The Westerville North High School girls basketball team had just won its 26th consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division game, but coach Jim Kloepfer wasn't excited about the victory.
Sure, the visiting Warriors battled past Westerville South 59-46 on Jan. 10 to win their sixth game in a row, but Kloepfer didn't believe his players were ready to play at tipoff.
"I'm proud of the way our girls battled back after being down eight points early, but South played like they wanted it more, especially early," said Kloepfer, whose team was 8-4 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Canal Winchester on Jan. 15. "(The Wildcats) were diving after loose balls and really were getting after it. We came out and played well to start the second quarter and get things rolling."
South led 15-9 after one quarter, but North rallied to tie the game at 25 at halftime. The Warriors outscored South 18-7 in the third.
"We were able to jump up by eight, but (the Warriors) are a very good transition team. They know who shoots well and how to get the ball to them," said South coach Silas Williams, whose team was 7-7 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 14 and is 4-4 in the league. "I thought we played well (defensively) in the half court, but they were able to get the ball to (Kelsey) Walker and she hit a couple (3-pointers) to get them going."
North's Symone Simmons led all scorers with 26 points and Walker had 12 points, all on 3s. Anna Gibbs had nine points and Hannah Ferguson added six.
"Simmons has a good inside-out game for them," Williams said. "Most of her points that came in the third quarter were in transition."
Camille McLellan led the Wildcats with 22 points and Chanelle Moore added 16.
"Chanelle Moore is a really good player, and McLellan can really take it to the basket and score," Kloepfer said. "(The Wildcats) are a tough team."
South also lost to Dublin Jerome 53-52 in a league game Jan. 8 as Moore scored 21 points, McLellan had 14 and Cheyenne Raker added 11. "We're still young," Williams said. "We have only two seniors and only three players who had played varsity before this year. We keep getting better."
North defeated Watterson 59-42 on Jan. 8, as Gibbs scored 12 points on four 3-pointers and Simmons also had 12 points. Ronni Royer and Walker both had nine points with three 3s, and Ferguson also scored nine points.
Warhawks get back in stride with 3 wins
Central has won three consecutive games to improve to 7-6 overall and 5-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The three wins followed a five-game losing streak, as the Warhawks worked together to overcome the loss of Emma Stille. The 5-foot-11 sophomore post player suffered a knee injury in a 40-32 loss to Westerville North on Dec. 20.
"It was tough to make up the 10 points and 15 rebounds we were getting from Emma each game," coach Jamiya Pride said. "We were already short on the bench and it took us some time to find our groove."
The Warhawks halted the losing streak by winning a pair of league games, defeating Hilliard Darby 41-34 on Jan. 8 and Jerome 51-38 on Jan. 10.
Andrea Hodge led with 12 points against Darby. Halle Kramer had 10 points and Morghan Hyatt added nine.
"Andrea Hodge is a trooper," Pride said. "She plays the majority of the minutes and plays hard on both ends of the court. She's constantly getting opponents into foul trouble."
Against Jerome, Hodge and Hyatt both scored 14 points and Kramer added 11 with three 3s.
"A lot of teams have tried to take Halle away (from our offense), but she has averaged more than a 3-pointer a game, which is good," Pride said. "When the ball goes up, we want to get her hot early. When she's hitting (from the outside), it gives everyone else more opportunities."
Hodge paced the Warhawks with 16 points in a 68-31 win over Groveport on Jan. 11. Kramer had 12 points, Hyatt had 11 and Arie Williams scored nine.
"Morghan Hyatt, a 5-10 sophomore, has averaged in double figures for us in the last three games," Pride said. "That's helped us inside with the loss of Emma. (Hyatt) has been more consistent and that has helped the other girls as well."