New Albany Roundup: Versatile girls basketball team rising to occasion
Even the New Albany girls basketball team’s top two scorers, who accounted for almost half of the Eagles’ points through four games to start a delayed season, have not been immune to the shifting puzzle pieces coach Phil Sikorski assembles on a constant basis.
What thrills Sikorski is that his players were flexible and capable enough to fill whatever role they were handed during a 4-0 start.
“We’ve kind of had to piece things together,” Sikorski said. “We’ve hung in and made adjustments. We’ve powered through and hit some big pressure shots. We’ve been trying to get up and down the floor a little bit. We’ve been working hard on our shooting and that’s starting to pay off but on top of that, the girls are so much more confident now.”
New Albany regularly went 10 or 11 players deep early on, a necessity given its transition offense and a luxury considering that starting point guard Brooklyn Gammon did not play in December because of mononucleosis, teammates Riley McNabb and Lauren Wood were dealing with various foot injuries and forward Haley Dennis continued to battle a persistent knee injury that might require surgery.
Wood, a junior, averaged 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals through four games. Classmate Katie Kaucheck averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 3.0 assists.
New Albany also was 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division game before a Jan. 8 game at Pickerington North.
Guard Karli Theis missed a game because of a COVID-19 quarantine.
Houghton recruit Tymber Wynn became the primary point guard in Gammon’s absence, a role she embraced after seeing limited time last year.
“It’s been good for me and a big challenge,” Wynn said. “I’ve learned so much just since the season has started when it comes to slowing down, looking at all my options, trusting my teammates and handling the ball under pressure.”
That was on display late in a 60-44 win at Hilliard Darby on Dec. 30, when Theis and Wood hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to make it 53-39 after the Eagles had led just 36-33 in the third quarter.
Kaucheck put back an offensive rebound and made another layup moments later.
“We’ve been able to push the ball down, get the ball into the post and then kick it back out and make things happen,” Kaucheck said. “With (Dennis and Gammon) being senior leaders, I took my chance and I want to be as much of a leader as they are.”
Senior guard Olivia Gittins averaged 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds through four games, continuing a personal maturation that saw her earn the team’s Sixth Man award last year.
“I work myself hard on defense and I feel like when I do that, the rest of my teammates can help on the offensive end,” Gittins said. “I appreciated that award, but I wanted to grow my role, too. I have to work on my shot more so I can be a threat on both ends.”
Hockey coach Matt Buss saw enough through the first two weeks of a season that started with three consecutive overtime games and two games in three days against state-ranked competition to be confident that his team was headed in the right direction.
But with 12 skaters in front of two strong goalies, the Eagles were 0-6-0-3 overall and 0-3-0-2 in the CHC-Red before playing Upper Arlington on Jan 8.
“We have played some very good hockey at times. I’ve felt like we were destined to win on a few occasions but we’ve just fallen short,” Buss said. “It has been difficult at times because we haven’t had a win to get excited about, but we will get there. The guys know it. They’ve been putting in the work and they’ve been solid. They will get rewarded.”
Among New Albany’s more competitive games were a 1-all tie against seventh-ranked Findlay on Dec. 29 in the Holly-Daze Hockey Invitational Tournament at The Cube in Findlay and a 3-2 loss to fifth-ranked Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 2 at Chiller Easton. The Eagles led the Patriots 1-0 and 2-1 before falling in the third period.
Colin Carr had a team-leading four goals though nine games. Colin Appell, Victor Appell, Zach Blaney and Josh Haywood all had two each.
The Eagles also were one of 16 varsity programs in central Ohio and 36 overall to be awarded a grant from the McConnell Education Foundation grant in late December.
The McConnell Education Foundation, which was founded by late Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell, has awarded grants totaling more than $1.5 million to programs in the CHC and Ohio Scholastic Hockey League since 1998.
Boys cross country,
golf coaches depart
The boys cross country and golf teams will have new leaders next fall after the recent resignations of John Galbreath and Ryan Hosack, respectively.
According to athletics director Richie Wildenhaus, Galbreath is stepping back in anticipation of retiring from teaching after the 2021-22 academic year but plans to remain involved with the program. He led the cross country team for five seasons, the past four of which ended in league championships, and saw three individuals advance to the Division I state meet last fall.
Hosack, who coached the boys golf team for two seasons and led it to the OCC-Capital title in 2019, has taken a new job in the Denver area.
“(Galbreath) wanted to relinquish some of those head-coaching duties but hopefully he’ll still remain engaged with the program,” Wildenhaus said. “Ryan and his family are excited about their opportunity and since I came here from (suburban) Denver, we’ve been taking a lot about the area. They’re both big losses for us. … We won’t rush any hiring but plans for next season get settled early.”
The boys cross country team fell one spot shy of advancing to state, placing sixth at regional. Victor Orsinelli finished 21st of 177 individuals at state, followed by teammates Will Benseler (33rd) and Ethan McNichols (97th).