Something that happened toward the end of last season left a lasting optimism with the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls basketball team.

Something that happened toward the end of last season left a lasting optimism with the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls basketball team.

After losing their Division I district tournament openers the previous six seasons, the Wolves defeated Watkins Memorial 38-31 in the first round. They lost to eventual district champion Pickerington North 51-21 in the second round to finish 9-13.

"A lot of teams go into the draw trying to find away to get to the district final," said coach Steve Palmer, whose team will open Tuesday at Dublin Scioto. "We're just trying to get a win. Getting that monkey off our back is going to help us this year."

"For a lot of players, the start of the tournament meant that we had one more game until the end of the season," 5-foot-10 senior guard and wing player Tori Besser said. "This year, everyone is going to look forward to the tournament because we all want to do that again. It was just one win, but we hadn't done it in awhile. It gives something to look forward to."

Besser was first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-district last year as she averaged 14.2 points and 4.0 rebounds. She is the only senior on the team.

The Wolves lost four graduates, led by Kelsey Sutton, who was averaging 12.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists before tearing the ACL in her left knee in a 46-32 loss to Westerville South on Jan. 11. Seniors Kendyl Reed and Nithya Kumar decided to focus on club soccer and did not return.

"Tori is one of these girls who can do everything," Palmer said. "The four seniors on last year's team put her on the path she is on now. She played a lot AAU ball and really matured a lot."

The Wolves also return juniors Maggie Sullivan (6-0 post player/wing player), Laken Harris (5-8) and Marissa Minichello (5-7 guard). Palmer also will rely on junior Kelsey Koke (5-7 post player) and sophomores Olivia Zimmerman (5-8 guard), Dani Kaufman (5-5 guard) and Sarah Bechtel (5-5 guard).

After losing Sutton, Kilbourne won three out of its last eight games. It finished 3-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place fifth behind Pickerington Central (10-0), Olentangy (7-3), Westerville South (6-4) and Mount Vernon (4-6) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (0-10).

"There were some players who were able to gain some playing time, something that wouldn't have happened had (Sutton) not got injured," Palmer said.

Kilbourne now is in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Westland.

Coffman finished 25-1 a year ago and was a regional finalist. It returns a pair of standouts in seniors Sam MacKay (second-team all-district, honorable mention all-state) and Becca Bornhorst (third-team all-district).

"I think Coffman lost one player from last year's team and she was not a starter," Palmer said. "It should be a fun and competitive league, especially with Thomas in there. Once we've gone through league once, we'll have a better grasp on what we need to do."

At a glance

•Coach: Steve Palmer, second season

•Opener: Tuesday at Dublin Scioto

•Key players: Tori Besser, Laken Harris, Marissa Minichello and Maggie Sullivan