The Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team clinched the OCC-Central Division championship with three games remaining in the regular season, 15 days before its Division I district tournament opener.

The Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team clinched the OCC-Central Division championship with three games remaining in the regular season, 15 days before its Division I district tournament opener.

With the Golden Bears' first goal accomplished, coach Tim Casey wants to make sure his team doesn't pay too much attention to the next big hurdle - winning a district championship. At least not yet, anyway.

"Kids are kids and their nature is to look a little bit toward the tournament," Casey said. "They know how important it is to not limp into the tournament. We just have to make sure to take our basic approach every night."

The Bears' postseason road doesn't appear particularly easy. If they are to earn their first district title since 2007, they likely will have to defeat three of the top 12 seeds to do so.

UA, which lost two games last week to finish the regular season 15-5 overall and 12-2 in the OCC-Central, is seeded seventh in the district and plays Briggs in the first round at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Reynoldsburg.

Briggs, which is 8-12 overall and finished 5-9 in the City League-South Division, enters the postseason on a five-game losing streak. Key players for the Bruins include 5-foot-8 junior guard Keevon Pittman, 6-3 senior forward Charles Westbrook and 5-9 senior guard Dewey Rice, a transfer from Licking Heights.

Pittman has averaged 17.5 points the past four games, including a 29-point effort against Marion-Franklin in a 78-65 loss on Feb. 7.

"They have athletes and they're talented," Casey said of Briggs. "It won't be an easy first game."

The first-round winner will play 12th-seeded Mount Vernon in the second round at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, at Reynoldsburg.

The Yellow Jackets, who had a first-round bye and shared the OCC-Capital title with Olentangy Orange, fell to 14-6 with a 47-44 loss to New Albany on Feb. 17. Riley Swanson had 20 points and Bradley Fenton scored 14.

The second-round winner will play second-seeded Walnut Ridge, Hilliard Darby, Whetstone or Worthington Kilbourne in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. March 7 at Reynoldsburg.

UA did not play Briggs, Mount Vernon or Walnut Ridge during the regular season but swept two league meetings against both Darby and Kilbourne, beating the Panthers 64-30 on Dec. 16 and 53-45 on Jan. 27 and defeating the Wolves 55-53 on Dec. 9 and 52-31 on Jan. 24.

Third-seeded Olentangy Liberty might await in a district final at 3 p.m. March 10 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

The Bears enter the postseason coming off two road losses, 64-49 at New Albany on Feb. 14 and 51-49 at Dublin Coffman on Feb. 17 in their league finale. Against New Albany, senior guard Carter Smith had 13 points, senior forward Cam Hood scored 11 and sophomore guard Danny Hummer added 10. Sophomore forward Kevin Vannatta had 22 points and Smith scored 10 against Coffman.

UA finished 12-2 in the OCC-Central, ahead of Coffman (9-5), Thomas Worthington (9-5), Kilbourne (8-6), Westland (8-6), Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Darby (3-11) and Central Crossing (0-14).

"We're probably not going to be an underdog, at least in our first few games. Other teams know what we have," Smith said. "We'll see some teams that have everything we have and then some. Each guy on this team, in his mind, has to give it all he has. We have to be as ready as we can for each game. I think we'd be disappointed if when we looked back at this year, the only thing we had to show for it was an OCC championship."

The memories of falling short of a district championship each of the past two seasons have stuck with UA. Despite going 40-1 the past two regular seasons, the Bears lost in a district semifinal both years, falling 50-48 to Coffman in 2010 and 59-56 to Westerville Central last season.

"We graduated some great seniors last year, including a player the caliber of Brian Sullivan (now at Miami University), and sometimes when that happens those returning players have a chip on the shoulder trying to prove the team and the program are still solid," Casey said. "This year's team is carving its niche. They've proven we've been good this year, and they're not done yet."