New Albany Roundup: Eagles girls basketball team relies on Olivia Gittins’ versatility

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Olivia Gittins’ ability to play any position has been a big help to New Albany and coach Phil Sikorski. “It’s nice as a coach to know I can put her wherever we need her (and) she’ll do the job and get it done, ” Sikorski said.

Olivia Gittins might find herself in several places on the basketball court during a given possession, and not just because of the movement that naturally occurs during a game.

The 5-foot-6 senior for the New Albany girls team is listed as a shooting guard, but her consistency, versatility and even her health have led her to mean much more than that to the Eagles, who were 12-4 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Pickerington North on Feb. 12.

“She’ll play a guard position. She’ll play inside. She takes the ball out on the press and she helps break the press. She’s everywhere,” coach Phil Sikorski said. “It’s nice as a coach to know I can put her wherever we need her (and) she’ll do the job and get it done. I think I knew that this year but not last year.”

Gittins was the Eagles’ first player off the bench last year and moved into a starting role this season, but her responsibilities barely changed. She and Sikorski estimated that she has played all five positions at some point and often has to guard bigger players, including some who stand taller than 6-0.

Gittins averaged 5.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.4 assists through 16 games.

“I did expect this role for myself. I wasn’t expecting myself to put as many points up as I have been in the past few games, but it’s been mostly what I thought it would be,” said Gittins, who had a season-high 14 points Jan. 29 against Gahanna – three points off the career high she set against the Lions last year. “My role is just a hard work mentality, always going for any loose ball (and) putting my all into everything.”

Gittins’ versatility was key when a spate of quarantines and injuries hit the team in recent weeks. Guards Brooklyn Gammon, Karli Theis and Lauren Wood all missed several games, as did forward Reagan Benseler.

In addition, senior guard Haley Dennis underwent season-ending knee surgery in January.

Gittins acknowledged that her multiple roles can be difficult to juggle, especially when one melds into another.

“When Lauren hurt her ankle, I had to step in and be the person who took the ball out of bounds, which is usually the post, so I had to fit into a role I haven’t played much,” Gittins said. “It just helps me be a stronger player overall.”

Largely in the hopes of being as healthy as possible, New Albany took a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament. The ninth-seeded Eagles will play host to 15th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne or 29th-seeded Lancaster in a second-round game Feb. 19.

New Albany defeated Lancaster 45-19 on Dec. 22.

The second-round winner will play 10th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 21st-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a district semifinal Feb. 24 at the home of the better seed. District finals are Feb. 27, and at that stage the Eagles could face a potential matchup with top-seeded Newark.

“We decided as a team that we would try to get to a district final,” Sikorski said. “Then whatever happens happens.”

Jada Biller and the New Albany girls bowling team opened the postseason in a Division I sectional Feb. 17. The boys team competes in its sectional Feb. 19 at HP Lanes.

Boys bowlers

close in on title

The boys bowling team entered the week in position to win its first league championship in the program’s six-year history before beginning the postseason.

New Albany was 10-1 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 5-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before its final regular-season match against Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 15. The Eagles were tied with Olentangy Orange in the COHSBC-A and were a half-game behind the Pioneers in the OCC-Buckeye.

New Albany lost to Orange 2,276-2,224 on Jan. 15.

The girls team, which was 6-4 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye before Feb. 15, began the postseason Feb. 17 with a Division I sectional at HP Lanes. 

The boys sectional is Feb. 19 at the same facility.

For both boys and girls, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.

Flecher named boys

cross country coach

After three seasons as boys track and field coach, Greg Flecher will lead runners in the fall as well.

Flecher was named the boys cross country team’s new coach Feb. 5. He succeeds John Galbreath, who resigned in December after five seasons in which the Eagles won four league championships and last year advanced three individuals to the Division I state meet in Will Benseler, Ethan McNichols and Victor Orsinelli.

Benseler, who finished 33rd – 12 spots behind Orsinelli – is a junior and eligible to return in the fall.

Flecher, who served as one of Galbreath’s assistants and teaches science at the high school, is a 2002 Brunswick graduate who ran cross country and track and swam in high school before swimming at Ohio University.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave