Big Walnut Roundup: Senior trio to lead girls basketball team

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Point guard Avery Maxeiner is one of three senior leaders for Big Walnut. Coach Jason Crawford said the Golden Eagles will be relying on the trio "to help continue the success we’ve had over the past few years.”

After losing a strong senior class that amassed 67 victories over four consecutive winning seasons, the Big Walnut girls basketball team isn’t void of leadership.

“We are lucky to have three seniors who started behind them who’ve been playing roles since their sophomore year,” fourth-year coach Jason Crawford said. “They’ve logged a lot of minutes, and I think these girls are going to help continue the success we’ve had over the past few years.”

Those three senior starters are guard Abby Brown, point guard Avery Maxeiner and guard Annie Thomas.

Brown and Thomas were among the Golden Eagles’ top scorers in a 66-22 win at Bellefontaine in the season opener Nov. 21. Brown scored 25 points, followed by junior forward Andie Stewart with 14 and Thomas with nine.

Big Walnut was 1-0 before playing Worthington Christian on Dec. 5.

Last season, Brown was second-team all-league and averaged nine points as the Golden Eagles went 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital Division.

As the team battled injuries, she earned a starting role in the last nine games.

“I had to step up last season, and I know that’s made me more prepared and more confident this year,” Brown said. “I think I’ve grown a lot, both physically and mentally, and I knew that’s what I had to work on.”

Junior guard/forward Jordan Walters also has a starting role this season.

Crawford also has sophomore guards Mel Sena and Abby Coleman in the rotation. The next three off the bench are freshmen, he said.

Big Walnut must replace 2020 graduates Avery Schone, Alexis Schone, Payton Carter, Alyssa Tarney and Abby Facemyer. They helped produce three second-place finishes in the OCC-Capital behind perennial power Newark.

The realigned OCC-Capital now includes Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.

Big Walnut is scheduled to open league play Dec. 18 against visiting Franklin Heights. The OCC has postponed games through Dec. 17.

“We’ve had our OCC games pushed back, or we would’ve played more by now,” Crawford said. “We’ve moved some of our other (non-league) games up instead of playing them in January.”

Boys basketball team 

battling early injuries

With three of last season’s top scorers back in the lineup, the boys basketball team has its eye on a third consecutive winning season.

However, sixth-year coach Brett Bartlett is more concerned about his team’s health with two of those scorers — senior guard Jared Kreager and senior forward Caleb Conard — out with injuries.

There was a chance Conard would play in the Dec. 5 season opener at Mount Vernon, Bartlett said. However, Kreager’s absence could extend into January.

“I feel bad for him because he’s worked his butt off,” Bartlett said. “He’s gotten better and stronger and this is his senior year.”

Kreager averaged a team-high 11.8 points last season and was second-team all-league. The second-leading scorer was 2020 graduate Kegan Hienton, who averaged 11.7 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Also gone is 2020 graduate Jackson Podraza, an honorable mention all-league selection who averaged 7.2 points.

Big Walnut finished 13-10.

Back in the Golden Eagles’ starting lineup is senior guard Jagger Barnett, who averaged 8.9 points and was special mention all-league.

Conard averaged 6.3 points.

Outside of the trio of top scorers, Bartlett hadn’t settled on his rotation prior to the Mount Vernon game.

Junior guard Carter Imertreijs, senior guard Troy Musser, senior forward Owen Wilhelm and junior guard Kolin McKee were competing for playing time and starting roles.

“I like this group, but we don’t have our two best players right now,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got a solid three guys, but we’ve got to find some role players.”

In the OCC-Capital, Bartlett expects South to finish atop the standings.

Big Walnut opens league play Dec. 18 at Franklin Heights.

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BOYS BASKETBALL

Coach: Brett Bartlett, sixth season

Top players: Jagger Barnett, Caleb Conard and Jared Kreager

Key losses: Kegan Hienton and Jackson Podraza

Last season: 13-10 overall    

2019-20 OCC-Capital standings: Newark (9-1), New Albany (7-3), Big Walnut (5-5), Canal Winchester (5-5), Groveport (4-6), Franklin Heights (0-10)

2020 postseason: Lost to St. Charles 49-29 in first round of Division I district tournament

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Coach: Jason Crawford, fourth season

Top players: Abby Brown, Avery Maxeiner, Andie Stewart and Annie Thomas

Key losses: Payton Carter, Abby Facemyer, Alexis Schone, Avery Schone and Alyssa Tarney

Last season: 17-6 overall    

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: Lost to Dublin Jerome 33-30 in second round of Division I district tournament