Mary Kate Campbell was somewhat concerned after the Watterson High School girls basketball team lost five seniors to graduation.

Mary Kate Campbell was somewhat concerned after the Watterson High School girls basketball team lost five seniors to graduation.

Campbell, a 6-foot senior post player, became even more concerned when four other players, who were expected to be key contributors this season, decided to concentrate on other sports other than basketball.

However, Campbell's fears have been eased over the first three weeks of practice. She has witnessed how hard her younger teammates are working and how quickly her squad is building chemistry.

"I was definitely kind of worried at first, because we've lost so much experience and then some other people didn't come back," Campbell said. "We are a really young and inexperienced team compared to where we've been the past few years, but we're really starting to play well together and we're a lot further ahead of where people expected us to be at this point. This is the most focused team we've had.

"Last year, we based a lot of our play on our athleticism. This year, we're focused on the fundamentals, like passing and putting up good screens, and I think we're going to surprise some people."

Watterson opens Saturday at Dublin Scioto and plays Tuesday at Hilliard Davidson. It finished 21-3 overall last season, after losing to Dublin Coffman 41-22 in a Division I district final.

Among the players the Eagles lost to graduation were starters Cami Frommeyer, Daiva Gerbec and Melissa Gilliland. Gerbec averaged 14 points per game last season and was named third-team all-district. Gilliland was honorable mention all-district.

Watterson returns four letterwinners in Campbell, 6-0 senior post player Domini Paradiso, 5-7 senior shooting guard Liz Englehart and 5-9 junior point guard Courtney Haley. All four are expected to be starters.

Campbell, who averaged 3.5 ppg last season, signed a national letter of intent on Nov. 12 to play basketball at Tiffin. Haley averaged 10.1 ppg last season and Paradiso averaged 3.2 ppg.

Margaret Masty, a 5-6 junior forward, also is expected to start.

"Courtney's a second-year starter, who we're moving from a shooting guard position to make use of her ball-handling skills," ninth-year coach Tom Woodford said. "Domini and Mary Kate both started about half our games last season. They've both got the skill to play on the perimeter, too, so we'll use them in a high-low post."

Coming off the bench will be junior guard Caitlyn Tuttle (5-3), sophomore post player Celeste Cantwell (5-9) and sophomore guards Ashley Andracki (5-6) and Regina Smith (5-7).

"Our kids have had a lot of success here in the fall and they want it to continue with basketball," Woodford said. "Liz and Domini were part of our state champion field hockey team. Mary Kate was part of our soccer team that made it to a district final, and Margaret made it to a district final as part of our volleyball team."

Watterson won its second consecutive CCL title outright last season, going 9-1 and finishing ahead of DeSales (8-2), Ready (6-4), Hartley (4-6), Columbus School for Girls (3-7) and Worthington Christian (0-10).

The Eagles open league play on Dec. 12 at home against Ready.

"I've heard people say we should finish third in the CCL because of who we lost, but I think we've got a shot at contending again," Woodford said. "Ready probably has the most experience, but DeSales is strong and athletic, too, so it's going to be up for grabs."

Seeded ninth in the district tournament last season, Watterson opened with a 58-30 win over Westerville Central. The Eagles then defeated Central Crossing 41-26 in the second round and edged eighth-seeded Grove City 48-43 in a district semifinal before losing to top-seeded Coffman.

"We've improved the strength of our non-league schedule to prepare us for our league games and the district tournament," Woodford said. "We're flying under the radar a little bit right now, and that's fine with me. People might not be familiar with some of our new players, but these girls played together so much during the summer, and they made the transition they needed to make it back then. We're just looking forward to start of the season."

Schedule

Nov. 28 at Dublin Scioto

Dec. 1 at Hilliard Davidson

Dec. 5 vs. Marion Pleasant

Dec. 9 vs. Chillicothe

*Dec. 12 vs. Ready

*Dec. 19 at DeSales

Dec. 21 at Logan

Dec. 28 vs. Hilliard Darby

Dec. 29 vs. Rocky River Magnificat

*Jan. 6 at Columbus School for Girls

*Jan. 9 vs. Hartley

Jan. 13 vs. Pickerington North

*Jan. 16 vs. Worthington Christian

*Jan. 20 at Ready

*Jan. 23 vs. DeSales

Jan. 26 at Teays Valley

*Jan. 30 vs. Columbus School for Girls

*Feb. 6 at Hartley

Feb. 9 vs. Gahanna

*Feb. 13 at Worthington Christian

*CCL game