Following two uninspiring losses during the holiday break, Pickerington High School Central girls basketball coach Wade Brockwell needed some answers.

Following two uninspiring losses during the holiday break, Pickerington High School Central girls basketball coach Wade Brockwell needed some answers.

First and foremost, he wanted to know if his team had heart. In the days leading to the Jan. 5 game against Newark, Brockwell set aside a practice to help him answer that question.

"We ran the whole time," junior guard Katie Stevens said. "It was all because we weren't giving much effort. If we don't give effort, there will be consequences."

It worked. Central had won six consecutive games and was 9-5 before last Tuesday's rematch against Pickerington North.

"They're now playing with energy and playing together," Brockwell said. "Anytime you can play as a unit, it makes it that much easier. We were very close before. We just didn't have what it took to get over that hump. Bringing the focus to camaraderie and teamwork has been the difference."

Wins over Newark (35-33 on Jan. 5) and Grove City (57-42 on Jan. 8) were nice, but those teams were a combined 10-21 before last Tuesday. On Jan. 14, Brockwell received some answers as the Tigers earned a marquee win over Reynoldsburg 56-50.

"That was when we knew all the stuff we've been doing is working," said Brockwell, whose team handed Reynoldsburg only its fourth loss in 15 games. "It was real for them. Not taking anything away from Newark and Grove City, but beating Reynoldsburg on the road gave us an extra boost of confidence."

Stevens scored a season-high 16 points, including five 3-pointers against the Raiders.

"In the beginning of the season it was rough for us," Stevens said. "We couldn't find the turning point. But we started playing together and now it's been a confidence builder. Every game we come out believing we can win. After we've gone through a little bit we've come together and hopefully we can continue to get the job done."

Through 14 games, Amy Buccilla led Central's offense at 10.6 points per game followed by Jasmine Henshaw at 7.9. Henshaw led the Tigers with 7.5 rebounds per game.

Beginning on Friday, Central has a chance to finish the regular season strong. The Tigers' final five opponents were a combined 34-37 before last Tuesday. Only two opponents -- Gahanna (10-3) on Friday and South Euclid Regina (12-2) on Feb. 6 -- were over .500.

Gahanna won four of its first five games in January with the loss coming Jan. 8 to Reynoldsburg 44-34. On Dec. 18, Gahanna beat Central 53-46.

Gahanna can expect to see a more focused Tigers team. According to Brockwell, not only has the on-court play improved, but also the team's mental approach.

"We're much more focused," he said. "And now things we've talked about before, like not turning the ball over, not playing more as a group, not trying to get your own, have all improved."

Before last Tuesday, Central was tied with Reynoldsburg for third in the OCC-Ohio Division at 6-3 behind North (9-0) and Gahanna (7-2) and ahead of Newark (5-5), Lancaster (3-6), Groveport (1-8) and Grove City (0-10).

Brockwell knows he has developed a confident team, but he does not want the Tigers to get ahead of themselves. His focus is to continue to build on the momentum created from that newfound confidence.

"We've got to keep doing what we've been doing," Brockwell said. "We've got a long way to get better. We have to make sure we're consistent and getting better at those things we want to improve upon."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North girls basketball teams:

CENTRAL

*Jan. 21 -- Defeated Lancaster 56-49. Amy Buccilla scored 17. *Last Tuesday -- Played Pickerington North *Friday -- At Gahanna. In the first meeting Dec. 18, Gahanna won 53-46. *Tuesday -- At Groveport. In the first meeting Dec. 22, Central won 62-21.

Of note: The Tigers were 9-5 overall and were 6-3 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

*Jan. 21 -- Def. Groveport 60-32. Kavunaa Edwards scored 18 and Taylor Jones added 15. *Last Tuesday -- Played Pickerington Central *Saturday -- At Reynoldsburg. In the first meeting Dec. 17, North won 51-41 in overtime *Tuesday -- Home vs. Gahanna. In the first meeting Dec. 22, North won 49-46.

Of note: The Panthers were 13-1 overall and were 9-0 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio game