The Big Walnut girls basketball team is ready to pick up where it left off a year ago with a roster that looks very much the same.
The Golden Eagles, who went 18-6, placed second in the OCC-Capital Division and reached a Division II district semifinal last season, have returned four starters in senior guards Alexis Schone (5-foot-3) and Avery Schone (5-5), senior forward Payton Carter (5-9) and junior guard/forward Alyssa Tarney (5-7).
"We talked about that as a coaching staff in how much further along we are this year in having these girls back...," third-year coach Jason Crawford said. "Obviously, they already know a lot about the systems we've put in offensively and defensively. It's allowed us to put a lot more in."
That experience showed Nov. 26 in the Golden Eagles' 58-20 victory at Mount Vernon in their season opener, in which they outscored the Yellow Jackets 20-2 in the first quarter and led 34-7 at halftime.
Abby Facemyer, a 5-11 senior post player who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, led Big Walnut with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"She's coming along really well," Crawford said. "I think I'm a little bit more worried than she is. I've been trying to bring her along slowly, but her rehab really has progressed well."
Avery Schone added 12 points, followed by Carter with eight and Tarney with six. Tarney also had seven assists and five steals.
Last season, Avery Schone averaged nine points and was named third-team all-district and second-team all-league. Carter averaged 6.5 points and was special mention all-league, and Tarney was honorable mention all-league.
However, Big Walnut must replace last season's leading scorer in 2019 graduate Erin Boehm, a point guard who averaged 12.1 points and was first-team all-district and all-league.
"As far as philosophies, we want to spread the scoring out, like we have been doing," said Crawford, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Groveport. "We'd like to see if we can get two or three girls in double digits and another one close. If we can get seven or eight girls scoring a game, that would be awesome."
Also in the rotation are junior guards Abby Brown and Avery Maxeiner and junior forward Annie Thomas.
Brown was the team's top 3-point shooter last season, while Thomas, who did not play last season, will provide "a lot of quickness" off the bench, Crawford said.
Big Walnut closed last season with a 44-42 loss to Bloom Carroll in a district semifinal. The Golden Eagles have moved up to Division I this season.
"Obviously, (winning in the postseason is) going to be a lot harder to do with the teams central Ohio has in Division I," Crawford said. "But that's the goal we're trying to attain."
Boys team looks to build on last season
The boys basketball team posted its first Division I postseason victory and its most wins in nearly two decades last season.
Fifth-year coach Brett Bartlett remains focused on the Golden Eagles maintaining that momentum.
"We took a step forward as a program last year," said Bartlett, whose team opened Nov. 29 at Lancaster. "The message has been there's no reason for us to take a step back. We should just continue to build off the success we had last year."
Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 15-9, matching their best record since going 15-6 in 1999-2000, and posted a 59-52 victory over Gahanna in the district tournament before falling to Pickerington Central 49-39 in a district semifinal.
Big Walnut returns its leading scorer in 6-4 senior post player Kegan Hienton, who averaged a team-high 14.9 points and was first-team all-OCC-Capital and honorable mention all-district a year ago.
However, those who will surround him had mostly supporting roles last season or played junior varsity.
Also earning varsity minutes last season were 6-3 senior forward Jackson Podraza (4.6 points per game), 5-8 senior guard Lincoln Bullock (2.3 ppg) and 6-3 junior guard Jagger Barnett (6.0 ppg), while 5-11 senior forward Jacob Krous, 6-2 junior guard Jared Kreager and 6-6 junior forward Caleb Conard all played j.v. a year ago.
Bartlett, though, has been happy with their progress.
"We have a decent core group, and we're going to see how some of these guys respond playing their first year of varsity," Bartlett said. "Lacking the experience is going to hurt a little bit, but overall, we've gotten better as the preseason went on. We'll see what happens."
The Golden Eagles lost five players from a year ago to graduation in guards Jordan Koebel (6.8 ppg), Brody Lawhun (8.7 ppg) and Nathan Montgomery (8.2 ppg) and forwards Carson Becker (7.7 ppg) and Sam Elliott (4.7 ppg).
Montgomery was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and Koebel was honorable mention all-league.
Big Walnut begins OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 6, at Canal Winchester. The Golden Eagles finished third in the league last season.
"I think it's going to be as good as it's been, top to bottom," Bartlett said of the league. "I think there are going to be a lot of close games."
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 4 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
*Dec. 6 -- At Canal Winchester
*Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
*Dec. 3 -- Delaware at Thompson's Capri Lanes
Dec. 6 -- Olentangy at Central Ohio Gymnastics
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty diving invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 7 -- Northridge Viking Splash at Kenyon College
Dec. 7 -- Granville Invitational