The Westerville Central High School girls basketball team has come a long way since going winless in coach Jamiya Pride's first season.
After going 0-21 in 2011-12, the Warhawks improved to 9-14 last season and were out to a 4-1 start this season before losing to Hartley 43-34 on Dec. 16.
Central won its first three games before losing to visiting Hilliard Bradley 58-50 on Dec. 10 in an OCC-Cardinal Division contest.
The Warhawks, however, bounced back to defeat host Canal Winchester 73-45 on Dec. 13. The Indians are in their first season in the OCC-Cardinal.
"This program has come a long way," Pride said. "I'm finally adding players that we have developed and trained up in our program defensively, so that's paying off. We're still young, which is good. The younger players are gaining a lot of experience in the last two years, so to see them mature on the defensive end has helped us gain confidence, especially this year."
Central enters its league game Friday, Dec. 20, at Westerville North at 3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Warriors are 3-4 overall and 3-0 in the league.
North won both games last season, 54-26 and 61-35, and finished first in the league at 14-0 as Central was fifth at 7-7.
The Warriors have been without two key players from last season, as senior guard Kelsey Walker (knee) and junior forward Devin Jackson (ankle) are out with injuries.
Against Bradley, Andrea Hodge led the Warhawks with 14 points, followed by Halle Kramer with 13 and Arie Williams with 10.
Central then cruised past Canal Winchester behind 18 points from Emma Stille. Kramer had 15 points and Hodge added 14.
"Even though we lost to Bradley, we had a chance to win," Pride said. "We just didn't make free throws (3-for-14). We didn't do a good job boxing out at the end of the game. We had opportunities, but just couldn't nail free throws and they did (22-for-32), but we bounced back (against Canal Winchester) and that felt good to see them come back out and get a win."
Pride pointed to a strong effort from Kramer, one of two seniors on the team along with Williams, as a key to the Warhawks' early success.
"Our senior captain, Halle Kramer, has really been stepping up on the offensive end," Pride said. "We really don't talk a whole lot about offense, but she definitely has been spot on with her 3s and she's definitely a really good streak shooter."
Boys team out to strong start
The boys team has started 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal under first-year coach Donovon Barrett.
After losing at Groveport 54-53 in the opener Nov. 30, Central has won four consecutive games entering its home league contest against Westerville North on Friday, Dec. 20.
"It's steadily improving," Barrett said. "We still have a long way to go and some of the things are pretty obvious. The kids realize what we're trying to get to. Once they realize what we value and where we want them to be, that's a big victory."
Last season, Central lost to North 79-58 and 66-57 as the Warriors won the league title at 14-0 and the Warhawks were fifth at 6-8.
"It's going to be an exciting game," Barrett said. "It's a Friday night game, it's at our place, and obviously against the defending champs."
Central defeated Canal Winchester 53-33 on Dec. 13 at home as Eric James scored a game-high 20 points. Kwamel Wade had 12 points and Jalon Talley added 11.
The Warhawks sealed the victory by outscoring the Indians 16-3 in the fourth quarter.
Central won at Bradley 79-42 on Dec. 10, outscoring the Jaguars 48-18 in the second half. James scored a season-high 30 points, Wade had 11 and Will Maynus added 10.
"Consistently, our defensive effort has been pretty good and it's even getting better," Barrett said. "The kids are realizing the value. If we play hard and play by our Central rules on defense, it can lead to some good things on the offensive end."