Getting over the hump has proved to be a little more difficult than the New Albany High School basketball team would have liked.

Getting over the hump has proved to be a little more difficult than the New Albany High School basketball team would have liked.

It appeared the Eagles finally had made it after a 52-49 win Jan. 20 over Upper Arlington, which was seventh in the Division I state poll at the time. But four days later, the progress seemed to stall once again as they lost to Hilliard Darby 56-38. Darby entered the game at just 4-7.

"Upper Arlington was a big win and maybe our heads were a little full," forward Peter Kobelt said.

New Albany enters the final seven games of the regular season without momentum, but it does have some positive signs. The Eagles can't live off the win over UA, but coach Sam Davis said they can learn from what went well in that game.

"They gained the belief in what we've been telling them, that when we do execute down the stretch, we're going to win games," Davis said. "We made free throws. We only had eight turnovers, and we've been averaging double-figure turnovers."

The Eagles also gained some confidence in their ability to pull out close games, which is something they had struggled with to that point. Before playing UA, New Albany was 0-3 in games decided by three or fewer points, including a 55-53 loss to Mount Vernon on Jan. 16. Against UA, New Albany rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter and won the game on a 3-pointer by Kobelt with three seconds remaining.

"We all huddled together and said that we've had our fair share of bad luck, and it was our turn to win a big game," Kobelt said. "We all had that frame of mind that we were going to win this game."

Last Saturday, Kobelt said it seemed that New Albany was unable to match Darby's intensity from the outset. The Eagles still trailed just 31-29 entering the fourth quarter, but Darby pulled away.

Neither UA nor Darby were OCC-Capital Division opponents, however, leaving New Albany at 1-5 in the league before playing Watkins Memorial last Tuesday. Entering last Tuesday, the Eagles were in sixth place, but as evenly matched as the division has been, they still should be able to make a run toward the upper half if they can put together a strong finish.

Olentangy Orange was first at 6-1, followed by Franklin Heights (5-2), Mount Vernon (5-2), Big Walnut (4-3), Delaware (3-4) and New Albany and Watkins Memorial (0-7).

Part of the reason Davis and his players are confident they can be a factor in the league down the stretch is because they finally have found a steady rotation of eight or nine players. After a shoulder injury last month to point guard Steven Chang, who likely won't return this season, the Eagles struggled to adjust their lineup.

Now, though, Davis said senior Chase Sutton has settled into the starting point guard spot. With Sutton at point guard, Ryan Mayle has seen increased action at the other guard spot and was averaging 9.8 points over the past five games before last Tuesday. Scott McDonald has continued to start at center, and Jeffrey Ware and Wes McKeever each have provided solid minutes at power forward, allowing Kobelt to slide back to his natural small forward spot.

"The kids are starting to play together a little bit," Davis said. "Since Steven's been hurt, we've had four or five different lineups. We're really kind of sticking now to about eight or nine players. It's that time of year where everyone has a chance to get into that top eight or nine. So we're beginning to play more like a team."