After helping the Westerville Central High School boys basketball team reach a Division I district final last year, Christian Graves led a returning cast that was hoping to advance at least that far this season.

After helping the Westerville Central High School boys basketball team reach a Division I district final last year, Christian Graves led a returning cast that was hoping to advance at least that far this season.

Although the Warhawks have struggled at times, Graves believes they still have the potential to reach that goal.

Central is 7-8 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division as it prepares to play host to Dublin Scioto on Friday, Feb. 3.

The Warhawks beat Scioto 61-56 on Dec. 21.

"Things haven't been perfect, but we're looking to improve," Graves said. "We're still looking forward to playing our best basketball of the season and just coming together as a team. Getting ready for the tournament, we still have time to become stronger as a team. We're definitely looking forward to that."

Central, which lost to Northland 65-62 in a 2011 district final, lost six players from last season's team, including starters Kamorin Harris, Quentin Henderson and Nick Vannett.

Graves and fellow senior Max Shawver were the leading returning scorers, as each averaged 8.0 points per game last season.

Graves and Joleon Merchant lead the team in scoring average this season at 12.

Graves is shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 45 percent from the field. Coach Todd Minney calls him one of the best 3-point shooters in the area.

"Catch and shoot, he's outstanding," Minney said. "Unfortunately, he takes a lot of them, which has brought his percentage down because he's trying to create off the dribble. We have to do a better job of getting him open off screens and he has to get a little more patient within the offense sometimes."

Graves has drawn interest from several colleges. He has verbally committed to Malone University in Canton, choosing the Pioneers over Ohio Dominican and Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia.

"Christian is a great-hearted young man," Minney said "Malone is a great fit for him. He has great morals. He's a grounded kid that loves the game of basketball. He's a gym rat. He put the time in when doing the private skill work. He's a class act. He does it in the classroom, he does it outside of school and he does it on the basketball floor. He's just a quality kid."

Central will play host to Olentangy on Tuesday, Feb. 7, looking to avenge a 62-58 overtime loss to the Braves on Jan. 3.

"That is one that we put a mark next to that we have to come out and get a little bit of redemption," Minney said. "We really played a poor second half that game. I think we're going to play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."

Olentangy Liberty, which is 15-0 overall, leads the league at 10-0. Westerville South and North are tied for second at 8-2. Central and Olentangy are tied for fifth at 4-6, trailing fourth-place Scioto (5-5).

The Warhawks will visit Liberty on Feb. 10. The Patriots beat Central 58-38 on Jan. 6.

Central defeated Marysville 67-53 on Jan. 27, snapping a three-game losing streak behind 18 points from Merchant and 14 from Graves.

The Warhawks have lost six of their last eight.

"We had to do a lot of team bonding the last couple of weeks just to try and maintain our heads," Minney said. "The kids recovered pretty well. I thought we played pretty good pressure defense (against Marysville) and we shot pretty well from the foul line (19-for-21)."

•The girls team made a bid for its first win of the season before losing to Marysville 49-42 on Jan. 27 at home.

The Warhawks led 11-10 after one quarter and 27-24 at halftime before being outscored 15-2 in the third.

Central's Megan Mills scored a game-high 22 points.

Marysville, which is 4-13 overall and 2-9 in the league, also defeated Central 41-35 on Dec. 16.

The Warhawks are 0-11 in the league. They were 0-16 overall before playing Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 31.

Central will visit Scioto on Friday, Feb. 3. Scioto defeated the Warhawks 64-42 on Dec. 21.