The Hilliard Bradley High School girls basketball team will close the regular season Friday, Feb. 8, with an OCC-Cardinal Division game at Dublin Scioto.
The Jaguars then will turn their attention to the postseason. They're hoping a late-season surge will carry over into the Division I district tournament.
Bradley had won six of its previous eight games before playing Westerville North on Feb. 5. North is seeded sixth in the district and Scioto is seeded 12th.
"We've been playing pretty well and these last games should definitely help prepare us for the tournament," coach Kathy Lindsey said. "We were very young in terms of experience, but you can see that we're building onto what we did in the first half of the season.
"We've always played good defense, but now the offense is picking up. We're taking better shots, making better passes and our field-goal percentage has been increasing. Our confidence is better now that the girls have grown together, so we're starting to see some good results."
The Jaguars entered the week 11-9 overall and 7-5 in the OCC-Cardinal. Before Feb. 5, they were tied with Dublin Jerome for third in the league, behind North (12-0) and Dublin Scioto (8-4) and ahead of Westerville Central (6-6), Hilliard Darby (4-8), Westerville South (4-8) and Worthington Kilbourne (0-12).
Seeded 22nd of 43 teams, Bradley opens the district tournament Feb. 16 at 16th-seeded Teays Valley. The winner will play 11th-seeded Zanesville or 30th-seeded Logan in the second round Feb. 20 at the site of the higher seed.
Bradley defeated Teays Valley 39-31 on Dec. 8 at home behind 11 points and 13 rebounds from 6-foot-1 sophomore post player Ashley Hummel.
"I was a little disappointed in our seeding because we beat three or four teams who were seeded above us," Lindsey said. "But as far as our bracket, I think it's a pretty decent draw. We'll have to play well at Teays Valley and make sure we keep them out of the paint. They've got a big girl and also have a freshman who loves to drive the ball."
One of the keys to Bradley's success in recent weeks has been the improved play of senior guard Feaira Crews, who had a career-high 20 points in a 52-38 win over Jonathan Alder on Feb. 2.
"It feels great to contribute to the team like that," Crews said. "I've worked hard at trying to drive the ball more and better. I'm quick, but I'm not great at dribbling, especially in traffic.
"What I think has helped us get better is our team defense. At first, everyone was trying to play defense individually, but the team concept was tough for us because we hadn't played much together. Now our communication is a whole lot better and I think our defense has really improved overall."
Crews was averaging around 9.5 points through 20 games, Lindsey said.
"She was never asked to be a scorer before this season and she always defends the opponent's best guard or forward," Lindsey said. "We even used her against Watterson's post player (Alexis Mayle) and she limited her to five points (in Bradley's 40-33 win on Jan. 26). She's not scared to guard anyone."
Crews had nine points in a 47-30 win over Kilbourne on Feb. 1, scored seven in a 33-30 loss to Westerville Central on Jan. 29 and scored 10 in a 43-31 win over Westerville South on Jan. 25.
"Feaira has become a complete player," Lindsey said. "She gets steals and rebounds and has terrific endurance. She plays great defense and has added scoring. She played AAU and really improved her offense over the summer. I'm happy for her. She's having a good senior season."
Forward Meredith Miller had 13 points to lead the Jaguars against Central. Hummel and post player Amanda Fodor added nine and eight points, respectively.
Against Jonathan Alder, guard Christy Tieman had eight points and guard Jenna Fodor scored seven.
Boys team's rally falls short
The boys team rode a seven-game losing streak into its OCC-Cardinal game against Westerville North on Feb. 5.
Bradley lost to Kilbourne 43-40 on Feb. 1 to fall to 1-17 overall and 0-11 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Jaguars trailed the visiting Wolves 23-12 at halftime but outscored Kilbourne 28-20 in the second half.
Post player Ryan Reffitt had 14 points and forward Brady Simpson scored 11.
Bradley lost to Westerville Central 69-33 on Jan. 29. Forward Jackson Murphy led the Jaguars with 11 points, with point guard Brandon Glenn and Reffitt adding eight and seven points, respectively.