Although his team's offense has been inconsistent this season, Westerville Central High School girls basketball coach Doug Etgen has never lost confidence in his defense.

Although his team's offense has been inconsistent this season, Westerville Central High School girls basketball coach Doug Etgen has never lost confidence in his defense.

The Warhawks used that defensive intensity to win three of their last four games heading into an OCC-Cardinal Division contest against Westerville North on Jan. 26.

The recent success included a 46-40 win at Westerville South on Jan. 22, avenging a 41-37 home loss to the Wildcats on Dec. 8.

In the rematch, South led 19-7 but the Warhawks rallied to take a 27-26 lead on Abby King's 15-foot jumper with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the third.

Senior Rachel Dolby came off the bench to help push the lead to 39-32 midway through the fourth by making a short jumper and three free throws, and Central sealed the win at the free-throw line. The Warhawks were 12-for-19 from the line in the game, but 7-for-9 in the final two minutes.

Senior Aly Jurcenko led Central with 18 points. Megan Mills had 13 and went 7-for-9 at the line.

"It was important for our seniors to get the win since it's their last time playing South (during the regular season)," Mills said. "It's a confidence boost for us."

After allowing 14 points in the first quarter, Central gave up just 26 over the final three.

"It came down to us defensively and our rotations," Etgen said. "South is a really good ball-screen team and we didn't get through them all the time, but for the most part we contested their shots. That was a big part of the game."

Etgen said his team will need similar defensive efforts in the final games of the regular season and in the postseason.

Central has allowed an average of 41.3 points through 14 games, and it beat that mark in recent wins over Olentangy Liberty (41-36 on Jan. 7), Centennial (46-30 on Jan. 15) and South.

"We work pretty hard," Etgen said. "The coaches do and the girls do. I compare this time of the year to the dog days in baseball in August. We're in late January, we've been practicing three months (and) the girls are sick of hearing my voice. We put a lot of time and effort into it. Wins are hard to come by. I am very happy for our girls."

The Warhawks will try for a regular-season sweep of Marysville on Friday, Jan. 28, on the road. Central defeated the Monarchs 48-34 on Dec. 17.

•After a 73-53 loss to South on Jan. 21, Central boys coach Todd Minney opted to give his players the day off Jan. 22 so they could reflect on the setback and refocus for the final seven games of the regular season.

"We've been pushing defense and rebounding really hard," Minney said.

"What we really have to focus on is ball movement and making sure that we get everyone involved in making the opponent's defense work. That's going to be our focus for this week and next week."

The Warhawks stayed close to South until the fourth quarter, when the Wildcats pulled away.

Central trailed 42-36 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Nick Vannett led the Warhawks with 14 points and Max Shawver added 11.

"They took the loss pretty hard," Minney said of his players. "They wanted to think about things and then come in (on Jan. 23). Our guys care, and you can't go wrong when kids care this much."

The Warhawks play host to Marysville on Friday, Jan. 28. Central won the first matchup 58-39 on Dec. 17, but the Monarchs are coming off one of their best efforts of the season, a 48-47 win over Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 21.

"Marysville is working really hard and they're improving as a team," Minney said. "It looks like they're really believing in the system. They're certainly not going to be someone that we're going to overlook."

AT A GLANCE

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

BOYS

Jan. 18 - Defeated St. Charles 55-46. Quentin Henderson led the Warhawks with 20 points and Kamorin Harris had 14.

*Jan. 21 - Lost to Westerville South 73-53

*Jan. 25 - Played Westerville North

*Jan. 28 - Home vs. Marysville

Of note: The Warhawks were 8-5 overall and 5-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before Jan. 25.

GIRLS

*Jan. 22 - Def. South 46-40

*Jan. 26 - Played North

*Jan. 28 - At Marysville

Feb. 1 - At Hilliard Bradley

Of note: The Warhawks were 6-8 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Cardinal before Jan. 26.

*OCC-Cardinal game