The Olentangy High School girls basketball team floundered without 6-foot wing/post player Christine Delaney last year. The Braves finished 6-15 overall after losing 56-37 to Gahanna in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

The Olentangy High School girls basketball team floundered without 6-foot wing/post player Christine Delaney last year. The Braves finished 6-15 overall after losing 56-37 to Gahanna in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

They were 5-6 when Delaney was in the lineup and 1-11 when she was recovering from the ACL injury she sustained in a 65-64 loss to Liberty on Dec. 19.

"One of the things I learned is that sometimes there are things you can't control," Delaney said. "We were really young last year, but I think we've improved a lot this season. We built a lot of teamwork for this season."

Delaney, a first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division selection who recently committed to Lake Erie College, averaged 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in 11 games.

The senior leads the list of returnees for the Braves, who open the season Friday against Buckeye Valley at Ohio Wesleyan University and play host to Big Walnut, a Division II regional semifinalist last year, on Tuesday.

"(Delaney's injury) made the young players grow up in a hurry," coach John Feasel said. "A lot of our players got some floor experience and right now we're seeing the dividends of that."

Juniors Emily Raiff (5-6, point guard), Jamie Richardson (5-6, guard), Embrye Cheek (5-7, wing/post) and Olivia Zwayer (5-10, wing) and sophomore Nicole Payne (5-7, guard) all return after seeing significant playing time last year. Raiff, who averaged 5.6 ppg and 2.8 assists, was honorable mention all-OCC.

Richardson (7 ppg) and Payne (6.1 ppg) helped Olentangy make 77 3-pointers last season. While guard Morgan Dieck (4.2 ppg) made 22 3-pointers last season, graduated, Payne made 24 and Richardson added 22.

Feasel also expects solid support from sophomores Allison Brown (6-0, post) and Kelsey Arnold (5-7, guard) and freshmen Lydia Hyburg (6-2, post), Brooke Zwayer (5-10, guard) and Brigid Feasel (5-9, wing/post).

"One of the keys for us is going to be getting opponents to play at our tempo," coach Feasel said. "There are a lot of teams who will either walk it up the floor or try to beat you out of the gym with fast breaks.

"We spent a lot of time this summer trying to push a lot more than we have in the past. We have three or four solid ball-handlers who can push the ball up the floor."

Taking care of the basketball could help Olentangy improve on last season's 5-9 finish in the OCC-Cardinal.

Olentangy tied Westerville North for fifth behind Dublin Scioto (14-0), Westerville South (11-3), Dublin Jerome (9-5) and Olentangy Liberty (8-6), and ahead Marysville (3-11) and Westerville Central (1-13).

The Irish, who went 87-10 over the last four years, lost four players to graduation, including Brandi Gorniak and Dani Hess. The two were named co-Players of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal and were second-team all-district. Gorniak averaged 16.7 ppg, 3.9 assists and 3.6 steals. Hess averaged 15.8 ppg, 3.8 assists and 3 steals.

"Westerville South might be the most talented team in the league, but until someone knocks off Scioto, they are the best team in the league," Feasel said.

"We're going have to play good defense every night."

At a glance

•Coach: John Feasel, seventh season

•Opener: Friday vs. Buckeye Valley at Ohio Wesleyan University

•Key players: Embrye Cheek, Christine Delaney, Nicole Payne, Emily Raiff, Jamie Richardson and Olivia Zwayer

Schedule

Nov. 27 vs. Buckeye Valley in Dela-ware County Classic (Ohio Wesleyan)

Dec. 1 vs. Big Walnut

*Dec. 4 vs. Westerville North

*Dec. 8 vs. Dublin Scioto

*Dec. 11 at Marysville

*Dec. 19 at Liberty

*Dec. 22 vs. Dublin Jerome

Dec. 28-30 at Walt Disney World

*Jan. 5 at Westerville Central

*Jan. 8 vs. Westerville South

*Jan. 15 at Westerville North

Jan. 19 at Delaware

*Jan. 22 at Dublin Scioto

*Jan. 26 vs. Marysville

*Jan. 30 vs. Liberty

*Feb. 2 at Dublin Jerome

*Feb. 5 vs. Westerville Central

*Feb. 12 at Westerville South

*OCC-Cardinal game