will be back and the young girls adjusted to the physicality of the game, so we have to get over the hump next year."
The Wolves lose four seniors, including three starters in guards Lauren Barnhart and Mackenzie Wilson and post player Maria Calvert. Calvert averaged 4.2 points and four rebounds and was named honorable mention all-league.
Kilbourne expects to return two starters in Pack and junior guard Brianna Bell as well as freshmen Annie Mosca (guard), Carli Taute (wing player) and Sydney Warinner (post player/wing player).
Pack averaged 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds and was second-team all-league. Bell averaged 6.4 points and Taute averaged 7.8.
"The freshmen may have played more minutes than some of our senior starters, so we should have five girls coming back with lots of experience," Palmer said. "I think our future looks good. They all play AAU in the spring and I'm hoping we'll find some more toughness in the post for next season."
Cardinals fall in tourney opener
Thomas lost at 13th-seeded New Albany 41-30 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16 to finish 7-15 overall.
Seeded 31st, the Cardinals trailed 22-17 at halftime and 32-24 after three quarters. They had chances to make the score tighter but struggled from the field.
"It was just a bad shooting night," coach Laurie Barr said. "We had good looks at the basket, we were just cold. It's unfortunate that it happened in the tournament."
New Albany improved to 15-8 and advanced to play 17th-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the second round Feb. 20.
Thomas went 3-11 in the OCC-Central to place seventh, behind co-champions Dublin Coffman (12-2) and Hilliard Davidson (12-2), Liberty (9-5), Upper Arlington (8-6), Central Crossing (6-8) and Westland (6-8) and ahead of Marysville (0-14).
The Cardinals lose four seniors, including three starters in forwards Mariana Bonilla and Kamille Freeman and guard/forward Frannie Frazier.
Frazier, who has signed with Ball State University, averaged a team-high 14.8 points and also led the team in rebounding (10.0), steals (4.3) and assists (2.8). She was first-team all-league.
"She's been the staple of our program the past three years, leading us in every category," Barr said. "The girls relied on her to create something for them or make something on her own. She'll leave us with a large hole to fill.
"I think we have plenty of girls capable of stepping up, but they didn't do it this year in games. They kind of left Frannie to try to do it by herself. I hope they'll get comfortable and more confident in themselves and a little more physical. The five returnees all play AAU and they're going to have to work on fundamentals and gain more basketball IQ."
Among those expected to return are junior guard Laura Gomez, junior forwards Jenna Anderson and Ally Lucas and sophomore guards Jordan Fischbach and Francie Zidonis.
Gomez averaged 6.9 points, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals and was honorable mention all-league.
"I thought Gomez had a good season and Anderson and Lucas improved a lot and got more consistent as we went along," Barr said. "We need that to continue during the offseason so we can come back and build off this year."