New Albany High School girls basketball coach Jamie Puryear jumped at the chance to bring his team to the KeyBank Holiday Classic at Pickerington North in part because of what it represents for his growing program.

New Albany High School girls basketball coach Jamie Puryear jumped at the chance to bring his team to the KeyBank Holiday Classic at Pickerington North in part because of what it represents for his growing program.

"This is a huge honor for us, and not only for our basketball team, but for our whole district," said Puryear, whose team was 2-1 before playing Westerville South last Tuesday. "It's an honor to be invited to participate in such a prestigious holiday tournament."

The Eagles are competing in Division I for the first time this season. A tournament like the Key Bank Holiday Classic provides them with a glimpse of not only some of the top national teams, but a chance to see a Pickerington North team that has been a perennial power in Division I.

"That is the program that we're going after," said Puryear, whose team opens Friday against Solon. "It's considered the best program in the district. If you ever want to be a successful team in this district, that is the program you have to get by."

New Albany and North would play a second-round game if New Albany wins and North beats Morgantown (W.Va.).

New Albany has been a Division II district finalist in each of the last two years. The Eagles are led by twin sisters Haley and Hannah Robertson. The 5-foot-8 guards are both going to Miami University next season and are solid all-around players.

Last year Hannah led the team in scoring (17.8), rebounding (7.5) and assists (4.8). Haley averaged 13.5 points, second most on the team, and 2.5 rebounds.

They're the focal point of a starting lineup that also includes junior guard Maddie Miller (5-8) and junior post player Elyse Naddaff (5-11). The Eagles also start freshman point guard Hannah Scipio (5-4).

With Naddaff as the lone post player, the Eagles primarily use a four-guard lineup. Hannah Robertson's rebounding instincts and athletic ability allow Puryear to use her to defend bigger post players if needed. That allows New Albany to play with four guards.

Haley is known for her strong perimeter defense.

The Eagles are hoping the holiday tournament can give them a good gauge for what the postseason could be like in Division I.

"It's going to be extremely challenging," Naddaff said. "The teams are going to be really good, and we're not used to playing them in our league. It's a good experience to see how good the teams really are out there. We'll get a chance to play those kinds of teams again if we get to the state tournament."

New Albany's bench only has first-year players. Some the key contributors through the first three games of the season have been freshmen Chrissy Harris (5-7), Cheyenne Hartley-Carr (5-7) and Emily Rowling (5-10).

Also on the roster are juniors Kristen Hopson (5-9) and Olivia Moler (5-7) and freshmen Ally Helten (5-2), Chrissy Harris (5-7), Katie Hernandez (5-3), Hannah Inman (5-4), Meghan Jayes (5-10) and Rachel Sparks (5-9).

A lot of the focus during the early part of the season has been getting the first-year players comfortable playing with the experienced core.

Both Robertson sisters are three year letterwinners. Hannah is a fourth-year starter and Haley is in her third season as a starter. She was the Eagles' sixth man as a freshman.

"We've got to create more depth to be able to compete at the Division I level come tournament time," Puryear said. "Our kids, five through eight, have shown they're ready for it."

New Albany was in the small-school MSL, but moved to the big school OCC before the 2006-07 season. Since the move, the Eagles have finished with records of 14-7 (2006-07), 17-6 (2007-08) and 18-6 (2008-09).