The Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team showed improvement a year ago in Chris Savage's first season as coach.

The Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team showed improvement a year ago in Chris Savage's first season as coach.

After opening 3-7, the Golden Bears went 5-5 in the second half of the regular season and advanced to a Division I district semifinal for the first time since 2004. UA beat Northland 55-52 and Olentangy Liberty 56-46 in the first two rounds before losing to second-seeded Pickerington North 55-48 to finish 10-13 overall.

"I hope we gained some idea on how hard we're going to have to work to go from being a mediocre team to being a consistently good program," said Savage, whose team opens Tuesday against Independence. "We want to continue to get better each and every game."

"Last year we were adjusting to a new coach and a new style," senior guard Abby Frye said. "Since we've had him for a year now, we have to be confident in our decisions."

Frye, a 5-foot-8 guard, is one of four starters returning. Last year Frye was honorable mention all-OCC-Buckeye Division as she averaged 8.0 points shot 34 percent from 3-point range. She made a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer in a 64-58 overtime win over Liberty in the regular season and had 17 points in the tournament victory over Northland.

Frye joins senior Kelsey Hansel (5-7 guard), juniors Ashley Stuart (5-6 guard), Jane Windler (6-1 post player) and Shannon Flower (5-9 forward) as key returnees.

Hansel, who was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, averaged 15.5 points, 3.1 steals and three rebounds.

Windler, who was second-team all-OCC, averaged 8.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. She had 19 points and 21 rebounds in the tournament win over Liberty.

Savage had planned on playing more uptempo game this season, but UA may be without Hansel and Stuart for the start of the season.

Hansel tore an ACL and MCL during the summer and her return date is unknown.

Stuart suffered a severely sprained ankle and has been in a walking boot the past two weeks but is expected back in about two weeks.

"Injuries to two returning starters would hurt any team, but when you have your starting guards, who do a majority of your ball-handling, go down, it causes us to make some adjustments," Savage said. "We're going to have some freshmen, sophomores and juniors competing for the open slots.

"With that being said, Ashley will be back soon and the experience gained by her teammates in her (absence) will only benefit us in the long run."

Other key players include seniors Cassidy Calkins (6-3 post player) and Sarah Buffer (5-8 guard), juniors Laura Hoffman (5-8 guard) and Andrea Hulls (5-8 guard), sophomores Mary Corbett (5-7 guard) and Sarah Hobbs (5-6 sophomore) and freshman Michela Paradiso (5-6 guard).

Last year UA tied Grove City for fourth in the OCC-Buckeye at 3-7 behind Dublin Coffman (10-0), Hilliard Davidson (8-2) and Reynoldsburg (6-4).

"The experience of being in that division really prepared us for the postseason," Frye said. "We played teams like Coffman and Davidson so we knew how hard we had to work if we wanted to continue our season."

UA now is in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

Last year, Coffman (25-1) was a regional finalist and Davidson (19-4) was a district finalist.

"Coffman has to be the favorite. They have some amazing players (seniors Sam MacKay and Becca Bornhorst) returning," Savage said. "But I think we're going to be one of the teams fighting for the top part of the league."

At a glance

•Coach: Chris Savage, second season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Independence

•Key players: Shannon Flower, Abby Frye, Kelsey Hansel, Ashley Stuart and Jane Windler