After losing four of its first seven games, the Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball team won six of the next seven.

After losing four of its first seven games, the Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball team won six of the next seven.

The Pacers were 9-5 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Watkins Memorial last Friday and non-league Hilliard Davidson last Saturday.

The key in the turnaround has been defense.

"No matter what defense we're playing, our main thing is to play as hard as you can," said senior wing player Kyle Eberst, who is the son of coach Larry Eberst. "If we need a break, we can take one, but the first priority is effort. The second is communication. If someone gets beat, another player will try to cover it up. If the communication is there, you can play through one player getting beat."

Before last Friday, Delaware was allowing 52.9 points per game and scoring 54.1. But the Pacers had won only one game when they allowed more than 53 points. That was a 64-60 decision over Westerville North on Dec. 29.

Still, the Pacers don't focus on any offensive or defensive numbers.

"We don't set offensive and defensive goals because every game and every team we play is different and has different strengths and weaknesses," coach Eberst said. "One opponent may like to really get out on the break and try to score in transition. There will be more possessions in that type of game. They may press us to try to get us to hurry on our offensive possessions. The next opponent may try to slow the pace.

"A lot of it depends on the matchups. So that's why numbers can be deceiving and why we don't set certain goals of points allowed per game or per quarter."

Still, Delaware surrenders an average of 48.2 points per game when it wins. In the Pacers' losses, opponents average 61.4 points.

"What we want to do is make sure we eliminate defensive breakdowns and not allow easy shots," coach Eberst said. "As long as we contest shots, even if the other team is knocking them down, we're OK with that. When we can dictate the pace and make the opponent do something that is uncomfortable for them, then we're in good shape."

Kyle Eberst usually is assigned to stop the opponents' best outside scoring threat. It's something he enjoys, for the most part.

"The majority of the time, we play man-to-man," he said. "I like to play defense because it's a very important part of the game and it's how I can contribute best. It's fun when you're shutting their big scorer down and frustrating him. Of course, it's also discouraging when I can't shut him down. But there is a lot of pressure in being a defensive stopper. It's rewarding when it works. Even when it doesn't work, I won't back down."

It's that type of attitude that Kyle provides that has been a spark to his teammates.

"He's a pest, a gnat," coach Eberst said. "He's one of the smallest guys on the court most of the time and he's getting knocked down and keeps getting back up. It's his strongest asset and I think it's contagious.

"Sean McIntire is just like that off the bench, too. They're shadows, magnets.

"Pat Kennedy's defense is very much improved. I think the attitude of those guys, Kyle and Sean, has rubbed off on the rest of the team."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys basketball team:

*Jan. 23 -- Defeated Franklin Heights 50-47. Sean Rothermel scored 24 points.

*Last Tuesday -- Game against Mount Vernon postponed. No makeup date has been announced.

*Last Friday -- Played Watkins Mem-orial

Last Saturday -- Played Hilliard Davidson

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Pacers lost 70-58 on Dec. 23. Big Walnut, which faced Licking Valley last Friday, was 8-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Capital after a 66-65 overtime loss to Olentangy Orange last Tuesday.

*Friday -- At New Albany. The Pacers won the first meeting 53-51 on Jan. 9. The Eagles were 5-7 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Capital before playing Orange last Friday. Chase Sutton was averaging 17.9 points and Scott McDonald was averaging 10.0 rebounds.

Of note: The Pacers were 9-5 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Capital before last Friday.

*OCC-Capital game