Paul Owens doesn’t like to divulge his Cincinnati Christian School girls basketball team’s scrimmage opponents, figuring that it cuts down on opportunities for opponents — especially those the Cougars play early in the regular season — to forage for scouting reports.
He will say he likes to schedule teams from schools larger than his Division IV program, which mimics what CCS faces in the regular season.
“We only play a few games against Division IV schools, so I like to make my scrimmage schedule equally challenging,” said Owens, whose seventh season at the helm is scheduled to start on Nov. 29 at Cincinnati Country Day in a Miami Valley Conference Scarlet Division matchup.
GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
Owens needed an ambitious scrimmage schedule to help become familiar with his players and what they bring to the court. The Cincinnati Christian roster posted on the MVC website includes a whopping eight freshmen.
“We’ve been looking good, but we’re very young,” Owens said. “That would be a concern. We only have 13 kids in the program and eight of them are freshmen, so numerically, some of them are going to play.”
Among the first-year Cougars is Alia Johnson, whom Owens expects to start at point guard. He has experience with freshman point guards. Lyric Harris led Cincinnati Christian with an average of 10.2 points per game while playing the point last season before transferring to Roger Bacon.
“I’ve had younger point guards in the past,” Owens said of Johnson. “She’s had some bumps in the road in the scrimmages, but she is a big-time athlete who I think is really going to be fine by the time it counts, which is the tournament. In most of the games, I think we’ll be OK. She’s already more comfortable in the preseason. Her teammates and we as coaches have confidence in her.”
Among Cincinnati Christian’s four seniors is forward Grace Edmonston, who was second in scoring last season with an average of 9.5 points per game and led the Cougars with an average of 9.2 rebounds per game on her way to being named second-team All-MVC Scarlet.
“I think we’re going to be reasonably difficult to defend,” Owens said. “We have three or four girls who can shoot the ball well, a post player who is pretty good and a point guard who is pretty solid too. Once we get into the tournament, we’re going to be difficult to defend, both from the zone standpoint and the man-to-man standpoint.
“We have a good mix. We have flexibility. Grace Edmonston is a post player who played on the wing as a sophomore, and we have numerous other players who play on the wing and could see time at the post position.”
Owens’ primary concern going into the season is his team’s defense.
“They’re not meeting my expectations on that end of the floor,” he said. “Some of that has to do with youth. Some of the freshmen are having trouble adapting to the high school game. It’s a little bit faster than they’re accustomed to. They’ve played AAU ball, but that’s different than competing against girls who are three or four years older than you.
GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
“We’ve seen great improvement from the first scrimmage to our third or fourth. I’m typically a man-to-man guy, but we’re throwing a lot at them. The playbook is a little more expansive at the high school level than it is at the junior high level. We’re trying not to throw a whole lot at them.”
Regardless of how much Owens and his staff are throwing at the callow Cougars or how much they’re absorbing, they’re going to be on the court.
“We’re going to play nine kids for sure,” he said. “There’s a 10th one who’s performing a little better in scrimmages than we expected, but we’ll be nine deep at least, and numerically, four of them are going to be freshmen.”
The youthful Cougars face a challenging MVC Scarlet schedule that includes Summit Country Day, which was 27-0 before losing to Versailles in a Division III regional championship game. CCS finished 6-7 and fourth in the MVC Scarlet and 11-15 overall, reaching a Division IV district final.
“Obviously, Summit Country Day on our side of the league is far and away the favorite,” Owens said. “CCD is always good. I know they have a good group of incoming freshmen as well, and they have a very good returning senior. I would say they’re going to be good. I don’t know a whole lot about Norwood. They’re new to the league. Then you have ourselves and (Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy) and (North College Hill) in there as well. NCH lost a very good player to graduation.”