The role Lilly Edwards has been asked to play for much of her career on the Dublin Coffman High School girls basketball team hasn't changed much.
A 6-foot senior forward who has grown only about one inch since she was 14 years old, Edwards has been a key player for the Shamrocks since becoming a starter about 15 games into her freshman season.
As her skills on the court have improved, so has her leadership as the most experienced member of a five-player senior class for one of the Central District's top teams.
"My ball-handling definitely got a lot better over the summer, and something I used to struggle with is my distance shooting, and that's improved as well," Edwards said. "More than anything else, my confidence has built up."
Edwards, who averaged 10 points and eight rebounds and was named first-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district a year ago, had one of the best games of her career when she had 27 points and 14 rebounds in an 83-62 victory over Upper Arlington on Dec. 5.
She had 10 points before suffering an ankle injury midway through the third quarter of a game against defending Division I state champion Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame on Dec. 9. The Shamrocks were leading by four points when she left the game, but they went on to lose 59-53.
Coffman won its next two games without Edwards in the lineup.
The Shamrocks were 6-1 overall before playing Zanesville on Dec. 20 and are 3-0 in the OCC-Central heading into their game Thursday, Dec. 21, against Marysville. Edwards was hoping to return to action against Zanesville.
"She's a lot more skilled (than in past years)," coach Bryan Patton said. "She used to be more of a back-to-the-basket type of kid, which she still can be, but she can put it on the deck. Her ball-handling is a lot better. From 15-17 feet, she's a very good shooter. When she gets to 15 feet, it's a high-percentage shot for her. She's retained her athleticism and skill, and her overall basketball IQ has improved. She's gotten better off the ball, which is why she's as versatile as she is. She defends well and is strong and competitive."
Edwards was averaging 14.5 points before her injury.
"Everyone wanting to win so badly carries us through," Edwards said. "My biggest thing is, of course, rebounding to defending the bigger girls, but more than anything else, (I try to keep my teammates staying) positive."
Coffman beat Westland 90-31 on Dec. 15 as junior guard Jacy Sheldon had 33 points and defeated Eastmoor Academy 79-45 on Dec. 16 behind 40 points from Sheldon.
Sheldon was averaging 27 points through seven games and senior guard Dana Axner was averaging 11.5.
While Sheldon has committed to Ohio State and Axner will play women's volleyball for Florida Gulf Coast, Edwards announced Dec. 14 that she'll play basketball for Baldwin Wallace, where she's hoping to study to become a nurse.
"She's a really good player," Patton said. "A lot of nights outside of Jacy, she's the second-best player on the floor."
Hurt returns to lead gymnasts
There are four athletes competing on the gymnastics team this season, including one of the state's best in senior Bethany Hurt.
On Dec. 16, Hurt won the all-around (36.575) as the Shamrocks finished 13th (76.7) in the 14-team Hilliard Invitational at Davidson, behind champion Dresden Tri-Valley (131.15).
Hurt finished first on floor exercise (9.025), balance beam (9.225), uneven bars (9.05) and vault (9.275).
"Bethany looks really good this year," said second-year coach Kristen Willms, who also coaches Jerome and Scioto. "I would have loved to have added some kids this year, but it just wasn't in the cards. ... I'm really pleased with the girls who have decided to return. They're good leaders and represent our program very well. I look forward to seeing this group grow over the next few years."
Also returning from last season when the Shamrocks tied for sixth in the OCC-Central and finished 23rd in the district meet are junior Lauren Delfunt and sophomores Claire Connelly and Allexia Dempsey.
"I would love to see the girls achieve a lot of their personal goals and also to be able to put all four girls in the all-around to achieve a team score," Willms said. "It takes four scores on each event to make a complete team score, so that puts a lot of pressure on all the girls to compete in the all-around."
Boys basketball team off to perfect start
The boys basketball team survived its toughest test to date to move to 5-0 overall.
On Dec. 16, the Shamrocks got 21 points from sophomore guard Dominiq Penn and eight apiece from senior forward Nick Carlson and junior wing player Derek Van Vlerah in a 56-53 win at Reynoldsburg. Carlson battled foul trouble and didn't score in the second half.
It marked the second consecutive game in which the Shamrocks didn't have junior forward Will Hunter, who averaged 10.3 points over the first three games before suffering an injury.
Hunter could be available when Coffman returns to OCC-Central action Friday, Dec. 22, at Marysville. The Shamrocks are 2-0 in the league.
"I told them (Reynoldsburg) is one of the most difficult places we play," coach Jamey Collins said. "Their talent, their style, (Reynoldsburg coach Scott Davis') coaching, it's a really, really hard game for us to play. This is big with us not having Will, who you could argue was playing better than anybody else since the beginning of the year."
Coffman follows the game against Marysville by playing host to Massillon Perry on Saturday, Dec. 23. It then will face Dover on Dec. 28 and Toledo Woodward on Dec. 29 in the Stephen Gussler Invitational at Thomas Worthington.
Woodward was a Division II district runner-up last season.
Penn is averaging a team-high 17.2 points, followed by Carlson (12.6). Other key scorers have included junior guard Luke Bartemes (8.4), Van Vlerah (8.0) and senior forward Trevor Grady (7.2).
"Just being around the kids every day has been outstanding," Collins said. "They're just a really focused group and play well together. They trust each other a ton. Our leading scorer won't care if our third-leading scorer takes a shot. It's about trying to get the right shot."
Dec. 13 -- at Marysville
Dec. 16 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 3 -- Big Walnut, Olentangy and Westerville Central at Worthington Youth Boosters
Jan. 6 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 11 -- Beauty & the Beast at Kilbourne
Jan. 13 -- McGee Invitational at home
Jan. 17 -- vs. Davidson, Delaware, Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Darby
Jan. 19 -- Buckeye Valley, Kilbourne, Thornville Sheridan, Upper Arlington and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Trics Academy
Jan. 27 -- Dresden Tri-Valley Invitational
Jan. 31 -- at Thomas Worthington with Westerville Central
Feb. 3 -- Olentangy at Central Ohio Gymnastics & Cheerleading
Feb. 7 -- vs. Central Crossing, Grove City, Upper Arlington and Westland
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Central meet at Davidson
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 22 -- At Marysville
Dec. 23 -- Home vs. Massillon Perry
*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Marysville
*Dec. 22 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Dublin
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- At New Albany
Dec. 22 -- Delaware at Dublin Recreation Center
Dec. 27-28 -- Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament at Vandalia Butler