Girls Basketball: Expectations continue to rise for Grove City

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Junior guard Ellie Pollock-Ballard is a returning starter for Grove City, which expects to improve on last year's 6-17 finish. "They know the expectations and they’ve worked really hard," coach Joel Taylor said.

The Grove City girls basketball team is looking for continued progress under third-year coach Joel Taylor.

After finishing 3-20 in his first season, the Greyhounds went 6-17 a year ago.

With a strong nucleus back that includes three starters, Taylor believes his team has the potential to achieve that goal.

“A lot of these girls have known me since their seventh-grade year,” said Taylor, who was previously the coach at Jackson Middle School. “They know the expectations and they’ve worked really hard. We spent a lot of time on skill development (in the offseason). We really worked on shooting and trying to score the basketball and we’re hoping that improves significantly this year.”

Senior Riley Waugh (5-foot-10, post player), junior Ellie Pollock-Ballard (5-7, guard) and sophomore Kayla Jones (5-8, guard) are returning starters.

“Our major goal with everything that is going on with (COVID-19) is to just play through, persevere and give it all we have, even if it’s just practice,” Waugh said. “You really never know what tomorrow is going to bring, so our goal this year is push ourselves and try the best that we can do every game and every practice that we have.”

Pollock-Ballard was special mention all-OCC-Ohio Division last season.

Also back are senior Allyson Pape (6-0, post player), juniors Olivia Bartley (5-6, guard) and Alissa Schiff (5-7, guard) and sophomore Olivia Keeney (5-5, point guard).

“Olivia is our best ball-handler right now,” Taylor said. “She’s done a really good job for us. We’re looking to be a little bit different than we’ve been in the past. We’re looking to transition more, run the break a little bit more.”

Rounding out the roster are senior Emily Talbott (5-9, forward/post player), sophomores Sela Anderson (5-5, guard), McKenzie McGowan (5-7, guard) and Carly Turner (5-8, guard/forward) and freshmen Gia Boyce (5-4, guard) and Addison Waller (5-4, point guard).

There is an increased interest in the program, as a freshman team has been added for the first time since the 2017-18 season.

The Greyhounds are playing in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, New Albany, Pickerington North, Westerville Central and Westland. They were 2-8 in the league last season.

“It’s a lot better for us,” Taylor said of the league realignment. “We’re not in the ‘Big East’ as we used to call it. We lost Reynoldsburg and Pickerington Central. We did keep Gahanna, who’s very good. New Albany is a good program. It’s not the same athleticism as you see with Reynoldsburg and Pick Central. We feel that we can be very competitive in our new league.”

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the school district has suspended games through Dec. 17.

Senior guard Sydney McCullough (left) is the lone returning starter for the Central Crossing girls basketball team, which went 4-19 last season.

Comets eager to 

establish culture

Central Crossing has only three players with significant varsity experience from last season, when it finished 4-19 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Central.

The Comets’ lone senior, 5-6 guard Sydney McCullough, started last season, while  5-10 junior forward Zoey King saw action and 5-4 sophomore point guard Lydia Kimmel was a swing player between j.v. and varsity.

“I like that it’s new and they’re fresh,” second-year coach Ann Tiefenthaler said. “They’re a new group, which is something you need to establish a new culture. They’re enthusiastic and they want to play basketball. They want to be here, and that makes it easier to coach. They’re young and willing to learn.”

The Comets are without 2020 graduate Haley Cox, who finished with 1,200 career points and surpassed 2009 graduate Bryce Barnes (1,188 points) to become the all-time leading scorer for the boys and girls programs. 

Cox, who plays at Wheeling University, led the Comets in scoring (14.8 points per game), rebounds (6.5) and steals (2.9) last season.

Junior guard Georgia Lakso, a two-year starter, did not return to the program.

Sophomore Taylynne Springs, a 5-9 guard/forward, should be a key performer.

“Taylynne will play some in the post for us this year, which she has never done,” Tiefenthaler said. “Last year she played the point for us, but she can play anywhere on the court. We’re experimenting to figure out where to put her right now.”

Rounding out the roster are junior Hunter Ferrell (5-10, forward), sophomores Aminata Dicko (5-9, forward), Ryan Mollette (5-4, guard) and Fatima Numan (5-10, forward) and freshmen Amayah Bridges (5-8, point guard) and Cheyenne Taylor (5-6, guard).

“We have more size than in the past, so we’re running a new offense,” Tiefenthaler said. “We’re running a three-out, two-in motion offense after running the flex out of a UCLA set last year because we had a smaller, faster team. This year, we have more size, and we want to have more of a post presence.”

—Scott Hennen

Eagles coach excited

for second season

Bill Spencer eagerly awaited his second season at Grove City Christian.

The Eagles finished 4-18 last winter, but Spencer believes his team is capable of improving that record.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Spencer said. “The kids, the school, the administration are all top-notch people, just wonderful people.”

Expected to lead the returnees is junior Maddie Anderson, a 5-7 guard/forward who was honorable mention all-MSL-Cardinal last season.

Senior Tara Johnson (5-9, center/forward), juniors Grace Leffel (5-9, forward/center) and Paige Spencer (5-5, point guard) and sophomores Sienna Brunicardi (5-5, guard) and McKenzie Kennedy (5-9, center/forward) also are back.

Also on the roster are freshmen Ava Garringer (5-5, guard), Alyssa Garten (5-6, guard) and Aubrey Smith (5-5, guard).

“We’re going to have to play hard, (play) great defense and do a whole lot of boxing out,” coach Spencer said. “I enjoy teaching the game. I tell the girls all the time, I’m not here trying to teach them plays. I’m trying to teach them how to play the game. I enjoy developing girls so they can realize their full potential. I’m trying to get them to be students of the game.”

The Eagles were scheduled to visit Millersport on Friday, Dec. 4, Zanesville Rosecrans on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Berne Union on Tuesday, Dec. 8 in MSL-Cardinal matchups.

Last season, Grove City Christian went 3-9 in the league to finish fifth behind champion Berne Union (12-0).

A key loss to graduation was forward/center Sophia Hoyt, who averaged a team-high 9.8 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division IV.

—Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

CENTRAL CROSSING

Coach: Ann Tiefenthaler, second season

Top players: Lydia Kimmel, Zoey King, Sydney McCullough and Taylynne Springs

Key losses: Haley Cox and Georgia Lakso

Last season: 4-19 overall

2019-20 OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (10-0), Hilliard Davidson (7-3), Marysville (6-4), Upper Arlington (5-5), Central Crossing (2-8), Westland (0-10)

2020 postseason: Lost to Olentangy Liberty 63-16 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY

Coach: Joel Taylor, third season

Top players: Kayla Jones, Ellie Pollock-Ballard and Riley Waugh

Key losses: Madison Grube, Alexandria Jones and Alexia Jones

Last season: 6-17 overall

2019-20 OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna and Pickerington Central (9-1), Reynoldsburg (6-4), Lancaster (4-6), Grove City (2-8), Pickerington North (0-10)

2020 postseason: Lost to Westerville North 50-12 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY CHRISTIAN

Coach: Bill Spencer, second season

Top players: Maddie Anderson and Paige Spencer

Key losses: Natalie Bankey and Sophia Hoyt

Last season: 4-18 overall

2019-20 MSL-Cardinal standings: Berne Union (12-0), Zanesville Rosecrans (9-3), Fairfield Christian (8-4), Fisher Catholic (7-5), Grove City Christian (3-9), Harvest Prep (2-10), Millersport (1-11)

2020 postseason: Lost to Fairfield Christian 57-26 in first round of Division IV district tournament