Girls Basketball: Canal Winchester Indians plan to use fast-paced approach

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Kate Ratliff is one of the players expected to pick up the scoring load this season as the Indians hope to build on last season's 20-6 record and district runner-up finish.

The Canal Winchester girls basketball team’s goals haven’t changed, but its personality has. 

With a different dynamic to the roster, second-year coach Mark Chapman has installed a more up-tempo approach emphasizing transition as the Indians try to build on last year’s 20-6 season and Division I district runner-up finish. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused the school district to delay the start of all seasons until at least Dec. 17, but practices still are allowed. 

Canal Winchester will depend on junior forwards Maddie Frank (5-foot-9) and Kennedy Ratliff (6-0) and sophomore forward Kate Ratliff (5-11), as well as an influx of multi-sport athletes, to replace the scoring lost to graduation with Shalea Byrd, Amanda Rarick and Natalie Rarick, who combined to average 36.6 points and now play volleyball at Rio Grande. Byrd led the Indians in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (10.5). 

“We want to use our ball-handling and shooting ability to try and generate scoring. It better fits our personnel,” Chapman said. “We had to structure what we’re doing offensively and defensively to not wear them out. The way we’re changing is not just for this year, but that will fit the mold all the way down through the program. 

“At the high school level, you have to play to your kids’ strengths.” 

Frank missed the final month last season with a shoulder injury, but Kate Ratliff became an offensive threat late in the year, scoring 12 points in a district semifinal overtime win over Olentangy Liberty before the Indians fell 73-36 to OCC-Capital Division and eventual regional champion Newark in a district final. 

“My shooting has improved a lot (and so has) my ball-handling. I’m more disciplined, too,” Ratliff said. “We don’t really have any set plays. (Our offense) is a lot more about transition and if we don’t get a good look, we pull it back out.” 

Rounding out the roster are seniors Kaylee DeShong (5-10, guard/forward), Ally Hawkins (5-7, guard) and Elle Howard (5-8, guard), junior Kierstyn Liming (5-8, guard), sophomores Shea Butterbaugh (5-7, forward), Rory Chapman (5-9, guard), Emily Fusek (5-6, guard) and Isabella Kissinger (5-9, guard/forward) and freshman Kay Dunn (5-5, guard). 

Hawkins and Howard rejoined the team after concentrating on volleyball and soccer, respectively, in previous years, and Liming is a move-in from Hilliard Davidson. 

“You put (Howard, Hawkins and Liming) with Kate Ratliff and Maddie Frank and that’s a solid five talent-wise,” coach Chapman said. 

They went 6-4 in the league last year to finish third behind Newark (10-0). 

“Our expectations are more short-term right now,” Howard said. “We just want to win a lot of games and be successful.” 

Senior forward Sey Ba, right, is one of the top returnees for Groveport, which is looking to improve on last season's 5-17 record.

Cruisers changing

direction under Cowan 

Discussing the changes under first-year Zach Cowan, Groveport Madison girls basketball players Casey Humphrey and Alauna Nguyen repeatedly mentioned a renewed emphasis on fundamentals. 

One more thing stood out to Humphrey, a 5-foot-2 senior guard. 

“We run a lot. We’re definitely going to be in shape,” Humphrey said with a laugh. “If we do something wrong or with no effort, we’re running. I think that’s a good thing. Most (opposing) teams, they might get out more so we’ll have to keep up with their speed and pressure.” 

The start of the season will be delayed for the Cruisers, who hope to improve on last year’s records of 5-17 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Capital. Athletics director Steve Petros said Nov. 19 that while practices could resume Nov. 30, all scheduled events have been postponed through December. 

Humphrey and Nguyen, a 5-5 junior guard, and seniors Sey Ba (5-8, forward) and Sha’Ron Whatley (6-1, center) all return and form the nucleus around which Cowan hopes to build. 

“That’s what I’m all about … getting the girls running up and down the court as fast as we can go and having good attitudes. We could start building something new,” said Cowan, a 2012 Canal Winchester graduate who coached Groveport’s seventh-grade team last year. 

Cowan succeeded Eugene Love, who went 14-54 in three seasons. 

Cowan originally installed an offense with four guards and one post player, but when sophomore forward Tracy Taylor (5-10) suffered a torn ACL, the team shifted into a three-out, two-in approach that resembles the triangle offense run by legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson. 

“When I broke the news, it was devastating but the girls just asked, ‘What can we do now?” Cowan said. “We can get the ball moving and find the post.” 

Senior Monique Davis (5-8) and freshman Carmyn Woods (5-11) were expected to start at the two forward spots next to Whatley at center. 

Rounding out the roster are seniors Skyiah Johnson (5-4, guard), Amara Towns (5-3, guard) and Danasha Whitfield (5-10, forward/center), juniors Ariana Ellis (5-3, guard) and Erica Ellis (5-8, forward), sophomore Tyairah Flowers (5-6, guard/forward) and freshman Milani Epps (5-3, guard).    

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

CANAL WINCHESTER 

•Coach: Mark Chapman, second season 

•Top players: Maddie Frank, Ally Hawkins, Elle Howard, Kate Ratliff and Kennedy Ratliff 

•Key losses: Shalea Byrd, Amanda Rarick and Natalie Rarick 

•Last season: 20-6 

•2019-20 OCC-Capital standings: Newark (10-0), Big Walnut (7-3), Canal Winchester (6-4), New Albany (5-5), Groveport (2-8), Franklin Heights (0-10) 

•2020 postseason: Defeated Teays Valley 60-36; def. Northland 67-52; def. Olentangy Liberty 48-43 (OT); lost to Newark 73-36 in Division I district final 

GROVEPORT MADISON 

•Coach: Zach Cowan, first season 

•Top players: Sey Ba, Monique Davis, Casey Humphrey, Alauna Nguyen and Sha’Ron Whatley 

•Key losses: Kiarra Chambers and Ariez Clay 

•Last season: 5-17 

•2020 postseason: Lost to Gahanna 68-34 in first round of Division I district tournament