Liz Van Winkle is happy with the progress of her Hilliard Darby High School girls basketball team, but the third-year coach doesn't want to see the Panthers let up anytime soon.

Liz Van Winkle is happy with the progress of her Hilliard Darby High School girls basketball team, but the third-year coach doesn't want to see the Panthers let up anytime soon.

Darby improved to 6-8 overall with victories over Westerville Central (55-43 on Jan. 17) and Worthington Kilbourne (46-34 on Jan. 20). The Panthers won only four games last season, and Van Winkle is eager to build on this year's progress.

"It can be a confidence-builder," said Van Winkle, whose team played Central Crossing in an OCC-Central Division game Jan. 24. "Our goal as players and as coaches is to do better than last year. I don't think it means as much now with one or two more wins. We want to keep going and win more games."

Junior post player Emily Krumpe had 19 points against Westerville Central.

"This is a big step for us," Krumpe said. "We have put in a lot of hours in the gym. It's nice to see the hard work has been paying off."

The Panthers were 3-6 in the OCC-Central before Jan. 24, in sixth place behind Dublin Coffman (8-1), Central Crossing and Upper Arlington (both 7-2), Hilliard Davidson (5-4) and Thomas Worthington (4-5). Kilbourne and Westland were both 1-8.

"Our league is so tough and it seems like anyone can beat anyone," Van Winkle said. "We have talked about both sides of that with the kids."

Against Central, the Panthers played their most consistent game. They scored 13 points in the third quarter and 14 in each of the other three.

"We shot the ball really well and had our most consistent game," Van Winkle said. "That was by far our most consistent game. We always drop that one quarter, whether it's the first or the fourth. It's never the second or the third.

"We found our shots early. We hit a couple of short jumpers and Annie (Hilditch) had four of her (five 3-pointers) in the first half. Then we picked up our defensive intensity in the third (quarter)."

Hilditch, a senior guard, finished with 18 points against the Warhawks and scored 15 with three 3s against Kilbourne. The Panthers led the Wolves 17-12 at halftime and seized control with a 15-6 third quarter.

"We talked about (starting slow) in the locker room," Van Winkle said. "We came out and played well, and slow starts had been our Achilles' heel in the past. When we're down at halftime, we can get down on ourselves. When we have been up at half, we can relax a bit."

"We have to work extra on our fundamentals because we have to be able to compete with some of the best teams in the area." said Krumpe, who had 16 points against Kilbourne.

Mastering fundamentals comes from practice, and Van Winkle believes that has been one of the keys to her team's success.

"We have to stay focused and we have been working hard in practice," she said. "The j.v. has done a good job of trying to challenge us. We try to simulate in practice what we will see in the games. Two of the biggest things for us have to be consistency and confidence."

Van Winkle would like her team to get a signature win.

"I think we are still working out our defensive kinks. We sometimes give up too many easy layups in the half court," she said. "(The win over Westerville Central) was really our first consistent game, but we're still looking for one or two wins that we can hang our hats on."