The good-natured war of words began several hours before Wednesday’s season-ending tournament for Newark’s fall league.
Newark junior Maggie Mitchell and senior teammate Paige Cashin wanted a shot at the team with Newark sophomores Kym Royster and Ali Cartnal.
“I wanted to play them,” Mitchell said. “There was some trash talking going on at open gym.”
Unfortunately, that matchup never materalized. The “stacked” team with Mitchell and Cashin was forced to forfeit because of a lack of players, opening the door for the super sophomores.
Cartnal, a point guard, and Royster, a post player, helped their yellow team to the tournament championship with a 43-38 victory against the pink team in the finals.
“(Mitchell) just kept talking and talking and talking,” said Cartnal, who had teammates from Bishop Rosecrans and Lancaster. “They are a great team. It would have been close. I just love to impress the coaches, and it makes you feel good.”
Newark coach J.R. Shumate has seen his league grow each year he has done it. The teams do not have coaches, and only two girls from one high school are allowed to be on the court at one time.
Pink included Granville varsity players Abby Barker and Rachael Holt in addition to players from Liberty Union, Pickerington North and Watkins Memorial. Other teams had players from Utica, Newark Catholic and Lakewood.
“We are getting positive feedback, so we will keep doing it,” Shumate said. “It allows the girls to knock the dust off.”
Royster, who missed most of her freshman season with a wrist injury, showed why the Wildcats are so excited about her potential. Royster has great size at 6-foot-2 with polished moves around the basket, but she also showed an ability to defend along the perimeter and start transition opportunities.
Granville’s Brittany Atkinson led the Blue Aces in scoring in 2011-12, and her stint with green was focused on distributing the ball. With help during the school season from Barker and Holt, the Blue Aces hope to be a multi-faceted attack as they attempt to get back in the Mid-State League-Ohio Division title hunt after seeing their string of three straight snapped a year ago.
“You get to tone up on your own skills and some defense,” Atkinson said. “I am working on my ball-handling and looking for the cutter. It helps to get you ready to be looking for your players.”
NC is preparing to reload for another run after an undefeated regular season, and senior forward Caroline Wollenburg was happy to participate in the low-key environment of the fall league
Mitchell was disappointed she did not get to show her stuff Wednesday, but Newark’s high-scoring guard will have plenty of opportunities during the upcoming season. The Wildcats have reached the Division I district semifinals each of the past two years.
“Open gyms are going better and better every day,” Mitchell said. “Our chemistry is great. We are getting a feel for each other’s moves and sweating together. We have a new set of girls and new stamina this year. We have some unfinished business we have to settle for this year.”