Granville High School girls basketball coach Sue Borchers believes her team is poised to make a strong run over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Granville High School girls basketball coach Sue Borchers believes her team is poised to make a strong run over the final three weeks of the regular season.

"We're getting more comfortable running our (defensive) press and our offense," Borchers said. "Our girls are motivated and very focused right now."

Borchers, whose team was 8-4 overall and 7-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Bexley last Saturday, said a previously-postponed game at Utica has been rescheduled for Feb. 15, making that the regular-season finale for the Blue Aces.

"That'll be a good time to play it, right before the (postseason) tournament starts," Borchers said. "They're a strong Division II team, and playing them right before the tournament should be beneficial for both of us."

To that end, Tuesday's non-league game at DeSales likely serves a similar purpose. The Blue Aces won just one postseason game since advancing to a district semifinal in 2004, and the antagonists have usually been Columbus-area schools. The Stallions were 8-5 overall and had won five of six games before playing Watterson last Saturday.

"In some of our losses, like Heath (a 64-43 setback on Jan. 5), those teams did a good job running the floor on us," Borchers said. "We have to improve on that, and DeSales and Utica both play that way."

Nonetheless, Borchers' optimism stems in part from the recent return of junior post Rachael Newkirk, who missed the first seven games while recovering from a soccer-related knee injury. That gives the Blue Aces, who returned just one starter this season in junior guard Lacie Buckey, another veteran presence on the floor and the ability to rest other post players such as Jessie Lozier and Ellie Crawford a little more. Newkirk also sat out last Tuesday's 45-31 win at Lakewood because she was sick as Granville won a third consecutive game.

"Rachael's a real go-getter," Borchers said. "Her making it back gives us a little more depth inside, and she's our only girl with a little size so it also gives us a few more options."

•MILLION DOLLAR DREAM PROMO -- The schedule for celebrity shooters taking part in the Free-Throw Challenge at Newark has been changed, committee member Sandy Mercer said last week.

D'Wan Shackleford will appear Tuesday at halftime of the boys varsity basketball game, replacing Lou Mitchell. Mitchell will now appear on Feb. 5. Newark City Schools Superintendent Doug Ute will take his shots on Feb. 19.

So far, 1977 Newark graduate Chris Franga has fared the best by making 22 of his 25 attempts on Jan. 9. Franga, who went on to play men's basketball at Denison University, will be inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame in a ceremony also honoring four others before the Feb. 5 game against Pickerington Central.

•HOME SWEET HOME -- The Newark Catholic boys team has a 17-game home winning streak entering Saturday's game against Licking Valley. The remaining home games are on Feb. 5 (Lakewood), Feb. 13 (Granville) and Feb. 19 (Heath).

The Blue Aces were the last opponent to subdue the Green Wave on its home court with a 63-48 victory on Feb. 8, 2008.

"Before every home game we talk about extending the streak," senior forward Kevin Cox said. "Our goal every year is to go undefeated at home, and that's still ahead of us."

Ranked No. 1 in the Division IV state poll, the Green Wave improved to 6-0 at home this season with a 73-64 victory over Centerburg last Monday as James Moerman scored a career-high 22 points while also contributing five steals and five assists.

The Trojans, who were ranked second in last week's Division III district poll, lead the MBC standings. Their only other loss entering this weekend came in a 61-55 non-league setback Dec. 30 against Heath.

"We took the mentality that this was like a district-championship game. Coach (Drew Meister) preached that to us all week," Cox said. "We never took our foot off the peddle."

As central Ohio's only undefeated team outside of Division I, Newark Catholic was 11-0 overall and led the MSL-Ohio standings at 6-0 before playing last Friday at Heath. The Green Wave plays Tuesday at Columbus Academy.