Notebook: Groveport Madison Cruisers girls basketball team learning from setbacks

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
After losing their first eight games, Skyiah Johnson and the Cruisers girls basketball team had won three in a row before playing Lancaster on Jan. 29.

The Groveport Madison girls basketball team moved on from early losses to state-ranked Newark and Reynoldsburg in OCC-Buckeye Division play but what was learned was not forgotten.

The result was a three-game winning streak that put the Cruisers at 3-8 overall and 2-4 in the league before playing Lancaster on Jan. 29. 

“They’ve noticed how these teams move the ball and are patient on offense. They see how defensive shifts happen and how these great teams do things,” coach Zach Cowan said, referring to losses to Newark (76-26 on Jan. 8) and Reynoldsburg (97-22 on Jan. 9), who were ranked fourth and 10th, respectively, in Division I last week. “As long as we hang in and play hard, good things will happen. They’re pumped up.” 

Casey Humphrey averaged 17.0 points through 11 games and scored a career-high 28 in a 61-49 setback to ninth-ranked Watkins Memorial on Jan. 25 and 26 in a 48-26 win over Lancaster on Jan. 2. 

The Cruisers faced six scheduled games in 11 days from Feb. 2-12 to end the regular season, including a Feb. 4 game at Canal Winchester. The teams had been scheduled to play in early December before COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions forced the postponement or cancellation of several games. 

“I always preach for them to play like their hair is on fire, and they do that every single day,” Cowan said. “We’re still learning how to win. We’re about where I thought they’d be. We’re winning rebound battles and hustle plays, and that’s all I can ask for, to play super hard and play with strong team chemistry.” 

• Defense has been a constant emphasis as the Canal Winchester boys basketball team continues to find its way under first-year coach Zach Olson. 

The Indians were 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Capital before playing Dublin Scioto on Jan. 29 and had allowed more than 59 points three times. The Indians fell to Worthington Kilbourne 75-44 on Dec. 19 and 68-54 on Jan. 19 and lost to New Albany 62-43 on Jan. 26. 

“I’ve seen the focus rise on the defensive end and the attention to detail on how we do things get better each week,” Olson said. “Our defensive rotations, guys doing the job and playing with incredible energy and effort have been strong. They’ve taken care of loose balls on the ground and gotten out in transition. When we’ve focused on getting stops on defense and used that as our best offense, that’s when we’re at our best.” 

Kevian Poindexter (11.3 points per game) and Anthony Millner (11.2 points) led a balanced effort through 10 games, and freshman Cortez Freeman scored a career-high 16 points Jan. 19. 

•Hunter Rathburn’s average of 207.5 pins per game not only led the Groveport boys bowling team before its Jan. 28 match against Gahanna, but he ranked eighth in the COHSBC regardless of division entering last week. 

Rathburn had 12 games of 200 or better through nine matches, and the Cruisers were 5-4 overall, 4-3 in the COHSBC-B and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before Jan. 28. 

John Maynard averaged 190.6 through nine matches, ahead of John Blanton (166.2), Brandon Cordle (163.3) and Jamell Mitchell (151). 

The girls team was 0-5 overall and 0-3 in both the COHSBC-B and OCC-Cardinal before Jan. 28. Ellisia Little’s 134.5 average led a balanced lineup, ahead of Kayla Sheets (131.2), Makayla Harold (121.9) and Natasha Langham (105.6). 

• Heavyweight Mason Fry’s 5-1 record led the Canal Winchester wrestling team before its season was paused for more than two weeks because of a COVID-19 quarantine. 

The Indians were 3-4 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital after resuming competition Jan. 27 with 77-0 loss in a league dual at Westerville North. They had not wrestled since a 56-18 non-league loss at Jonathan Alder on Jan. 9. 

Two days earlier, Canal Winchester began its league schedule with a 48-28 home win over Dublin Scioto. 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave