The Westerville Central High School girls basketball team is looking to build on last year's bounce-back season.
After going 1-22 in 2016-17, the Warhawks improved to 15-8 overall in their first season under Jim Morgan, who was named OCC-Buckeye Division and Division I district Coach of the Year.
Central opened Nov. 28 against Whetstone and begins league play Dec. 7 against Westerville North. The Warhawks went 6-4 in the league last season to tie Olentangy Liberty for second behind Westerville South (10-0).
"We have a veteran squad coming back," Morgan said. "I really give them a lot of autonomy, especially with Michayla (Brenning) being a four-year starter at point guard. "She pretty much runs the offense (and) makes the calls. She has such a high basketball IQ. It's a lot easier this year in terms of knowing each other. They trust me and I trust them. We're trying to build off of last year."
Also back is 5-foot-9 senior forward Najayah Shepherd, who averaged a team-best 8.4 points last season and was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"Our chemistry makes (this team) special, (especially with) how we all know each other very well," Shepherd said.
Brenning, a 5-6 senior, was honorable mention all-district and all-league last winter.
"We've built that trust with each other and we can make decisions on the floor because (Morgan) trusts in us and we trust in him," Brenning said.
Other returnees are seniors Ashley Kramer (5-10, forward), Abby Pence (5-7, guard) and Kennis Sparks (5-7, guard) and junior Mabinty Kebe (5-9, guard).
"Mabinty is a phenomenal athlete and most of all, she's a phenomenal kid," Morgan said. "She is absolutely, in my 30-plus years coaching boys or girls, if not the hardest worker I've ever had, one of the top. She doesn't take plays off in practice."
Senior Peyton Yeater, a 5-7 forward, returns after missing most of the last two seasons with ankle injuries.
"Peyton is very aggressive and very tough," Morgan said. "She'll help us."
Junior Karmen Long, a 6-1 guard/forward, is a transfer from Pickerington Central.
Other players are seniors Erin Davis (5-9, post player) and Jada Reaves (5-7, guard).
Central is hoping to contend for a league title and advance past the first round of the district tournament after losing to Liberty 52-44 in that round last season.
"Westerville South has four Division I recruits, so they have all kinds of talent," Morgan said. "If they mesh together, they're going to be awfully difficult to play. Olentangy Liberty has (Teegan Pifher) back; they're going to be solid. It's going to be very competitive. If we play as hard as we can with great effort, we think we can compete with just about anybody, but you don't have a night off in the OCC."
Athletes announce college decisions
Five Central student-athletes announced their college decisions Nov. 14.
Esther Holtzclaw will play women's volleyball at Ohio Dominican, Lily Linke will play softball at Defiance, Avrey Schumacher will play softball at Youngstown State, Sydney Stepp will play softball at Bowling Green and Tiffany Zuelzke will play softball at Capital.
Nov. 28 -- vs. Whetstone
Nov. 30 -- at Groveport
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Westerville North
Dec. 8 -- at Mount Vernon
Dec. 11 -- at Dublin Jerome
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Olentangy
Dec. 27 -- Watkins Memorial in Phil Brown Classic at Otterbein
*Jan. 4 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 5 -- vs. Walnut Ridge
Jan. 8 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Jan. 11 -- at Westerville South
Jan. 15 -- at Olentangy Berlin
*Jan. 18 -- at Westerville North
Jan. 22 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*Jan. 25 -- at Olentangy Orange
Jan. 29 -- at Upper Arlington
*Feb. 1 -- at Olentangy
Feb. 5 -- at Gahanna
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Feb. 12 -- vs. Linden-McKinley
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Westerville South
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Nov. 30 -- Bexley in Grove City Tip-Off Classic
Dec. 1 -- Grove City or Mifflin in Grove City Tip-Off Classic
*Dec. 5 -- Olentangy Berlin at Delaware Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- At Thomas Worthington with Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 1 -- Granville Invitational