Laurie Barr had no illusions of how successful her young Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team would be this season.
What she envisioned was a building season full of growth.
After going 1-8 before the turn of the year, the Cardinals have begun to display progress, going 3-3 since. They are 4-11 overall and 2-7 in the OCC-Central Division entering a league contest Friday, Jan. 24, at Westland.
"We have continued to work on the basic fundamentals and the girls are working very hard in practice to get better, and I think that's showing during the games now," Barr said. "It's fun to see it happen. There are times when we've cut our turnovers in half, or have had great rebounding success. We're much more active on the defensive end and our decision-making has improved greatly. There have been improvements across the board.
"What we need to do now is to take those individual games where we've played great in some areas and make that happen on a consistent basis. From there, you want to continue to get better in all areas and make that a normal routine."
The Cardinals won three of their first four games in 2014, beating Central Crossing 32-22 on Jan. 3 and Hilliard Davidson 48-46 on Jan. 8 in league games before losing a league contest to Olentangy Liberty 52-19 on Jan. 10 and beating Dublin Scioto 39-28 on Jan. 14.
Thomas then lost to Upper Arlington 48-42 in a league game Jan. 17 and fell to Kilbourne 60-55 on Jan. 18. But even the losses have been improvements. The Cardinals lost to UA 57-23 in the first round of league play Dec. 23 and to Kilbourne 46-33 on Dec. 28 in the Worthington Holiday Classic.
Freshman point guard Jada Sleet scored 17 points in the rematch against Kilbourne. Seniors Jenna Anderson and Laura Gomez scored 13 and 10, respectively.
"Of our top six players, two are seniors and two are freshmen," Barr said. "We knew it would take some time to develop chemistry and for them to learn the tendencies of their teammates. But they're getting there now."
The other freshman in the top six is guard Jenna Rao. Also in that top rotation are junior guard Jordan Fischbach and sophomore forward Matrina Parks.
Anderson scored 11 points and Sleet had nine against UA, which outscored Thomas 16-10 in the fourth quarter. Sleet scored 12 and Anderson had 10 against Scioto.
Pack coming up big for Kilbourne
Senior guard Kayla Pack has put the scoring burden on her shoulders in recent games, as Kilbourne won three of four to improve to 10-5 overall and 5-4 in the OCC-Capital entering a home league game Friday, Jan. 24, against Mount Vernon.
Pack scored 28 points in the second win over Thomas after scoring 26 in a 45-44 league loss to Delaware on Jan. 17. She scored 22 points, including a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer, in a 46-44 league victory over New Albany on Jan. 14.
"I'm getting more points, but that's because my teammates are all stepping up and playing really well right now," Pack said. "Annie Mosca is making big plays on defense and offense. Our post players, Jordyn Wilson and Hailee Wilhelm, are scoring more and also rebounding real well, which leads to our transition game, and I've been able to score more in transition.
"Carli Taute had been leading us offensively lately, but then she turned an ankle and missed the last two games and everyone stepped up. I knew I had to score more with Carli out."
Pack stole an inbounds pass near midcourt before her winning basket against New Albany. She scored eight points in the fourth quarter, and Taute had 15 points.
Pack scored 16 in the fourth against Delaware to help the Wolves rally from a 13-point deficit. Sophomore guard Kylie Kott made a 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 44-43 lead with 38 seconds left, but Delaware's Kristen McMillen made a basket with 20 seconds to go for the winning points.
"I had a chance to win the game and Annie Mosca got me the ball on the wing. I reversed dribbled and spun into the middle and tried to float a layup in, but it rimmed out," Pack said. "That was a bummer. Kristin McMillen is one of my good friends and that would've been a special win."
Pack got scoring help from Wilhelm and Kott against Thomas, as both added seven.
"Kylie Kott made some crucial elbow jumpers against Thomas," Pack said. "That's what I mean. Everyone is playing well. I may be scoring more, but it's due to our team playing well. We need to keep playing like we are and we will really have a strong finish."