Trailing Worthington Kilbourne 10-2 after one quarter Dec. 14, the Westerville Central High School girls basketball team appeared to be headed to its seventh consecutive loss to begin the season and 28th in a row over the past two years.
Things also seemed bleak because senior guard/forward Megan Mills fractured her left wrist early in the first quarter. Mills is expected to miss at least a month, according to coach Jamiya Pride.
A pair of underclassmen, however, led a comeback and helped the Warhawks snap their losing streak by defeating visiting Kilbourne 43-39.
Freshman center Emma Stile scored 19 points and sophomore point guard Andrea Hodge scored 13.
"We are definitely getting better," Hodge said. "From last year to this year, we're a very good team now. (The victory over Kilbourne) was amazing. It feels good to finally win a game and my team did really well. When you're losing you always have those doubts in your mind, but it's still good to stay optimistic about things and that's what we did to pull out the win."
It was Pride's first win in his two seasons at Central.
"We all figured the impossible is possible to walk away with the 'W' by playing a complete game," Pride said. "A lot of times in the past we were never able to play three full or three and a half quarters to get a victory, but it's a bright future for the rest of our team for the rest of the year."
Before defeating Kilbourne, the Warhawks' last win came on Feb. 16, 2011, a 56-39 victory over Briggs in the first round of the Division I district tournament under coach Doug Etgen, who resigned following the season.
Against Kilbourne, Central closed to within 21-16 by halftime and outscored the Wolves 12-2 in the third quarter to take a 28-23 lead.
Central carried that momentum into its contest at Hartley on Dec. 15, as it led for most of the game before losing 41-37. Hodge led the Warhawks with 13 points and senior guard Kelsey Merriam scored 10.
Merriam hit a 3-pointer to close the Warhawks to within 39-37 with 1 minute, 20 seconds left, but Ariel Packer's two free throws with 22 seconds remaining sealed the win for Hartley.
"Our girls are playing harder the last couple of games and we're finally playing defense the way we would like to," Pride said. "There are other things on the offensive side, but our success will start with defense and (the Hartley game) proved we can play away in a harsh environment and still be in the game."
Senior Maggie Sabo injured her left ankle at the end of the third quarter and is expected to miss action, according to Pride.
With Mills and Sabo out, Pride expects sophomore guard Imani Steele, who began the season on the junior varsity, to receive playing time.
Central plays host to Westerville North on Thursday, Dec. 20.
The Warriors are 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, with the loss coming against Pickerington Central, 52-47 on Dec. 11.
Last season, North beat Central 60-30 and 70-41.
"North hasn't lost a whole lot," Pride said. "I know they're going to bring it. It's a rivalry game and we expect them to bring their best and we're going to give our best and see what happens."
Wildcats girls show improvement
South coach Silas Williams said he is pleased with his team's improvement as it prepares for its home game against Hilliard Darby on Friday, Dec. 21.
The Wildcats improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal by defeating Hilliard Bradley 33-23 on Dec. 14.
Junior guard Jada Smoot led South with 14 points.
"I'm very pleased with the progress," Williams said. "You lose four starters from last year, the girls have to find a way. That's what we're doing, we're finding our way and we're starting to find what works best for us.
"Our defense from the first game to now is getting better. Now we just have to get some more scoring and the girls have to find their niche, so I think we're doing a pretty good job as of right now."