Making her senior season with the Whetstone girls basketball team the best it can be has been Salma Kebe's goal since last season ended.

The 5-foot-8 guard was a key player a year ago when the Braves finished 3-19 overall and 3-11 in the City League-North Division and opted not to participate in the Division I district tournament.

This fall, Kebe tried out for the girls soccer team for the first time, became the starting goalkeeper and helped the Braves win the City championship.

Her biggest impact on the basketball team might be that she has helped recruit players following a season in which the Braves struggled with participation numbers and had just one senior.

"It's actually been way better," Kebe said. "Last year, we didn't have much of a turnout, but this year we have up to 20 kids that were at tryouts and we actually have enough for a full varsity. I'm very persuasive, so since the summertime, I've been on people (to try out for the team). They're all athletes."

The Braves opened Nov. 22 at Briggs, played Franklin Heights on Nov. 26 and begin City-North action Dec. 6 at Linden-McKinley.

Kebe and seniors Lauren Armstrong (5-9, post player) and Brianna Mabry (5-8, post player) are the top returnees. Armstrong and 2019 graduate Le'Cara Morris-Josey both were named honorable mention all-league last season.

Rain Jones (5-5, guard), Ebenezer Kabi (5-7, guard) and Olivia Mullins (5-6, guard) are other key seniors and Gabby Patterson (5-1, guard) rounds out the class.

Sophomore Ellen Edwards (5-8, guard) also is a key player.

Others in the program include juniors Heaven Goble (5-8, guard) and Rose Napolitano (5-7, guard), sophomore Vida Barzdukas (5-3, guard) and freshmen Noemi Cuarenta (5-6, guard), Nevaeh Davis (5-4, guard) and Larrica Goble (5-8, post player).

"With the right motivation and mentality, our team is really good," Kebe said. "At practice, we put it out there every single day, so if we keep that same mentality out on the court, we'll most definitely be successful."

One of the things third-year coach Torrie Ruffin has stressed to her players is the importance of having a positive outlook.

The Braves went 11-10 two seasons ago but returned no starters and had just two players with varsity experience entering last season. They were held to 10 points or fewer in four games and closed the season with a 74-12 loss to Walnut Ridge.

"Our goal this winter is to continue to progress from last season," Ruffin said. "The girls are given the same saying every practice: Get one percent better every time you are in the gym.

"We're extremely grateful for the growth of girls basketball in the community. We strive to create tradition and a more 'girls-basketball friendly' community. It's nice to see more people interested and invested in girls basketball at Whetstone. The coaches and I have been pleased with the program that the girls have been making. They've been working hard and their hard work will pay off."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Nov. 29 -- At Bexley

BOWLING

Dec. 4 -- South at Sequoia Pro Bowl

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 2 -- Central Crossing at Columbus Aquatics Center