Coach Jamie Puryear knew the New Albany High School girls basketball team had two things working against it -- the players are young and they're not particularly tall.

Coach Jamie Puryear knew the New Albany High School girls basketball team had two things working against it -- the players are young and they're not particularly tall.

There's no way to change either of those things this season, but Puryear believes his team can find ways to compensate for both. And it's pretty easy to believe him at the moment. Before playing Franklin Heights last Tuesday, the Eagles were 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital Division.

"We defined each kid's role after that first game (55-51 loss to Olentangy on Nov. 29), and we stressed to the kids about getting after it with a good attitude and basically playing with effort," Puryear said. "I think our effort has evolved and changed daily."

That effort has been a big reason why New Albany has been able to survive against taller teams despite its own lack of size. From day one, rebounding has been a point of emphasis for this team, which starts just one player taller than 5-foot-9.

"We just work on it constantly in practice," guard Hannah Robertson said. "All we do is rebound, rebound, rebound in all the drills in practice. We just work on it, constantly beating on people to box out, not just get the rebound, but box out first and then get the rebound."

Since the loss to Olentangy, the Eagles have outrebounded every opponent, most of which have had the size advantage. Every coach stresses boxing out, but it is particularly important for the Eagles. Puryear said his team's strategy on the boards has been to have the post players, including Elyse Naddaff, Ayana Colvin-Jones and Abby Barwig, clear out the lane with their box-out as the guards swoop in to collect the rebounds.

Lately, though, Puryear said his inside players have been able to step in and grab plenty of rebounds of their own, particularly in a 47-40 win Dec. 16 over Westerville South, one of the area's taller teams inside.

"The only thing we're basically asking our bigs to do is make sure they're keeping bodies on every shot attempt and getting their man out of the lane, and allowing the guards to clean up the rebounds for them," Puryear said. "But I think (against South), our bigs really stepped up. Abby Barwig along with Elyse Naddaff played major, key roles for us in rebounding the ball, and I can't be anything but super-proud of their effort."

Compensating for the Eagles' second issue, their youth, has been a work in progress. The Eagles have just one senior and have four sophomores who play significant minutes. Even in their wins, they admittedly have had stretches where they lost focus and composure and allowed opponents to sneak back into the game. Against South, for example, New Albany was outscored 13-4 in the second quarter and trailed by five at halftime.

The Eagles did gain some valuable experience in dealing with crunch-time situations in that game. After winning the three previous games by at least 17 points, they had to come up with key stops and hit pressure free throws in the final few minutes. The Eagles limited South to seven fourth-quarter points and went 5-for-6 on free throws in the last two minutes.

"I think it definitely gives us confidence, because to win a close game like that against Westerville South is good for us because we're such a young team," Robertson said. "Because our team is so young, people need to have that confidence that we can win and we can beat a good team."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the New Albany girls basketball team:

*Dec. 12 -- Defeated Watkins Memorial 71-19. Haley Robertson scored 16 points, Hannah Robertson had 13 and Madi Miller and Ayana Colvin-Jones had 10.

Dec. 16 -- Def. Westerville South 47-40. Haley Robertson had 19 points and Hannah Robertson added 17.

*Last Friday -- Def. Olentangy Orange 53-39. Hannah Robertson scored 18 points, Haley Robertson had 15 and Colvin-Jones added nine.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Franklin Heights

Monday -- At Otterbein vs. Westerville Central

Of note: The Eagles were 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital before last Tuesday

*OCC-Capital game