Considering she was the lone returning starter and the only senior who previously had been a regular contributor, Kyria Walker understood that her role on the Reynoldsburg girls basketball team heading into this season would include providing leadership.
Her abilities in that area might have been most evident when she was not on the floor for an extended time.
Walker, a 5-foot-6 guard who became a key player as a sophomore when the Raiders were Division I district runners-up and was even a contributor off the bench as a freshman when they won a district title, sat out for about two weeks in mid-January because of a stress fracture in her right shin.
Despite her absence, Reynoldsburg beat Lancaster 56-48 on Jan. 10 and then handed Dublin Coffman its first loss, 74-66 on Jan. 14 on the road.
"We're a very young team," Walker said. "I tried to stay energetic on the bench. What they don't see on the court, I see and I help them see. I try not to be negative and try to encourage my team because we are a young team. They need somebody to stay in their heads to be motivational."
The emergence of sophomore guards Makiya Miller and Mya Perry has put the Raiders in the conversation to battle late into February and possibly further. District championship Saturday is Feb. 29.
The Raiders were 13-7 overall after losing to Pickerington Central 53-46 on Jan. 31 and before playing Central Crossing on Feb. 4. They dropped to 5-4 in the OCC-Ohio with the loss to Central and close the league schedule Friday, Feb. 7, at Pickerington North.
Reynoldsburg is seeded ninth for the Division I district tournament and will open Feb. 15 against 39th-seeded Mifflin.
Since the calendar turned to 2020, Perry had produced six games of at least 22 points and was averaging 14.4 points before Feb. 4.
Miller was averaging 13.2 points, including scoring 29 against Coffman with five 3-pointers.
Walker, meanwhile, has been a steady presence again this winter, averaging 14.4 points before Feb. 4 despite missing four games. She made eight 3s and finished with 32 points in a 70-42 victory over Grove City on Dec. 13.
"She's a very good teammate to play with, definitely encouraging," Perry said. "When she wasn't playing, she was on the bench cheering for us, just making sure we were out there playing the hardest that we can play. Even though she wasn't on the court, her being on the bench and helping us out led us to some victories. We're happy to have her back."
Walker, who had 879 career points before Feb. 4, averaged 13.1 points and made first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district as a sophomore.
Last winter, she battled illness late in the season but averaged 9.1 points and was second-team all-league as the Raiders went 21-7 and were regional runners-up.
After losing four key contributors to graduation and one transfer from last season, Reynoldsburg started 4-3 but won all four of its games during a trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, over the holiday break.
Walker's brother, Chase Walker, is a freshman who has become an immediate contributor for St. Charles as it battles for the CCL championship.
Their mother, Angela Thorne, is a 2001 Whitehall graduate who went on to play for Ohio Christian.
Walker, who plans to study exercise science or get into sports medicine and hopes to play collegiately, believes the Raiders must continue to build chemistry if they're to make it to at least a district final for the fifth consecutive season.
"We haven't really played with each other before and we haven't interacted before this year," she said. "We need to keep getting to know each other, hanging out more. It will create more team chemistry and court chemistry to be able to get the job done."
Boys bowlers wrap up titles
In its 2,627-2,087 victory over Big Walnut on Jan. 24, the boys bowling team rolled its season-best score in a COHSBC match.
The Raiders already had wrapped up the COHSBC-B championship before improving to 13-1 overall and 11-1 in the league with a 2,352-1,956 victory over Pickerington Central on Jan. 31 at Holiday Lanes.
That victory also gave them a share of the OCC-Central title with Gahanna at 5-1.
"They've been very strong this season, not just in ... tournaments but in regular matches as well," coach Jamie Gapen said. "You can see and feel the desire these bowlers have to want to excel in the sport and from a coaching standpoint, that's always going to be a win."
Against Big Walnut, senior Logan Jeffers led with a 476 two-game series, followed by seniors Logan Gapen (455), Cameron Brosious (438), David Robinson (427) and Owen Chisley (339).
Jeffers led the Raiders in league average at 208, ranking him sixth in the COHSBC.
The Raiders open the postseason with the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at HP Lanes.
"They just need to focus on a few things moving forward that will help them prepare for what's to come," coach Gapen said.
"They have to take it one match at a time, work on spare shooting and stay completely focused for each match and tournament and not get ahead of themselves. Emotionally, they have to stay in check as well to keep from making mental mistakes and they can accomplish the hardest tasks they are striving for."
Girls bowlers prep for postseason
The girls bowling team is preparing for the Division I sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.
After closing the COHSBC schedule Jan. 31 with a 1,467-1,408 loss to Pickerington Central at Holiday Lanes, the Raiders were 5-9 overall, 4-8 in the COHSBC-B and 1-5 in the OCC-Central.
Reynoldsburg's last win came when it beat Whitehall 1,455-1,406 on Jan. 15 at Holiday Lanes as junior Jenan Alkhatib rolled a 281 series, followed by senior Kimmee Shook (265), junior Katie Morgan (249), senior Kay Hetterscheidt (229) and sophomore Lizzy Folk (228).
Shook led the Raiders in league average at 138.3 and Hetterscheidt averaged 134.4.
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 7 -- At Pickerington North. The Raiders lost to the Panthers 50-37 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 7 -- At Pickerington North. The Raiders beat the Panthers 74-21 on Jan. 3.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Upper Arlington. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.
Feb. 8 -- Seventh-seeded Westland in Division I, Region 6 team dual tournament at Hilliard Darby. Winner faces second-seeded Lancaster in quarterfinal. The semifinal and final rounds also are held that day. The regional champion advances to the state tournament Feb. 16 at Ohio State. The Raiders are seeded 10th.