Senior Kesli Ratcliff addressed her teammates on the Columbus Academy girls basketball team in the locker room after a 46-42 loss to Licking Valley on Jan. 21.

Senior Kesli Ratcliff addressed her teammates on the Columbus Academy girls basketball team in the locker room after a 46-42 loss to Licking Valley on Jan. 21.

Ratcliff is in her fourth season on the team and is no stranger to losing. The Vikings were a combined 9-53 the last three seasons.

The losses have come with less frequency this season and the loss to Licking Valley was a clear sign how far the program has progressed. She felt compelled to let the younger players know that progress is measured not only in wins and losses.

"My freshman year we lost to Licking Valley by 60 points," said Ratcliff, who is playing for her fourth coach, Mike Belcher, in as many seasons. "We've all come together as a unit and we're getting better and better. I'm excited to come in this second half and see what we can do against (MSL-Ohio Division) teams we just lost to. With the improvements we made, we can win a lot of those games we lost."

After losing to Lakewood 53-52 last Saturday and beating Gahanna christian 51-40 last Monday, Academy was 7-7 overall. Entering last Tuesday, Newark Catholic and Granville were tied for first in the league at 9-1, followed by Licking Valley (5-3), Heath (5-4), Bexley (3-5), Academy (2-6), Lakewood (2-7) and Whitehall (1-9).

Last Saturday's game marked the start of the second half of league play. Beginning Friday at Whitehall, Academy will close the regular season with five MSL games, all on the road. The stretch will be challenging, according to Belcher.

"We weren't sure at the beginning of the year, but they feel they can compete in this league now," Belcher said. "We've been down so long and in such a tough league, now they know they can go out and compete. We've surprised some teams when we go and play as hard as we can."

"Because we started winning it gave us momentum," said Sarah Burley, who was on the team that won just twice last year. "We didn't have motivation last year. It's been awesome. Even though we're a young team, we so much calmer on the court. We're not frantic. We used to play scattered."

Academy's first win this season came Dec. 4 at home over Whitehall 38-35. The Vikings won three of their next four. The Rams were 5-11 overall after beating Licking Valley 39-30 last Saturday.

"It's fun to know the last couple years have paid off," Molly Belcher said. "The things we've learned last year are coming together."

Molly Belcher is one of four frontcourt players along with Burley, Ratcliff and Audrey Young who make up the strength of the offense. According to coach Belcher, most of the team's points are scored in the paint.

"We do a good job getting the ball inside," he said. "We don't have a lot of good outside shooters so we've adjusted and get the ball inside when we need to."

Freshmen guards LaShaun Ransom and Erin Simmons have allowed Academy break the opponent's full-court press and get to its offensive end. Inability to break that full-court press used to be a problem.

"They can handle the ball," Ratcliff said. "Before, we were a bunch of athletes playing basketball. Now we have more basketball players playing basketball. When we couldn't break that pressure we would get killed. Now, teams are almost at a disadvantage to press us because we can get it down the court so easily."

Academy will play Tuesday at Granville, Feb. 7 at Newark Catholic, Feb. 11 at Bexley and Feb. 13 at Licking Valley to close the regular season.

"We're anxious to see these teams again," coach Belcher said. "We've been working on trying to be aggressive and never stop attacking on offense. It's a shame all these games are on the road, but the kids are playing with a lot of confidence."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Academy boys basketball, wrestling and boys and girls swimming and diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Jan. 20 -- Lost to Hartley 68-63. Max Hoster scored 24 points and Andy Eldridge had 13.

*Last Friday -- Lost to Licking Valley 49-47. Hoster scored 21 points and Cameron Baker had 17.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Heath

*Saturday -- Home vs. Bexley. Academy lost 67-55 on Dec. 13.

Of note: The Vikings were 5-7 overall and 2-5 in the MSL-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*MSL-Ohio game

WRESTLING

Jan. 20 -- Matches vs. Northland and Northridge canceled

Jan. 22 -- Lost to Olentangy Orange 42-18; lost to Marion Harding 46-27

Last Monday -- Competed against Bexley and Licking Valley

Today -- At Lakewood

Saturday -- At New Lexington Jimmy Wood Memorial Tournament

Tuesday -- Home vs. Walnut Ridge and Linden

Wednesday -- Home vs. Newark Catholic and Whitehall

SWIMMING & DIVING

Jan. 21 -- Boys: Lost to Dublin Scioto 51-50, lost to New Albany 64-38; Girls: Def. Scioto 60-37, lost to New Albany 74-28

Last Friday -- Boys: Def. Gahanna 87-83; Girls: Def. Gahanna 92-78

Last Saturday -- Boys: Def. Granville 101-69; Girls: Def. Granville 98-69

Saturday -- At home MSL meet

Wednesday -- Home vs. DeSales