The Groveport Madison High School girls basketball team is in a year of transition as it tries to continue the improvement it made last season.
Eugene Love is in his first season as coach of the Cruisers, who finished 10-13 overall a year ago after going 8-61 over the previous three seasons. He replaced Chris Vail, who compiled a 17-52 record in three seasons as coach.
In addition to undergoing a coaching change, Groveport lost its top two players from last season to graduation in point guard Diaba Diane, who averaged 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds and was named first-team all-OCC-Capital Division, and forward Imani Johnson, who averaged 7.3 points and 8.3 rebounds and was second-team all-league.
"The first things we need to do to start a new tradition and culture here is learn how to practice and learn how to compete," said Love, who guided Winston-Salem Prep to back-to-back North Carolina state championships the past two seasons before moving to central Ohio. "It's a very young team in terms of experience and we're still learning the game and trying to find ourselves. We'll take it one step at a time."
The Cruisers opened Nov. 25 with a 43-32 loss to visiting Bloom-Carroll. They played host to Columbus Academy on Nov. 28, but will play nine of their next 11 games on the road, starting Friday, Dec. 1, at Westerville Central.
Groveport's only home games during that stretch are Dec. 8 against Franklin Heights and Dec. 22 against New Albany.
Expected to lead the Cruisers this season are five returnees in senior Melia Walder (5-foot-7, forward) and juniors Brooke Reese (5-8, guard), Reina Rhone (5-6, guard), Lanie White (5-7, guard) and Aulana Wilburn (5-6, guard).
Last season, Walder was honorable mention all-league for the second year in a row.
Against Bloom-Carroll, Wilburn had 11 points, Walder scored nine and Reese scored eight.
"Melia is going to have to play well and be our team leader, and she has a lot on her shoulders with so much inexperience around her," Love said. "But she has good skills and we have some other young girls with skills. It's just about being able to put the pieces together and learning how to be successful."
Rounding out the roster are senior Bre Iagore (5-5, guard), junior DeeDee Seck (5-10, forward), sophomore Nadia Seidu (5-5, guard) and freshman Danasha Winfield (5-8, forward).
"We have a solid junior class and we're asking our upperclassmen with experience to help some of our younger girls," Love said. "We're keeping a smaller varsity roster and a large j.v. roster, where we can work on our development for the future."
Last season, Groveport snapped a 75-game league losing streak that dated to 2011 and went 3-7 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth, behind Newark (10-0), Canal Winchester (7-3) and Big Walnut and New Albany (both 5-5). Franklin Heights (0-10) finished last.
The Cruisers open league play Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Big Walnut.
"We have the capability to be a competitive team, but it's up to the girls and it will depend on learning how to practice," Love said. "If they can learn, we may be .500. If not, we're going to struggle."
Nov. 25 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll
Nov. 28 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Dec. 1 -- at Westerville Central
*Dec. 5 -- at Big Walnut
*Dec. 8 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Dec. 9 -- at Hilliard Darby
*Dec. 15 -- at Canal Winchester
Dec. 19 -- at Pickerington Central
*Dec. 22 -- vs. New Albany
Dec. 28 -- at Delaware
Dec. 30 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Jan. 4 -- at Newark
Jan. 6 -- at Whitehall
Jan. 9 -- vs. Central Crossing
*Jan. 12 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Jan. 19 -- at Franklin Heights
Jan. 23 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Jan. 26 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Feb. 2 -- at New Albany
Feb. 3 -- vs. Amanda-Clearcreek
Feb. 6 -- at Lancaster
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Newark
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 1 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 5 -- Newark at Park Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 2 -- Athens Invitational
Dec. 2 -- Granville Invitational