By Shailey Klein
The Oak Hall girls varsity basketball team is off and running into the heart of its season with two weeks left before the holiday break. The team opened its season with a tough local matchup against Gainesville High School in the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave Preseason Tournament Nov. 11-12. Sophomore starting point guard Kate Pickens felt the team benefitted from the preseason tournament because the games didn’t have an impact on the team’s record, allowing them to play without the pressure of winning or losing. “The preseason games helped a lot with the chemistry of our team because we got some good repetitions in for our offensive plays,” Pickens stated. “It was good to have an opponent to play against, since we hadn’t really played against anyone in eight months,” she added. Entering the regular season with experience playing together as a team, the Eagles pulled out a commanding 48-31 win over Bronson in its home opener.
The Eagles are led by seniors Akhila Nataraj and Amelia German. This veteran duo has played for the Oak Hall basketball program since sixth grade and bring years of experience and leadership to the court. This experience hasn’t been common in the past few seasons with Oak Hall having a much younger roster compared to most other varsity basketball teams. Nataraj and German serve as exemplary role models for the younger athletes on the team. Pickens especially appreciates having their leadership on and off the court. “They are always very vocal in practice and in games, and they serve as great leaders for the team, whether it’s giving us pep talks, driving us to and from practices, and just being overall great influences on us,” Pickens said.
Nataraj and German have both seen the team come together and get closer leading up to this season. “We’ve spent the past year strengthening our relationship within the team and it’s made this season so much more enjoyable,” Nataraj said. German especially appreciates building friendships that will be kept forever. “It’s very rewarding to watch the team grow together throughout the years and develop new skills and a stronger bond,” German stated. After dedicating countless hours to the Girls Basketball program, both Nataraj and German are eagerly anticipating their long-awaited senior night against Countryside Christian on Dec. 18 to celebrate their careers.
The Eagles have a defining stretch of the season ahead before the team breaks for the holidays on Dec. 22. The Eagles take on St. Joseph’s Academy on the road in a district contest on Dec. 4. Less than a week later the team hosts the 2019 Class 1A State Champions Trenton Tigers for a challenging matchup against a talented team. The Eagles compete against Columbia High School and Countryside Christian School before taking on district foe, P.K. Yonge at Oak Hall on Dec. 22.