The Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team returns four starters and seven letterwinners from a team that last year finished 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

The Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team returns four starters and seven letterwinners from a team that last year finished 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

The Raiders, who lost to Dresden Tri-Valley 42-40 in a Division I district semifinal a year ago, might be better this season, but that might not be apparent in their record.

That's because they now are in the OCC-Ohio Division, which also includes Gahanna (first in OCC-Ohio last year, 9-1), Groveport, Grove City (fourth in OCC-Buckeye, 3-7), Lancaster (second in OCC-Ohio, 8-2), Newark, Pickerington Central (district champion) and Pickerington North (district champion).

"If there's a better league in the state from top to bottom, I'd be surprised," said coach Jack Purtell, whose team will open at home against Mifflin on Tuesday. "There's just tremendous talent there."

Non-league opponents are Mifflin (Division II regional champion last season), a trip to the Classic in the Country in Berlin in January, Toledo Notre Dame and three games in the eight-team Ida Baker tournament in Cape Coral, Fla.

Last season in the OCC-Buckeye, the Raiders were third behind Dublin Coffman (10-0) and Hilliard Davidson (8-2).

T'Shera Lucas is the top returnee. The 5-foot-9 junior was second-team all-district and first-team all-OCC-Buckeye last season as she averaged 15.8 points and six rebounds and shot 63 percent from the field. She averaged 20.0 points in OCC-Buckeye play.

Senior Melanie Marx (4.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 steals) returns in the backcourt. Marx is a third-year starter and a fourth-year varsity player.

Junior Aryelle Covington (5.6 points, 4.5 rebounds) is a third-year starter and junior Kenyell Goodson (6.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals) is a second-year starter. They are the other returning starters.

Sophomore Kacia Grant, who played in 16 games last season, is the starting point guard and the lone new starter.

Also returning off the bench are seniors Randi Luker and Kristen Mason.

"We have many gifted athletes, and with T'Shera, Melanie, Aryelle and Kenyell, our experience will be a plus," Purtell said. "Our quickness, especially at guard, will be something we will try to exploit."

Lucas knows the Raiders will be at a size disadvantage -- she, Covington and Mason are the tallest on the team at 5-9 -- in almost every game. But she also knows the Raiders have a lot going for them.

"We're going to be able to run, use our quickness and set the pace," she said. "We all know our roles, the team chemistry is good."

Marx has been a regular since her freshman year and is looking forward to everything about the season.

"We're playing as a team, overall have great quickness and can rebound," she said. "The harder the opponent, the better. That's how you improve."

Lucas said the other four players will play multiple positions on offense and hopefully cause matchup problems for opponents.

"Melanie can play the one or the two, Aryelle and I can play the three or four, and when we do that bigger girls won't be able to keep up," she said. "Then if they try to put guards on us, we can post them up."

"I'm getting too old for moral victories, this year we want to get over the hump," Purtell said. "If we lose a few before Christmas it won't ruin our season. We want to improve and learn and be at our best by tournament time when the stakes are highest."

At a glance

•Coach: Jack Purtell, seventh season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Mifflin

•Key players: Aryelle Covington, Kenyell Goodson, Kacia Grant, T'Shera Lucas, Randi Luker, Melanie Marx and Kristen Mason