The Westerville North High School girls basketball team seems to be flying under the radar.
The Warriors were 12-1 overall before playing Washington Court House Miami Trace on Jan. 15 but were not among the seven teams in the Division I area coaches poll last week. Their only loss through 13 games came against Pickerington Central, 52-47 on Dec. 11.
"All of the games we have won have been by double digits," coach Jim Kloepfer said. "In our only loss, (Pickerington Central) got up on us and we trailed by 15 in the fourth quarter only to come back and tie it and lose it at the foul line. We have been playing well and that's what matters."
North is 8-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. It opened the second round of league play with a 57-33 win over Westerville South on Jan. 12. Senior guard/foward Gabrielle Pace led a balanced attack with 10 points, with junior guard Kelsey Walker and sophomore forward Devin Jackson both scoring nine.
The Warriors led South 11-4 after the first quarter and extended their lead to 33-11 by halftime.
"We came out and played well from the beginning against South," Kloepfer said. "You never know what to expect in big rivalry games like that. If you don't come out with a fast start, they can come back and get you at any time."
Dublin Scioto is second in the OCC-Cardinal at 6-2, with Dublin Jerome and Hilliard Bradley tied for third at 5-3. Westerville Central (4-4) is fifth, followed by South (3-5), Hilliard Darby (1-7) and Worthington Kilbourne (0-8).
North used a strong third quarter to blow open a four-point halftime lead en route to a 45-30 victory over host Watterson on Jan. 10. Sophomore guard/forward Symone Simmons had 17 points and Walker scored nine.
"I'm proud of the way these girls have been playing," Kloepfer said. "They are the closest-knit group that I've had here and it shows when they take the court."
Through 13 games, North was averaging 58.6 points and allowing an average of 34.3. Simmons was averaging a team-high 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, Jackson was averaging 8.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, Walker was averaging 7.8 points and had a team-high 15 3-pointers, Pace was averaging 7.2 points and senior guard Breyonia Hearn was averaging 7.0 points.
Boys edge South, remain unbeaten
The boys team remains unbeaten after edging host Westerville South 69-64 on Jan. 11.
The Warriors are 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Cardinal heading into their game Friday, Jan. 18, at Darby. They defeated the Panthers 73-53 on Dec. 7 as senior guard Jaylen Benton had 21 points, senior guard and Davidson (N.C.) College-signee Jack Gibbs scored 14 and senior guard Adrian Cook scored 12.
Scioto is second in the OCC-Cardinal at 6-1, followed by South (5-2), Darby (4-3), Westerville Central (3-4), Kilbourne (2-5), Jerome (1-5) and Bradley (0-7).
Darby was 8-3 overall before playing Watterson on Jan. 15.
"Darby is a real challenge because they have some good shooters and are playing well," coach Kevin Thuman said.
After their rematch with Darby, the Warriors will face Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy in the Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Kettering Fairmont. The Pharoahs were 15-6 before Jan. 15.
"The (Flyin' to the Hoop) game is great, but we don't have time to prepare for them ... and scout them because they play all over the place," Thuman said. "We know they are tall and play a lot of basketball, so they will be a challenge."
QEA's roster lists seven of its 11 players as being 6-foot-7 or taller. North's tallest players are junior centers Alex Stewart and R.J. Hutcherson, both of whom are 6-5.
"We're not a (tall) high school basketball team," Thuman said. "We have to be able to spread teams, pressure them and make their big guys run. If they have 6-8 guys who can run, then that might present a problem."
Against South, the Warriors jumped out to an 15-4 lead and never trailed, holding off several rallies by the Wildcats. Gibbs had a team-high 20 points and Benton and Stewart scored 17 and 11, respectively.
"It was a hard-fought game, like it always is against South," Thuman said. "We played pretty well, but I don't think we ever got into a comfort zone. Every time we would make a play, South would have an answer."
Last week, North was first in the Division I area coaches poll and third in the state poll behind Northland and Toledo Central Catholic. Northland was second in the coaches poll.
"It's nice to get the recognition, but at the end of the day it doesn't mean much," Thuman said. "The kids feel good about all of their hard work being acknowledged by the awards and recognition that we want to come from the end of the season and we want to keep working to meet those season-ending goals."