Olentangy Liberty girls basketball coach Sam Krafty walked off the court after the Patriots’ last scrimmage before the start of his first season thinking his team wasn’t going to win a game.

That team had the best start in school history at 21-0, won the OCC-Central title and collected the program’s first district championship.

He feels better about this year’s squad.

“The team is scrimmaging pretty well … we’ve held our own in every scrimmage,” he said. “We had some chemistry stuff going on (my first year) and last year we were on a major roller coaster trying to work through (Alexa Fisher’s) injury.”

The Patriots have five players returning this season off a team that tied for the OCC-Central title — Seniors Katie Harrop and Breanna Yashko and juniors Lauren Spicer, Kennedy Kashmiry and Sydney Englehart.

“We went from being one of the most experienced teams in the district to probably the least experienced team,” Krafty said.

The two seniors, Yashko and Harrop, have played key roles in some very big games over the past couple of seasons.

“Katie and Bre have started a lot of games for us and we need to lean on them a little bit,” Krafty said. “They’ve been through a lot of battles with us. If you need experience coming back, the place you really want it is in the backcourt, and Bre and Katie give us that … they’re pretty rock-solid.”

Yashko emerged as the go-to scorer for the Patriots while Fisher, now at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, was battling injuries last season.

“Lex is a hard kid to replace because, mentally, she was just so tough,” Krafty said.

Yashko got a taste of what it was like to be the main target for opposing defenses — an experience Krafty thinks will be beneficial moving forward.

“Bre got some very good first-hand experience of what it was like to run the show,” Krafty said. “She knows that this year, she’s probably number one on the scouting report. Her prior experience from last year will help.”

Harrop has been one of Liberty’s top defenders over the past couple of seasons and will continue to provide that expertise this year. But, she is developing an outside jumper that should come in handy as the Patriots look for points.

“Katie Harrop is a kid that can score as well,” Krafty said. “She was our Defensive Player of the Year last year. She’s a very good shooter and she can drive the ball … she has some tools, too.”

Freshman Teegan Pifher has a lot of upside at the wing position. Standing 6-foot-1, her and Spicer are the tallest Patriots.

“Teegan is a multi-tool player,” Krafty said. “She has really good size, but she’s not a post player, although she can score in the post very well. She shoots it well, she can handle the ball, she runs the floor … she’s going to be a kid that we look to move around the court a lot and try to create some mismatches.”

Junior Emma Humaney and freshman Kelly Levering will provide depth for Liberty this season.

By Michael Rich

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Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.