The Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team was looking to start a new winning streak when it played host to Hilliard Darby on Jan. 9 in its first game in 2018.
The Cardinals opened the season by winning their first five games, but then dropped their final four contests of 2017.
"With just three returnees, including two starters, we have many first-year varsity players on a learning curve," said coach Laurie Barr, whose team was 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing the Panthers. "They started well and in every game at least one of (the newcomers) was stepping up.
"But then we had four girls suffer concussions in a two-week span when we played six games. We didn't have as much depth and we were in a busy part of the schedule. That made a big difference."
The losing streak began Dec. 22 with a 76-54 league loss at Dublin Scioto. Non-league losses to Watterson (52-40 on Dec. 23), Teays Valley (49-47 in overtime Dec. 29) and Gahanna (60-44 on Dec. 30) followed.
The Cardinals were hoping to be back at full strength against Darby in preparation for playing host to Kilbourne in a league contest Friday, Jan. 12. That game will be at 6 p.m., ahead of the Thomas-Kilbourne boys game.
"Both teams always raise their level of intensity for that game because we are rival schools playing against friends within the community," said Barr, whose team beat the Wolves 41-34 on Dec. 4 behind 13 points from senior guard Jazzlynn Gaiters and nine points from junior guard Breanne Beatty. "It makes it fun to play against a team where the players, coaches, relatives and other relationships know each other well."
Despite the Cardinals' injuries, Gaiters and Beatty have been constants in the lineup.
Gaiters scored 23 points against Scioto, two fewer than her season high against Licking Heights in a 54-41 win in the opener Nov. 28. Through nine games, she was averaging 17.1 points and 10.5 rebounds and was shooting 50.8 percent from the floor.
"Jazzlyn does a good job playing to her strengths," Barr said. "She is a phenomenal rebounder as a guard and goes to the boards strong and consistently. She's a difficult matchup for opponents because she has really improved her outside shot and can get to the basket."
Beatty scored a season-best 25 points against Watterson and had 21 points in a 56-42 league win over Delaware on Dec. 19. Through nine games, she was averaging 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and was shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 74.6 percent from the free-throw line.
"Breanne is an all-position player," Barr said. "Last year, she played some as an undersized post player. Now she sometimes runs the (point) and is a calming influence on offense, but she plays defense in the post because she can protect the basket."
Senior guard/forward Maddy Miles, who missed most of last season with an injury, also has been consistent, according to Barr.
In the post, senior MiSharita Holt, junior Haley Byrnes and sophomore Hannah Scott have shared time, but all have had concussions. In addition, Scott missed time because of illness and sophomore guard Brooke Ackley was unavailable over the holidays because she was out of town with her family.
"I'm really looking forward to getting everyone back and seeing if we can get back on track like we were early this season," Barr said. "The younger girls have gotten some experience after being thrown into the fire and it's time to see if they can provide consistent contributions."
Entering the week, Thomas was second in the OCC-Cardinal standings, behind Scioto (5-0) and ahead of Darby and Dublin Jerome (both 3-2), Hilliard Bradley (2-3), Kilbourne (1-5) and Delaware (0-5).
Boys basketball team snaps five-game skid
The boys basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Toledo Woodward 74-43 in its first game during the second annual Stephen Gussler Holiday Invitational on Dec. 28.
The Cardinals lost to Chillicothe 41-37 the following day in the event and then opened the 2018 portion of their schedule with an 83-53 loss at Gahanna on Jan. 6.
Thomas was 2-7 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing at Darby on Jan. 9.
The Cardinals, who defeated Whetstone 43-34 in their opener Dec. 2, led Woodward 24-10 after the first quarter and 37-22 at halftime en route to ending their skid.
Junior forward Ben Wight had 24 points against Woodward. Freshman guard Jamal Settles scored 17 and junior guard Charlie Mamlin added 14.
In addition to the close loss to Chillicothe, Thomas dropped a 46-44 decision to Delaware in league action Dec. 19.
The Cardinals will play host to Kilbourne on Friday, Jan. 12, in a league contest.
Hockey team stands second in league
The hockey team, which is 4-8-0 overall and 3-5-0 in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division, will step away from league play this weekend when it competes in the Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament at OBM Arena in Strongsville.
The tournament begins Saturday, Jan. 13, and concludes Monday, Jan. 15.
The Cardinals have six points in league play and are second in the CHC-Blue behind Watterson (9, 4-3-0) and ahead of DeSales (2, 1-8-0) and Gahanna (0, 0-8-0).
David LaLonde, Will Pischel and Nick Schriner have led the Cardinals in scoring. LaLaonde has a team-best 13 points with six goals and seven assists. Pischel and Schriner both have scored seven goals. Pischel has 11 points and Schriner has 10.
Evan Kendall has seven points, including three goals, and Sam Hartwick also has three goals.
Goaltender Jorge Bare is 3-8 with a 4.62 goal-against average and an .866 save percentage. He has 304 saves and has allowed 47 goals.
Bowlers facing busy schedule
The bowling teams had a sparse early-season schedule and then had a Jan. 5 match against Centennial postponed.
The boys and girls teams both are 0-2 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-B Division entering a match against Groveport on Thursday, Jan. 11, at Capri Lanes. The match doubles as the Cardinals' OCC-Cardinal opener.
That will be the first of four matches in a seven-day span, culminating with the Centennial makeup Wednesday, Jan. 17, at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
Nate Johnson leads the Cardinals with a 211 game average, followed by Peri Kargiotis (137.1) and Luka Srsic (133.3). Samantha Haunty (119.9) and Izabella Vazquez (117.4) lead the girls team.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
Jan. 15 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Kilbourne. The Cardinals beat the Wolves 41-34 on Dec. 4.
Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Jan. 11 -- Groveport at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 12 -- Lancaster at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 16 -- Columbus Academy at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 17 -- Centennial at Sequoia Pro Bowl in makeup from Jan. 5
Jan. 11 -- At Teays Valley
Jan. 13 -- Hudson and Strongsville in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament at OBM Arena in Strongsville
Jan. 14 -- Oxford Talawanda in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament
Jan. 15 -- TBD in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 17 -- Marysville at Union County YMCA
Jan. 12-13 -- Licking Heights Invitational