Big Walnut High School girls basketball coach Jason Crawford is a firm believer that no talent is necessary to play great defense.
However, it does have requirements.
The Golden Eagles have been playing defense with "a lot of effort, energy and enthusiasm," he said, and that is a recipe that can give opposing offenses fits.
Big Walnut was 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital Division and was holding opponents to 33.8 points before playing Newark on Dec. 21.
"We typically try to change up our defenses a lot throughout the game, but honestly, our man-to-man has been our best defense," Crawford said. "Recently, the girls have been very effective and helping each other out in their rotations."
Their play has been evident on the scoreboard and stat sheet.
The Golden Eagles held their opponent to fewer than 30 points in consecutive wins over Canal Winchester (40-28 on Dec. 7), Groveport (40-17 on Dec. 4) and Mount Vernon (52-25 on Nov. 28) and defeated New Albany 51-39 on Dec. 14.
"We try to pressure the ball a lot ... and don't make it easy for them," said guard Alyssa Tarney, who is tasked with guarding the opponent's best player. "We really try and force opponents to go one way, (use) their less-dominate hand, and really work on jumping passing lanes. We really emphasize putting that pressure on them."
Big Walnut typically utilizes a full-court or half-court 1-3-1 defensive scheme, but Crawford also likes to "junk it up" by forcing an opponent's best player into "doing something they're not accustomed to doing, like scoring more or handling the ball more."
This fall, more than half of the Golden Eagles' roster played for the girls soccer team, which shut out 13 opponents on its way to a 14-3-4 record and a second consecutive Division II state semifinal appearance.
Crawford believes that mentality has carried over to the court.
Through six games, guard Erin Boehm was averaging a team-best 2.7 steals, followed by guard Alexis Schone (1.8) and forward Emily Neff (1.7). Schone was leading the team in defensive rebounds with 25, following by Boehm (21).
Guard Avery Schone and Boehm were averaging 9.6 and 9.5 points, respectively, and center Payton Carter was averaging 6.0.
Crawford would like to see his team begin to take advantage of its scoring opportunities, particularly in transition.
"We haven't had a great shooting game to this point," Crawford said before his team played Newark. "A lot of times when we get out in transition, we're missing shots that I'd like to think ... we'll be knocking down later in the year."
Boys basketball team seeking better starts
Boys basketball coach Brett Bartlett wants his team to be more focused in the first quarter.
Through five games, the Golden Eagles were averaging 9.8 points in the opening period, 12 in the second, 18.2 in the third and 18.4 in the fourth.
Big Walnut was outscored 60-49 in the first quarter, while outscoring its opponents 60-42 in the second, 91-62 in the third and 92-86 in the fourth.
"We've just been struggling to start games," said Bartlett, whose team was 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Newark on Dec. 21. "I don't know what it is. We just need to get it going and find a way to get it fixed."
The only games in which Big Walnut outscored its opponent in the first quarter were a 67-35 victory over Hamilton Township in the season opener Nov. 30 and a 64-47 win over Watkins Memorial on Dec. 4. In the opening period, the Golden Eagles outscored the Rangers 9-6 and the Warriors 10-8.
Through four games, post player Kegan Hienton was averaging a team-high 16.5 points, followed by forward Carson Becker (9.2) and forward Jackson Podraza (8.0), guard Nathan Montgomery (7.5) and guard Brody Lawhun (7.0).
"A couple of our returning guys need to be a little more consistent with their scoring," Bartlett said. "Instead of having nights when they're scoring 12 points and following it up with three or four, it needs to be between eight and 14 every night."
Big Walnut had back-to-back losses against Mifflin (70-62 on Dec. 8) and Canal Winchester (57-53 on Dec. 7) but rebounded to beat New Albany 46-41 on Dec. 14.
Against New Albany, Becker had 12 points, Montgomery scored 11 and guard Jordan Koebel scored 10.
Big Walnut, which played Caledonia River Valley on Dec. 22, does not resume its schedule until Jan. 4 when it plays host to Franklin Heights in a league contest.
Girls bowlers excel in Pioneer Baker Bash
The girls bowling team had its best finish in the Pioneer Baker Bash held Dec. 15 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace, according to coach Scott Morrison.
Big Walnut placed seventh (2,336) of 30 teams, behind champion Clayton Northmont (2,985).
The Golden Eagles dropped to 2-2 overall, 1-2 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 2,039-1,988 loss to Westerville North on Dec. 18 at Capri Lanes. Kaitlyn Morrison led Big Walnut with a 398 two-game series, including a high game of 202.
The boys team finished 13th (2,796) of 30 teams in the Pioneer Baker Bash, behind champion Westerville Central (3,438), and improved to 3-1 overall, 2-1 in the COHSBC-A and 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 2,168-1,941 win over North.
Against the Warriors, Johnny LeMaster led the Golden Eagles with a 480 series, including a high game of 257.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 27 -- At Marion Harding
Dec. 29 -- Home vs. Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 28 -- Westerville Central at Westerville Recreation Center
Dec. 27-28 -- Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament at Wright State