With a favorable schedule remaining, the Licking Heights High School girls basketball team could finish with a winning record in the MSL-Cardinal Division.

With a favorable schedule remaining, the Licking Heights High School girls basketball team could finish with a winning record in the MSL-Cardinal Division.

The Hornets were 5-11 overall and 5-5 in the league before playing Jan. 27 at West Jefferson, an opponent they defeated 56-38 on Dec. 13.

They'll conclude the regular season with home MSL-Cardinal games against Berne Union on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Millersport on Saturday, Feb. 4, before visiting Fisher Catholic for the finale Feb. 10. Licking Heights beat the Lakers 57-33 on Jan. 3 and the Irish 42-40 on Jan. 7 after losing to the Rockets 47-39 on Dec. 17.

"Our goal has been to finish in the top half of our league," coach Dave Ring said. "We have that opportunity, and that's what I've been selling the girls on."

The Hornets haven't finished among the MSL-Cardinal's better half since the 2003-04 and 2004-05 teams both went 11-3 to take second place behind Newark Catholic, which later moved to the MSL-Ohio. They finished fifth in the league in each of the next three seasons and were seventh in 2008-09, sixth in 2009-10 and seventh last year.

The league runner-up teams went 13-8 overall in 2003-04 and 14-6 in 2004-05. They were coached by Mike Windholtz and anchored by players such as Jessica Brink, Dominique Macioce, Jill Auer, Melissa Hewitt and Angie Adams. Their success followed a generation of losing seasons, proving that a reversal of fortunes is possible.

"Absolutely," Ring said. "Before we lost to Licking Valley (54-28 on Jan. 24), which is one of the few poorly played games we've had here in the second half, we'd only given up nine more points than we scored all year. That says something about a (5-11) team.

"We're undersized, basically playing with five guards on the floor. We've been hit by the injury bug, and we had to cancel our (junior-varsity) schedule after we lost a few players (because of academic ineligibility). There have been some struggles, but we're only a player or two away."

The Hornets, who had lost five games by eight or fewer points and four by five or fewer through 16 contests, received some good news before playing West Jefferson. Courtney Jones, a junior forward, was expected to play on a limited basis after missing four games because of a fractured pelvis.

She was averaging 9.7 points before being sidelined and remained the team's leading scorer before playing the Roughriders. The other top scorers were sophomores Skyler Ortiz (8.5) and Dameras Whitlock (8.0), seniors Madelynne Mynatt (6.6) and Brandi Hunt (6.1) and junior Alyssa Stanley (5.3).

In a 47-43 loss to Liberty Union on Jan. 21, the Hornets led 21-19 at halftime and by three late in the game. The Lions were 13-2 overall and 9-0 to lead the MSL-Cardinal before playing Berne Union on Jan. 27.

"We're doing some good things," Ring said. "We have some components in place, some good shooters, and the younger girls are really stepping up. The biggest thing is getting the girls to believe in themselves. After what we did with Liberty Union, they should."