MOUNT VERNON — Many pundits are predicting that the Olentangy Orange girls basketball team are good enough to be regional champions.
If that’s the case, the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets had little to lose on Tuesday.
The scoreboard showed the Jackets losing, 67-34.
To Mount Vernon head coach Joe Rucker, the game could have been much worse.
“Our girls hung tough with them. I’m pleased,” said Rucker. “The scoreboard doesn’t reflect it, because we didn’t hit many shots. But we’re close. We’re very close.”
The Pioneers feature a team full of stars that return from last year’s district finals. The two biggest stars — juniors Taylor Agler and Mya Walker, combined for 32 points and 15 rebounds in Tuesday’s game.
Agler is the daughter of Brian Agler, the head coach of the Seattle Storm in the WNBA.
“They’ve got talent,” said Rucker. “When you see those post players step up and hit threes — they just make shots. They’re a great team.”
With six players listed at 5-foot-9 or taller, Orange figured to have an easy time getting inside shots and offensive boards.
Madisyn Montgomery and Hannah King — the only two Yellow Jackets listed at 5-9 — were solid defenders inside. Keli Thompson and Sierra Basista assisted by disrupting dribbles. The Jackets only totaled five steals, but they created more trouble than many had predicted.
“We are never going to use size as an excuse,” said Rucker. “I put up on the board, ‘Do you want the ball?’ It’s a game of ‘want’ sometimes. We can control getting loose balls. We can control setting screens, getting deflections, things like that.”
Thompson led the way with two early buckets, helping keep Mount Vernon close in the first period. However, at the midway point in the first, with Mount Vernon trailing, 11-8, Thompson got her second foul. Micayla Severns followed up with two quick fouls of her own.