Olentangy High School girls basketball coach Kate Cummings gets her own workout in during games, rarely, if ever, sitting on the bench and wearing her emotions on her sleeve as she instructs her players.
That is the Braves' first-year coach's nature, but she considers constant teaching particularly important with a team that returned just one starter from last season in point guard Meg Spohn and, including senior forward Olivia Margolies, had only two players with full-time varsity experience.
"I get so excited not just if they score, but if they make the right play," Cummings said. "You build your confidence by having success in difficult situations."
Olentangy took its second three-game winning streak of the season into a Jan. 8 home game against Upper Arlington. The Braves, who started the season 3-0, were 7-5 overall before playing UA and are 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division entering a Friday, Jan. 11, home game against Liberty.
"Our thing is learning the game of basketball and then understanding that the more you share the ball, the more high-quality shots you get. Everything we do is based on that," Cummings said. "We have chosen continuity and motion offenses and the reason is that as the season goes on, you get better at those. If you run sets, teams scout it and those sets aren't there. We've worked hard at growing and learning and understanding who is open when and why, those kinds of things, and what good shots are for each of them."
The Braves defeated Logan 57-43 on Dec. 29 and began January with wins on consecutive nights over Orange (46-43 on Jan. 4) and Dublin Scioto (45-38 on Jan. 5).
Production was balanced through 12 games. Margolies was averaging a team-leading 13.3 points, ahead of freshman guard Bridget Stafford (8.9), sophomore guard Kennedie Doup (7.5) and Spohn (6.7).
Margolies pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds against Logan.
Doup scored 31 points in a 72-50 win at Caledonia River Valley on Nov. 27, a sophomore record for the program and the team's highest individual scoring output since Kelly Meade scored a team-record 34 points against Mount Vernon on Jan. 5, 2016.
"We've grown a lot together," Stafford said. "We don't even have a freshman team. Our (junior varsity) is all freshmen so we have grown up and come together. We always push each other. We've tried to spread the ball well, especially with Olivia inside to use our height advantage. I worked a lot of with some good players in the summer and I boosted my confidence. I am able to actually get the feel of things. It's a lot faster pace than middle school, of course, but I've gotten used to that."
Margolies admitted needing some time to fit back in after taking off her junior season to concentrate on volleyball, for which she has signed to play at Ohio University. She was the Braves' leading scorer four times in their first 10 games and their second-leading scorer on five other occasions.
"Taking a year off definitely had an impact," Margolies said. "I had to spend the first couple games just getting back into things, the pace of the game and stuff. I feel pretty good now, for sure. We've been working a lot at slowing the offense down, running through our plays and looking for the right shots."
Hockey team pulls atop league
The hockey team enters a stretch of three games against its intradistrict rivals in as many days tied for first place in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division.
Olentangy is 11-7-0-3 overall and 5-4 (10 points) in the CHC, tied with Orange atop the White Division. The Braves will play the Pioneers on Saturday, Jan. 12, at Chiller North, one night after playing Berlin at Chiller Easton and a day before taking on Liberty at Nationwide Arena.
Olentangy, which was ranked eighth in the district last week, and Orange enter the weekend two points ahead of third-place Dublin Coffman (6, 3-6).
Liberty was ranked first in the district and sixth in the state last week.
The Braves lost to New Albany 6-1 on Jan. 2 at Chiller North, giving up four goals in the first few minutes of the third period, but rebounded with two lopsided wins, 11-1 over Scioto on Jan. 5 at Chiller Dublin and 10-0 the next day over Watterson at the same rink. Against Watterson, Dakota Falk had three goals and Noah English, Kyle Gavin and Cameron Stevenson each scored twice.
Wrestlers prep for important stretch
Coming off a strong performance in the Beavercreek Classic on Jan. 5, the wrestling team will complete more than half of its OCC-Buckeye schedule in less than a week's time.
Olentangy begins league competition Thursday, Jan. 10, at home against Westerville South, followed by a visit to Liberty the next night and a match at Westerville Central on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
The Braves went 3-2 in the OCC-Buckeye last year to place third behind champion Liberty (5-0).
Each of the 10 wrestlers Olentangy took to Beavercreek placed, and the Braves scored 155.5 points to finish third of 11 teams as Springboro won (229).
Gabe Bulugaris (106 pounds) and Nick Varanelli (132) both won titles and Vaughn Fowler was runner-up at 113. Also placing were Dan DelGratta (195, third), Colton Doup (182, third), Kaiden Doup (138, third), Mohammed Hussein (160, third), Jackson Moses (120, third), Adam Orndorf (152, third) and Nick Boyarko (170, sixth).
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 11 -- At Liberty
Jan. 12 -- At Groveport
*Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Liberty. The Braves lost to the Patriots 54-31 on Dec. 4.
*Jan. 11 -- Westerville South at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 14 -- Teays Valley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl in makeup from Dec. 7
*Jan. 15 -- Berlin at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 16 -- Whetstone at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 12 -- McGee Invitational at Dublin Coffman
Jan. 11 -- Berlin at Chiller Easton
Jan. 12 -- Orange at Chiller North
Jan. 13 -- Liberty at Nationwide Arena
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
*Jan. 10 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*Jan. 11 -- At Liberty