The Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team had two very different games in the Watterson Holiday Classic a year ago, blasting Centennial 63-15 before losing to the host Eagles 52-38 in the final.

The Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team had two very different games in the Watterson Holiday Classic a year ago, blasting Centennial 63-15 before losing to the host Eagles 52-38 in the final.

An easy opener in this year's event -- to be held Monday and Tuesday -- isn't likely. The Bears will face Cincinnati Mother of Mercy in the first round, with Watterson playing Olmsted Falls in the other first-round contest.

Mother of Mercy was 3-2 after losing to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 54-33 on Dec. 18.

"Last year we had an easier game in the first round and that didn't necessarily prepare us for facing Watterson in the finals," coach Chris Savage said. "(Watterson) pretty much handled us. We're going to have to work very hard to win this game, but as long as we play up to our potential we have a chance."

"It's definitely a step up in competition from last year," forward Shannon Flower said. "I've heard really good things about Mother of Mercy. It's good to play someone we haven't played before."

The Bobcats have size in the post in 6-foot-3 senior Katie Kees and 6-1 junior Emily Meyer. Through five games, Kees was averaging 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds and had blocked 13 shots. Senior point guard Jill Brunsman (5-6) was averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 assists.

Olmsted Falls was 2-2 after defeating Brecksville-Broadview Heights 41-32 on Dec. 13. The Bulldogs are led by juniors Alexis Henton (5-5), Rachel Rossman (5-7) and Ashley Hodge (6-1).

Watterson was 4-0 after defeating Hartley 69-32 on Dec. 13. The Eagles are led by a pair of fourth-year starters in 5-7 senior guard Melissa Gilliland and 6-1 senior post player Daiva Gerbec, a third-year starter in 5-6 guard Cami Frommeyer and a second-year starter in 6-0 post player Sunny Finnegan. Last year they finished 21-2 after losing to Dublin Scioto 53-34 in a Division I district semifinal.

UA lost to OCC-Central Division-rival Hilliard Darby 55-41 last Friday as Shanee' Jackson scored a career-high 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. In addition, Panthers forward Simone Luzander scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter. After the Bears had cut Darby's lead to 40-37 with 4 minutes, 9 seconds left, Luzander made 3-pointer to push the lead back to six.

Flower, who had seven points last Friday, totaled 17 points, six steals and five rebounds in a 54-35 victory over Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 12. She believes that if the Bears are going to have a solid showing at the Watterson tournament, they must be able to block out the distractions of the winter break.

"Being in a tournament really helps," Flower said. "It gives you something to look forward to. It makes the practices go faster rather than just practicing for nine days."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington girls basketball teams:

*Last Friday -- Lost to Hilliard Darby 55-41. Michela Paradiso scored 14 points and Mary Corbett had 11.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Central Crossing

Monday -- At Watterson Holiday Classic vs. Cincinnati Mother of Mercy

Tuesday -- At Holiday Classic vs. Watterson or Olmsted Falls

Of note: The Bears were 3-2 overall and 2-2 in OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game