Considering that the Dublin Jerome High School girls basketball team had won six games over the last two seasons, coach Matt Martin could take his team's 2-4 start and be happy with that.

Considering that the Dublin Jerome High School girls basketball team had won six games over the last two seasons, coach Matt Martin could take his team's 2-4 start and be happy with that.

But Martin knows that the record really didn't do justice to the type of basketball his team is playing. The four losses were by a combined 19 points, including 45-43 in overtime to Thomas Worthington on Dec. 16.

"We're right there, we just have to close the deal," Martin said. "I told the girls in practice (before last Friday) that we're nine points in three games away from being undefeated. We could have won all those games and should have won all those games."

Both victories were in the OCC-Cardinal Division, over Westerville Central 29-26 on Dec. 5 and Westerville North 35-32 on Dec. 9. They were the first two league victories for the Celtics since the 2005-06 season.

"For the girls, it raises their confidence that they can compete with anyone and they can win conference game," Martin said. "I've been telling the girls since the beginning of the season (that) we have all the potential in the world. And other coaches do know that. It's just about playing as a team now because individually, we could go man-for-man with most teams."

Improving team play is one thing Martin believes could get the Celtics over the hump in some of the close games, but his biggest point of emphasis has been maintaining focus throughout games, as the Celtics have been hurt by one or two bad quarters in their losses. Against Thomas Worthington, the Celtics fell behind 18-7 after the first quarter, and in a 37-27 loss to Westerville South last Friday, they were down 21-9 at halftime.

The biggest positive for the Celtics so far has been their defense. Through six games, excluding the overtime period against Thomas, Jerome was allowing 34.8 points per game, or fewer than nine per quarter.

"We've been limiting teams to mid-30s, even mid-40s against Olentangy Liberty (47-43 loss Dec. 12), but they've been putting up mid-50s on people," Martin said. "So we've been reducing their scoring, really by giving attention to detail, and we just have to get the offensive side of the ball to that next step."

Martin expects the offense to improve as the season progresses, and he has reason to be pleased with the balance this season. Whereas last year's team relied primarily on Jamie Banks and Jamelia Banks, the Celtics have "five to seven players that can consistently, every night, put up points on the board," according to Martin. Through six games, Julie Mooney led the team at 9.8 points per game, followed by Jamelia Banks at 7.5, Lena DiBartolomeo at 6.0 and Brittany Albert at 5.5.

•The boys team is finally starting to get healthier as it heads to the KSA Holiday Tournament in Orlando, Fla.

Freshman forward Nick Neale, who had been out with a back injury, got his first action last Friday, scoring six points as the Celtics fell to Westerville South 60-41. Forward Sean Sward, who went down with a sprained ankle during a junior varsity game Dec. 12, is expected to be ready to play with the varsity by the start of the KSA Tournament, which begins Saturday and also includes games Monday and Tuesday.

Before playing Olentangy last Tuesday, Jerome was 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal, but it had played most of those games with eight or nine available players.

The Celtics don't continue conference play until Jan. 6 at Marysville, but Carlisle said he's excited about the KSA Tournament, which features a national field.

"I think anytime you go into these holiday tournaments, you have no idea who you're playing," Carlisle said. "I think the most important thing you look for is how quickly you can adjust to what the other teams are doing, whether it be what kind of defense they're playing, what kind of full-court presses or half-court presses or zones that they may play, how they play post defense. How quickly can we make the adjustment and be successful?"

Carlisle said he believes success for the Celtics thus far has been dependent on their defensive intensity. Particularly for a young team like this one, it is critical that they create transition opportunities for themselves with their defense. In their 68-50 win over Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 12, the Celtics were able to score routinely in transition after forcing turnovers. The Celtics haven't been create those type of chances in the three losses, and as a result, they have averaged just 40.7 points in those games.

Through four games, forward Stephen Harrell led the team at 10.8 points per game, followed by guard Cam Wilson (10.5), center Neil Johnson (7.8) and forward Ben Nesdore (7.3).

Jerome's Cam Wilson shoots over Westerville Souths' Olumide Olanrewaju last Friday.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Jerome boys and girls basketball teams:

BOYS

*Last Friday -- Lost to Westerville South 60-41. Cam Wilson had 10 points.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Olentangy

Saturday, Monday, Tuesday -- At KSA tournament in Orlando

*Jan. 6 -- At Marysville

Of note: The Celtics were 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

GIRLS

Dec. 16 -- Lost to Thomas Worthington 45-43 (OT). Julie Mooney scored 15 points. The Celtics trailed 28-16 at halftime.

*Last Friday -- Lost to South 37-27. Lena DiBartolomeo had nine points.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Olentangy

Tuesday -- Home vs. Linden

*Jan. 6 -- Home vs. Marysville

Of note: The Celtics were 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Cardinal game