A 'super' addition is helping the Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team as it attempts to earn a third consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division championship.
"I don't think many people considered them to be in the title chase this year after losing (2018 graduate) Jazzlynn Gaiters, even though they had very good players coming back in (guards) Breanne Beatty and Brooke Ackley," Kilbourne coach Jim Strode said. "But they certainly are. I think (guard/forward) Sarah Charley has been a super addition and Bill Sperlazza has done a great job coaching them."
Strode witnessed that for the second time this season when the Cardinals defeated Kilbourne 56-34 on Jan. 11 behind 21 points from Charley, 16 from Beatty and six apiece from Ackley and Emma Wince.
The Cardinals improved to 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Cardinal while avenging a 64-62 double-overtime loss to Kilbourne on Dec. 11 in which they squandered an 18-point, third-quarter lead.
Charley, an All-American in field hockey, had not played basketball since ninth grade. But Sperlazza said he and the rest of the team coaxed her to return to the court this season.
"Sarah relieves some of the stress off me because I don't always have to bring the ball up the floor," Beatty said. "She's been great. She's so fast and that helps us on the break and gives us enough scoring balance that defenses can't focus on just shutting down one or two of us."
Charley, who scored all of her points against Kilbourne in the first three quarters, said it wasn't easy when she first returned.
"I have played (basketball) since I could walk, but it was difficult to pick up on things when I got back," she said. "It's been a lot of fun and I enjoy all the girls on the team. Once I got to re-learn some of the technical stuff, it seems to have gotten easier.
"But Bre still helps me when I get confused. She just throws me into the right position on the floor defensively sometimes. She knows where everyone should be and she coaches me up on everything."
Thomas had won four games in a row and six of its previous seven before playing at Lancaster on Jan. 15.
The Cardinals led Kilbourne 16-8 after the first quarter and extended their lead to 30-13 by halftime.
"We kept the pedal to the metal this time because we saw what Kilbourne can do when they get hot from the 3-point line," Sperlazza said. "That's what happened in our first meeting and coach Strode always has a good, scrappy team that never quits.
"I think we've got good depth and the girls are all playing to their strengths and taking care of their roles. When we share the ball and move the ball the way we did (against Kilbourne), we're tough to beat. The girls are unselfish and we're shooting at a championship level on two-point field-goal attempts. We made 87 percent of our two-point field goals in the first half (against Kilbourne) and that's a tribute to scoring in transition and moving the ball in our halfcourt offense."
Sperlazza credited strong outlet and inbound passes from Ackley, Charley's speed and Beatty's basketball IQ for the strong transition game.
"I think Brooke was put on Earth to be a quarterback," he said. "She has the best arm of any girls I've ever coached and Sarah is the fastest human being, boys or girls, I've ever coached and that fits well with Bre's intelligence and toughness. It's a lethal group. Emma Wince also is highly intellectual and is always in the right spots and doing the right things. She's very dependable and that just doesn't show up in the box scores."
Boys basketball team extends winning streak
The boys basketball team has won seven consecutive games entering a home contest with league-leading Hilliard Bradley on Friday, Jan. 18.
The Cardinals defeated Kilbourne 54-35 on Jan. 11 to improve to 10-2 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal, as 6-foot-9 senior post player Ben Wight had 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
"We've been without (6-6 forward) Kyler Block, who has an injury and (6-4 guard) Maurice Collins hasn't returned from an illness yet, so a little more has been put on Ben's shoulders lately," coach Sean Luzader said. "But we still have five very capable scorers out there because of our depth and we're getting strong contributions from all of them.
"When some of them struggle, like they did tonight, others step up. I thought Jamare Razor made some big plays and I'm seeing maturity in some of our younger guys. When they don't shoot it like they normally do, they don't have an off night on defense or rebounding. There are other ways to impact a game."
Razor and Jalen Sullinger both added 11 points and Charlie Mamlin scored seven against the Wolves.
Thomas defeated Hilliard Darby 41-31 in a league game Jan. 8 as Wight had 16 points and Sullinger scored seven.
The Cardinals lost at Bradley 57-32 on Dec. 7, getting outscored 39-19 in the middle quarters. The Jaguars entered the week 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the league.
Swimming teams prep for OCC meet
The swimming and diving teams are gearing up for the OCC-Cardinal meet Jan. 25 and 26 in their home pool.
The Cardinals competed against Marysville on Jan. 16 after having some members participate in the Northeast Classic on Jan. 12 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Maddie Holub placed eighth in the 500-yard freestyle (5 minutes, 25.73 seconds) and 15th in the 200 individual medley (2:14.48) in the Northeast Classic. She scored all 13 points for the Cardinals, who tied Chagrin Falls Kenston for 32nd behind champion North Canton Hoover (243) as 48 teams scored.
Sam Steele placed 13th in the 200 IM (2:01.12) and scored all four points for the boys team, which tied Kilbourne for 38th behind champion Dublin Jerome (232) as 42 teams scored.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley. The Cardinals lost to the Jaguars 57-32 on Dec. 7.
*Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Delaware. The Cardinals lost to the Pacers 76-73 on Dec. 17.
*Jan. 18 -- At Bradley. The Cardinals beat the Jaguars 45-34 on Dec. 7.
*Jan. 22 -- At Delaware. The Cardinals beat the Pacers 54-46 on Dec. 17.
*Jan. 23 -- Hilliard Darby at Ten Pin Lanes
Jan. 17 -- Home vs. DeSales, Thornville Sheridan, Upper Arlington and Westerville Central
Jan. 19 -- Westerville Central Warhawk Invitational at Worthington Youth Boosters
Jan. 18-21 -- Toledo Walleye Winterfest Tournament at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Delaware