Defense will be the key ingredient to the Westerville North High School girls basketball team's recipe for success.
The Warriors return two starters from last season, when they finished 7-16 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. Those starters are a pair of 5-foot-4 guards in junior Alyssa Wright and sophomore Imari Martin.
Senior Mikayla Martin, a 5-8 forward, was a part-time starter last year.
"We're going to be a pretty good defensive team, and our ceiling is pretty high compared to the last two seasons," said fifth-year coach Lamont Tillman, whose team opened Nov. 27 against Springfield Kenton Ridge. "Once again we're incorporating a bunch of girls that are new to the varsity level, including two freshmen. I think we're going to cause havoc on the defensive end. We have a good mix, and this is first time we'll be able to play inside-out."
The inside-out game comes in part from the emergence of 6-0 freshman forward Charia Smith. She helps give North an inside presence to go along with Wright and Imari Martin on the perimeter.
Wright was honorable mention all-district in Division I and second-team all-league last season, while Imari Martin was honorable mention all-league.
"Things have been looking good," Wright said. "We're coming together and improving every day in practice.
"We have a lot of athleticism. We have a lot of energy and positivity, and everyone wants to be here this year."
The Warriors lost one key player in junior guard Jalyse Cornley to a knee injury. Tillman called Cornley "our best athlete."
Trinity Hassey, a 5-2 guard, is the team's only other senior.
"We need to work on the execution of our plays, but as long as we stay positive, we'll be fine," Mikayla Martin said. "We need to make sure to pick each other up. I need to have a leadership role this year as a senior, and I need to make sure to pick my teammates up."
Juniors Sidney Beverley (6-0, center), Mollie Daubenmire (5-10, center), Nia Hassey (5-4, guard), Riley Nolder (5-5, guard) and Emylee Preston (5-5, guard) and freshman Lauren Hildebrand (6-0 forward) round out the roster.
"We need to get some varsity experience," said Tillman, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Olentangy Orange. "We definitely have more size than we have had since I have been here. That's something that's exciting to have.
"We need to be figuring out who is going to do the bulk of the scoring for us and to be finding different ways of putting points on the scoreboard. Sometimes we need to be a little more unselfish. We need to look for an alpha dog on the offensive end and find someone that we can look to for points."
Student-athletes make college selections
Four North student-athletes announced their college decisions Nov. 14.
Andrew Bernsdorf will compete in men's swimming and diving at Oakland (Michigan), Grace Heighway will play women's lacrosse at Walsh, Mitch Potterf will compete in wrestling at Army and Riley Welsheimer will play women's soccer at Ohio Dominican.
Nov. 27 -- vs. Springfield Kenton Ridge
Nov. 29 -- vs. Northland
*Dec. 4 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 7 -- at Westerville Central
*Dec. 14 -- at Olentangy
Dec. 17 -- vs. Licking Heights
Dec. 18 -- vs. New Albany
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 27 -- Logan in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein
Jan. 2 -- vs. DeSales
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Westerville South
Jan. 8 -- at Marysville
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Jan. 15 -- at Dublin Jerome
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Westerville Central
Jan. 22 -- at Upper Arlington
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Olentangy
Jan. 29 -- at Mount Vernon
*Feb. 1 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Feb. 2 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
Feb. 5 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 8 -- at Westerville South
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Nov. 30 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Dec. 1 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon
*Dec. 3 -- Westerville South at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Worthington Kickoff Classic Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 1 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 2 -- Lakewood St. Edward Quad
Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Columbus South, New Albany and St. Charles