The Buckeye Valley girls basketball team seems primed to build off its success from last season.
The Barons have a veteran squad with four seniors and seven juniors coming off a 14-11 season in which they won two tournament games (over Bexley and Linden McKinley) before falling in the district semifinals to River Valley.
“We bring back a lot of kids that have played a lot of basketball — a lot of them have varsity experience,” Barons coach Landon Fraker said. “Every year our goal is to win the league and make it farther in the tournament than we did the year before.”
Fraker, in his seventh season as the BV coach, has led the program to three tournament wins in the past two seasons — breaking a string of seven consecutive opening-game exits.
“Any time that you can do that the girls get excited about what’s going on with the program,” he said. “I think by losing to River Valley in the district semifinals, it fuels the fire for this year, even though they’re in our league.”
The Barons finished third in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference last season behind co-champions North Union and Marion Pleasant — their best finish since closing second in 2013-14.
“I think we have one of the strongest girls basketball leagues in the area — I really do — from top to bottom,” Fraker said. “I think we have to come ready to go every night for our league games and we upped our strength of schedule for our non-league where we picked up Grandview and Westerville Central.”
The success lately also includes consecutive trips to the district semifinals. BV had only been that far twice in the previous 13 seasons and both times required a first-round bye.
Nine return off of last year’s squad – including seniors Kelsey Shearer, Logan Hatcher and Grace Smith and juniors Dominique and Gabrielle Legg, Morgan Scowden, Alaina Radcliffe, Lisa Leienberger and Tess Hughes. Allison Fathbruckner (senior), who played as a sophomore, is back as well.
Scowden and Radcliffe are the top two returning scorers from last season and Hatcher led the team in rebounding and blocked shots.
“We expect more of the same — we expect them to lead on the court and lead off the court,” Fraker said. “We’ve got some plays that go directly to them as well as them filling their roles. On any given night, they can be scorers or they can be rebounders. Everything is going to flow through them.”
Hallie Kaiser (junior) and sophomores Jenna Johnson and Hannah Cowan are newcomers to the varsity level.
“We’re pretty deep,” Fraker said. “What we’re trying to do this year is develop and use those players. It’s one thing to say that you’re going to go 10 deep when you’re up 20 or down 20, but these kids are going to be playing a bunch.”
The Barons open at Grandview Heights tonight at 7:30 p.m. and open at home against River Valley Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.