Beyond winning games, Upper Arlington High School girls basketball coach Chris Savage wants all of his players to be "marketable" in case they want to play in college.
Sarah Poling isn't sure whether she will play at the next level, but the 5-foot-10 senior guard hopes she has proven to any school that's interested that she can do whatever they need.
Naturally a shooting guard, Poling also slides into either forward spot depending on personnel to become what Savage calls a "jack of all trades" for the Golden Bears, who were 10-3 overall before playing Olentangy on Jan. 9 and are 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division.
"I just try to fill my role the best I can at whatever position," said Poling, a three-year starter who came off the bench as a freshman. "I am more of a perimeter (player), so when I do play (power forward), I am not as much in the post as other taller players, but I try to do the best I can."
Through 12 games, Poling was averaging 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists, was the team's leader in assists with 39 and its third-leading rebounder with 52, behind Erisa Pippins (67) and Macy Spielman (55).
"Sarah is our jack of all trades," Savage said. "She runs the (small forward) when we go big with Adrienne (Wachtman) and Erisa. She can play the (power forward) and guard post players. She shoots well, she's a stretch forward and she can also rebound. She can have 10 or 12 rebounds per game."
Poling is a key part of UA's stingy defense that Savage said is predicated on its length given that all but two players are between 5-6 and 5-10. Guard Maddy Mead is 5-4, and guard Colleen Moore is 5-11.
The Bears were giving up an average of 38.7 points through 13 games, although an 83-62 loss to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 5 drove up that figure. Otherwise, UA was allowing 35.1 points per contest.
"We're pretty locked in defensively right now. That's the most important thing to me," Savage said. "When we're good, we're giving up 35 or 40 points a game. That's our goal every game. If we give up less than 40, we should win most games.
"We're winning different ways. We are happy with that. We don't have a huge, tall player, but we have a lot of length and experience. Right now, we are trying to play well. Whatever skills a team has will dictate our defense."
A 39.7-percent shooter from the floor (31-for-78) through 12 games, Poling downplays her scoring but is proudest of involving teammates in an offense that is virtually identical to last year, given that UA brought back the majority of its lineup.
"I want to bring positive energy and really focus on defense," she said. "I can be a 3-point shooter and I can drive, too, but I like to drive and distribute. We have a similar team to what we had last year. We're running the same offense and understanding the same things."
Having already played more than half of its 22-game regular season schedule, UA is seeking increased consistency before the second round of OCC-Central play begins Tuesday, Jan. 16, at home against Coffman.
"We're working on ways to be more consistent on both ends of the floor," Savage said. "I think we're pretty skilled. As long as we can be ourselves, we'll have a pretty good chance of winning. If our defensive effort is good, I'm happy no matter what the outcome is because it means we're playing hard."
Defense helping fuel boys basketball team
The boys basketball team is off to another strong start thanks in large part to its defense, which coach Tim Casey says is creating better and easier offensive opportunities.
UA was 10-0 overall before playing Olentangy on Jan. 9, having allowed 40.8 points per game while scoring 65.1. The Bears improved to 4-0 in the OCC-Central with a 75-36 win over Marysville on Jan. 5 as Dane Goodwin and Max Martz each scored a game-high 21 points, and remained unbeaten the next night with a 55-53, double-overtime win over Africentric in The Challenge at Pickerington North.
Will Grabovac hit a 12-foot shot at the buzzer to win the game, grabbing a rebound off a missed shot by Martz.
After the Marysville game, Casey lauded Grabovac's offensive rebounding prowess as well as that of the team. Grabovac had four offensive rebounds against Africentric and a total of 19 through 10 games.
"When we defend at a high level and we get out and run, we get some easy (baskets) and that gives us a lot of confidence," Casey said. "Shots will certainly go in at a higher percentage around the basket, but if they don't, we've shown we can get some offensive rebounds. Defense has been our strength, and offensively we are starting to shoot better. Dane is starting to shoot better. He's been scoring at the basket consistently and not as much from the perimeter. It's the same with Max, but they're getting better from outside."
Goodwin was averaging 24.6 points and 8.8 rebounds through 10 games and Martz was averaging 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
UA will try to complete a perfect first half of league play when it visits Coffman on Friday, Jan. 12. It then will compete in Flyin' to the Hoop for the second consecutive year, playing Huber Heights Wayne on Monday, Jan. 15, at Kettering Fairmont.
"This is a big stretch coming up," Casey said. "Guys are tired and not in their routine. They (were) not back to school yet (before Jan. 8). I like to practice more early (in the season) and prepare and kind of backload the schedule."
Hockey team trying to get healthy
Despite a slew of injuries that includes two of its top three scorers, the hockey team is hanging around .500 entering the final month of the regular season.
UA is 10-9-0-1 overall and 6-3 in the Capital Hockey Conference.
Brett LaBuhn and Cam Staub, who each had seven goals through 20 games -- two shy of Nate Skidmore's team-leading nine -- are out. Also sidelined because of injury are Jake Evans, Will Lawless, Michael Moul and Jamie Schuman.
Evans tore his left ACL during a football game Sept. 15 and is hoping to return later this month.
Lawless is expected to be out until early February with a broken leg.
"We still have talented kids healthy, but some of the teams we see will have four healthy lines and six defensemen. That's a lot to go up against," coach David Clarkson said. "Our guys are buying into what we want to see. They have good work ethic and a good attitude, and they know if they keep that up, we have a much better chance to be successful.
"When we get all these guys back, we will be a different team."
The injuries prevented UA from playing for the championship in the Lakewood St. Edward Eagle Classic that concluded Dec. 29. The Bears lost to Shaker Heights 3-0 on Dec. 27 and defeated New Albany 1-0 on Dec. 28, but opted not to play the host Eagles in the championship game the next day because they were shorthanded.
Coincidentally, St. Edward also pulled out of the final because playing in that game would have made them exceed their allotted amount of regular-season games.
New Albany instead took home the trophy, defeating Shaker Heights 2-1 in overtime Dec. 29.
UA split two games last weekend at OhioHealth Ice Haus, losing to St. Charles 2-1 in overtime on Jan. 5 and defeating Watterson 4-2 on Jan. 6.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 12 -- At Dublin Coffman
Jan. 15 -- Huber Heights Wayne in Flyin' to the Hoop at Kettering Fairmont
*Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Coffman. The Golden Bears lost to the Shamrocks 83-62 on Dec. 5.
Jan. 13 -- McGee Invitational at Coffman
Jan. 12-14 -- Mark Rasmus Memorial Tournament at Tam O'Shanter in Sylvania
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Davidson