Olentangy Orange girls basketball coach Bob Scott hopes that his team can get off to a fast start this season for one reason … confidence.
“Confidence is a very fragile thing — if you have some early success, it builds confidence,” he said. “If you get hammered or knocked back, it’s a little different story.”
The Pioneers have Big Walnut, Westerville North, Olentangy Liberty, Hilliard Darby, Westerville Central and St. Francis DeSales to open the year.
“We need to have some success early,” Scott said. “If we can do that the first five or six games of the year — if we can have some success there — I think it will help us the rest of the season.”
Scott hopes that more patience and better execution on offense will help in the new campaign. He’s also stressed defense and rebounding with the team.
“The kids have worked hard — they’ve bought in to what we’re trying to do,” Scott said.
The Pioneers return four starters from last year’s squad — Schae Lilley, McKenna Ford, Hannah Sargent and Niaomi Lee. Lilley and Ford were the team’s top scorers last season.
“We think we’re a little deeper than last year, we think we’re more skilled than last year and in our scrimmages, I think we’re farther ahead than last year at this stage,” Scott said.
Lilley led the team in scoring last year at 10 points per game and shot 23-for-24 at the foul line. Scott said that he would like to see her increase her productivity at the line to 60 to 80 foul shots this season.
“If (she) can do that, (her) scoring average will go up,” Scott said.
Ford is a shooting threat from the outside to go with her size at 5-foot-10.
“She works really hard — she’s played a lot of basketball over the spring and summer … and at a very high level,” Scott said. “She’s a versatile kid — she can handle the ball, she can shoot the ball (and) she plays decent defense. She’s one of those kids that does a little bit of everything.”
Hannah Sargent’s size and ball-handling skills give the Pioneers a versatile player that can play the post or run the point.
“We have her handle the ball some, we have her guarding near the basket and away from the basket,” Scott said. “We expect her to rebound. She does a lot things — she has a lot of versatility and that’s going to help us a lot.”
Lilley, Sargent, Lee and Megan Erickson are seniors this year.
“(Erickson is) a very good defensive player and she hustles. She’ll be one of the top subs off our bench,” Scott said.
Juniors Natalie Simpson and Alyssa Feeley also return off of last year’s squad.
Juniors Katie Priest and Alex Ronk and sophomores Taylor Myers and Aurelia Johnson are newcomers to the team. Johnson, a 6-footer, is the tallest player on the team.
“We look to them to get their feet wet at the varsity level and get some scoring and some rebounding,” Scott said.
Orange opens at Big Walnut Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.