WEST CARROLLTON — As the Xenia girls basketball team attempted to find a rhythm to its season, it recently had to pause for a second time.
Xenia has taken two stoppages this season due to COVID protocols, which has put it behind the developments and growth others experience through the course of a year.
After its season opener at the Benner Classic against Northeastern on Nov. 26, 2021, the Lady Bucs postponed its next two games scheduled for Dec. 1 and 4 and did not play again until Dec. 8.
Xenia got in its next six games through Dec. 27 before missing three more on Dec. 29, Jan. 3 and 5.
Wanting to stick to 10-day quarantine period, the Lady Bucs were only able to practice for the first time on Friday before retaking the court on Saturday at West Carrollton to play its first game in 12 days.
Junior Amarie Withers said the lack of being able to practice is one of the most frustrating parts of pausing. She noted while practice lets the team work on its skills, not being able to hold them does not allow for the team to bond as come together as most would naturally.
“It’s just the inconsistency part of it that’s bad,” Withers said. “A break itself could be good. I just don’t really think there’s been anything else that’s beneficial about it.”
The Lady Bucs have been able to hold some virtual practices during the pauses, according to head coach Jessica Threats, which has allowed for individual workouts to help remain close to game conditioning.
“When we’re in quarantine we can’t go to like the Y or other places,” Threats said. “We need to find ways to keep them mentally engaged so when we do come back we can at least try to get quickly back.”
Last year as schools were initially beginning its feeling out processes to returning to safe standards of play, Xenia did not ever have a full team stoppage but rather games with individual players sitting out. It caused the team to play with as few as six available players at times.
Threats said that with those situations last year, along with the two stoppages this season, she has seen the players gain a new appreciation for the time it is given together.
“You don’t know when things may be cut off and I think they have at least realized that,” she said. “When they come back, they have tried to play hard but obviously we just want it to translate into more success on the floor. You just have to keep fighting and keep pushing.”
Against West Carrollton, a loss against one of the MVL’s top contenders dropped Xenia to 2-6 overall. Xenia wanted to focus on defense coming out of the break and had a solid performance to keep the score close early, but eventually displayed how offense can be most affected by stoppages in only scoring 28 points during the game.
Threats said it showed off how the team has missed the hours needed to gain the consistency it seeks while also displaying how resilient her team is in wanting to play.
“Obviously it hurts when other teams are able to get on the court to keep up their flows and rhythms,” she said. “The second half of the season just feels like a restart for us. Now we’re experiencing some of those ups and downs we wish that we got early early and recovered from. It’s forced us to start all over again.”
Xenia’s next game is scheduled for Wednesday at home against Tippecanoe. It begins a 12-game closing stretch to the season, all against MVL opponents, which will take place over a 25-day period.
The team also had to cancel a non-league game at Legacy Christian in order to fit in its remaining MVL games and the two schools may still work out a date to play that game as well. The OHSAA Tournament draw also takes place on Jan. 30 and will add another game the week of Feb. 7.
The upcoming chaotic finish has the feel of the rigors an NBA schedule would produce more than high school girls basketball.
“Lots of bags of ice and trying to stay injury free,” Threats said. “You just try and stay healthy and make it through. A lot more of our practices probably need to be strictly skill-based just to work on more basic stuff. We will probably need to lighten things up a little bit but we need to stay mentally engaged to get ready for potentially more than one opponent in a single practice.”
Threats also said the closing stretch will be more of a mental battle for the team, but it is also remaining optimistic about its chances to perform well.
And just getting a lot of chances to keep playing is what the team wants to do the most.
“I’m excited,” Withers said of the remaining schedule. “I feel like if we just continue to work that we’re just going to get better as a team.”