The Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball team has spent most of the last two weeks putting together a strong enough run to shake off one of its poorest starts since coach Chris Rider took over 12 seasons ago.

The Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball team has spent most of the last two weeks putting together a strong enough run to shake off one of its poorest starts since coach Chris Rider took over 12 seasons ago.

The next step for the Raiders likely isn't much more complicated than to continue down the same path that brought them a three-game winning streak before playing Lancaster last Tuesday in the finale of the 2008 portion of their schedule.

There is clean-up to be done, particularly in terms of taking the pressure off point guard Kevin Gray.

In a 58-53 win last Friday at Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter but managed to hold off a late rally attempt as Gray was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line over the final 1 minute, 2 seconds.

"One positive is that our free-throw shooting has really improved," Rider said. "We've just got to get more consistent with the basketball and cut the unforced turnovers down."

Gray is one of only two Raiders to play all of last season on varsity. The other is senior forward Vaughn Spaulding, who saw limited play before becoming a starter this year.

The remainder of the roster played together on the junior varsity, with a few dressing varsity.

A stretch which began Dec. 13 with a 69-59 victory over Zanesville and also included a victory over Westerville South (69-62 on Dec. 16) might not have come at a better time in terms of building confidence.

"Sometimes we have breakdowns and we just look lost out there sometimes," Gray said. "It's a big confidence boost to win three in a row. I can't remember the last time we did that."

The Raiders, who had three streaks of at least three wins last season, are off until they face Groveport on Jan. 6. It's a rest that Rider believes also is coming at an opportune time.

"This is our seventh game, and on the road sometimes the inexperience gets the better of you," Rider said. "Even though it's still December, we might be a little tired. I think these guys like each other, and the chemistry is there. There's just a learning curve that they're going through. We've basically got two weeks off, so we can rest a little bit."

•BIG HALF -- By halftime last Friday, Gray had not scored and had two fouls as his team trailed 26-22.

He then scored 21 points in the second half, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play. He was 7-for-9 shooting from the free-throw line.

Despite being the Raiders' leading scorer last year, Gray did not reach 20 points in any game. Before Reynoldsburg's game last Tuesday, he already had two such games and was averaging 15.5.

Gray also led a defensive effort against North that included holding the Panthers' leading scorer, Eric Brindle, to 13 points. North scored just three field goals in the fourth quarter on the way to blowing a 42-34 lead.

"If you're choosing up guys, it would be hard not to choose Kevin Gray," Rider said. "He plays with heart and determination. He's a pretty good basketball player. He has been around long enough to know that when I say we need to pick it up a notch, he understands."

At a glance

Below are recent results and the coming schedule for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball team:

Dec. 16 -- Defeated Westerville South 69-62. Kevin Gray scored 19 points, Reggie Walls had 16 and Vaughn Spaulding added 15 for Reynoldsburg, which outscored the Wildcats 27-20 in the fourth quarter.

*Last Friday -- Def. Pickerington North 58-53. Gray scored all of his 21 points in the second half and Walls added 18 points.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Lancaster

*Jan. 6 -- At Groveport. The Cruisers lost to Newark 68-55 last Friday and were 1-4 overall before playing Central Crossing last Saturday and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington Central last Tuesday.

Of note: The Raiders were 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio game