Winners of 40 games the past two seasons, the Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team nonetheless feels it's fallen short of joining the area's elite.

Winners of 40 games the past two seasons, the Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team nonetheless feels it's fallen short of joining the area's elite.

The Golden Bears went 20-1 in 2009-10 and 20-2 last season but lost in a Division I district semifinal both seasons, falling 59-56 to Westerville Central last season and 50-48 to Dublin Coffman two years ago in a game they entered undefeated. The latter loss still smarts, and the Bears admit there are plenty of forward steps to take.

"We feel like we're on the verge," 11th-year coach Tim Casey said. "We never want to take anything away from the opponents we lost to, but there were games where we didn't play well in spurts and that cost us. This year's must be more of a team. To do what we want to do, we must be the ultimate team and work together at all times. We won't be able to rely on any one player to carry us."

The Bears return five seniors, two of whom - 5-foot-11 senior guards Carter Smith and Connor Casey - have considerable varsity experience. They lost six players to graduation in Miami University signee and all-state guard Brian Sullivan, guard Alec Santa-Emma, guard/forward Eric Vannatta and post players A.J. Norman, Wes Richter and Chris Watson.

Sullivan, whose 1,115 career points rank third in program history behind 1992 graduate and former Ohio State player Nate Wilbourne (1,206) and 1957 graduate Bill Cook (1,152), averaged 21.5 points last season and was named third-team all-state, first-team all-district and the OCC-Central Division Player of the Year. He also holds the program record for 3-pointers with 180.

Richter, who averaged 11.5 points, was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

This season, 6-0 sophomore guard Danny Hummer joins Smith and Connor Casey in the backcourt. According to coach Casey, each of the three can play point guard.

The Bears also will be counting on their post players.

"I think this team will be versatile," said Smith, who was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last year. "In the past, teams have just shaded off our big guys and forced us to shoot from farther out. (Forwards) Austin Gibson, Cam Hood and Kevin Vannatta are pretty good shooting in that 15- to 17-foot range. We think that will pay off for us."

Gibson and Hood, both 6-4 seniors, will be joined inside by 6-3 junior Austin Ping, 6-3 sophomores Chris Frey and Vannatta and 6-4, 275-pound senior James Henry, who has verbally committed to play football at Toledo.

"It always takes time to get a feel of what you can do," Smith said. "We're pretty excited about what could happen."

The Bears went 13-1 in the OCC-Central last year and shared the league championship with Coffman. Thomas Worthington finished third at 9-5, followed by Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (5-9), Worthington Kilbourne (5-9), Central Crossing (2-12) and Westland (2-12).

UA opens with two league games - Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Thomas and Dec. 9 at home against Kilbourne.

The Bears have two out-of-area trips this season. They will travel to Richmond, Ind., on Dec. 17 and Jefferson City, Mo., for the Mike Kehoe Great Eight Classic, which runs Dec. 28-30.

By then, UA should have a better idea of whether it has a legitimate chance to win its first district championship since 2007.

"There's definitely some pressure," Connor Casey said. "We've been successful the last few years, but not as good as we've wanted to be. We want to top that."