Kelsey Walker set the tone for the Westerville North High School girls basketball team as it clinched its second consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division title.
The senior guard connected on 3-pointers in the first 10 seconds of both halves to help the Warriors cruise to a 63-33 win at Canal Winchester on Feb. 7, securing the outright league championship.
"It feels good to get out there and start on the right foot," said Walker, who finished with 13 points and three 3-pointers. "That gives you a lot of confidence that you can hit more."
The Warriors were 16-5 overall and 12-1 in the league before playing Dublin Jerome on Feb. 11. Hilliard Bradley finished second in the OCC-Cardinal at 11-3.
North hit 10 3-pointers against the Indians. Anna Gibbs scored 16 points with four 3s and Ronni Royer had nine points, all on 3s, in the first quarter to help the Warriors build an 18-7 lead.
The 3-point barrage came in an effort to loosen the Indians' zone defense, which was collapsing on Symone Simmons. The added defensive attention limited Simmons to 10 points -- well below her average of 16.4 -- but she was able to pull down 19 rebounds.
"I'm proud of what these girls have been able to do," coach Jim Kloepfer said. "Winning two league titles in a row isn't easy, but they have worked hard for that."
The Warriors had to battle back to defeat Bradley 54-46 on Feb. 4 as Simmons scored 13 points, Devin Jackson had 11 and Royer had 11 with three 3s.
"We were down six (points) in the third quarter and came back fighting," Kloepfer said. "That was probably one of the most satisfying wins we have had here because (the Jaguars) are a tough matchup."
Walker added nine points against the Jaguars.
"We all love each other and hang out with each other off of the court. Chemistry is important," Walker said. "We're getting confidence now and we're starting to realize our potential."
The seventh-seeded Warriors will be familiar with their first-round opponent in the Division I district tournament. On Monday, Feb. 17, they play host to Jerome, which they will meet for the third time since Jan. 29. North won 51-47 in that first meeting against the Celtics, who were 9-11 before Feb 11.
The winner plays at home against 35th-seeded Independence on Feb. 20 in the second round.
Central closes OCC play with victory
Central was 10-11 overall before playing Worthington Kilbourne on Feb. 11.
The Warhawks finished 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal, defeating Hilliard Darby 57-27 on Feb. 7. Morghan Hyatt led Central with 15 points and Andrea Hodge had nine. Taylor Feinman and Arie Williams added seven points apiece.
After a first-round bye, the 25th-seeded Warhawks play at 11th-seeded Gahanna or 23rd-seeded Walnut Ridge on Wednesday, Feb. 19, in the second round of the Division I district tournament. They have not played either team this season. Walnut Ridge is 13-6 and the Lions are 15-7.
The winner plays 12th-seeded Bradley, 17th-seeded Westerville South or 28th-seeded Grove City on Feb. 27 in a district semifinal at Bloom-Carroll.
South has 13 days between games
South finished the regular season 14-8 overall and 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal by defeating Jerome 62-50 on Feb. 7.
Chanelle Moore led the Wildcats with 29 points. Jada Smoot had 17 points and Audrey Sylvester added 10.
South does not play again until the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 20 against Bradley or Grove City at the home of the better seed. The Wildcats have a first-round bye.