First-year coach Rick Ferkel knows all about the history of the Bexley High School girls basketball team and will try to live up to it, beginning with the opener against Licking Valley on Tuesday.

First-year coach Rick Ferkel knows all about the history of the Bexley High School girls basketball team and will try to live up to it, beginning with the opener against Licking Valley on Tuesday.

Ferkel, who replaced Wade Brockwell, inherits a team that has won 18 league championships and six Division II district title since 1984. Ferkel said the nice thing about that tradition is the players know it, too.

"It's a great opportunity for me," said Ferkel, who coached Worthington Kilbourne's junior varsity last season. "Bexley has a storied tradition. The girls expect to win and have worked hard to make things happen."

Bexley, which also visits Hartley on Dec. 4, finished 18-5 overall after losing to Big Walnut 48-41 in a district semifinal last year. Brockwell, who coached the Lions for eight seasons and won district championships in 2003 and 2004, left Bexley for Pickerington Central.

Senior guard Ashley Dennis, who recently committed to Stetson, said Ferkel has made sure no one will wear the Lions out this season.

"We're in shape," Dennis said. "We've done a lot of running. When it gets to the fourth quarter, all that training is going to pay off. We have to do all the little things, like rebounding and boxing out in order for us to be successful."

The Lions will be leaning a lot on the 6-foot Dennis, who was the MSL-Ohio Division Player of the Year, first-team all-district and second-team all-state last year as she averaged 17.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Bexley lost three starters to graduation, including Melissa Hart, who is playing at Kenyon, and Monica Gustin, who is playing at Baldwin-Wallace. Hart, who was first-team all-MSL, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state, averaged 16.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. Gustin averaged 8.5 points and 4.7 assists, made a program-record 53 3-pointers.

Senior Rachel Hart, a 5-8 forward who averaged. 4.4 points a game last year, returns with juniors Rebecca Carroll (5-9 center) and Lily Watson (5-6 guard) and sophomore Kylee Soga (5-6).

Junior Danielle Van Bibber (5-7) is the front-runner to take over the point guard role.

Other players expected to see time include juniors Eva Golden (5-5) and Maggie Manfrezi (5-7) and freshman Bailey Breese (5-3).

"We've got three or four players who have varsity experience, but we're pretty much a new team," Ferkel said. "We've got a lot of new kids who are learning a new system and new terminology. But we have the girls who will fight for another league title and for a district championship."

After losing their opener to Licking Valley 58-49 last season, the Lions won 12 of their next 13 league games to win their second championship in three years. Licking Valley (11-3), Newark Catholic (10-4), Heath (9-5), Lakewood (7-7), Whitehall (4-10), Granville (3-11) and Columbus Academy (0-14) followed.

"The league has been very solid over the last couple of years," Ferkel said. "You've got teams who play solid defense and some that have good size.

"There are some nice individual players. Bexley has always been in the top half of the league but the league is strong and it's going to be a challenge to stay there."

At a glance

•Coach: Rick Ferkel, first season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Licking Valley

•Key players: Ashley Dennis, Rachel Hart and Danielle Van Bibber