There were times during Ashley Andracki's sophomore season with the Watterson High School girls basketball team that opponents left her open on the perimeter because they knew she preferred to pass the ball rather than shoot it.

There were times during Ashley Andracki's sophomore season with the Watterson High School girls basketball team that opponents left her open on the perimeter because they knew she preferred to pass the ball rather than shoot it.

But as a senior, Andracki has emerged as the Eagles' best outside shooter and leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points through 13 games.

"Two years ago when teams ran a box-and-one (defense) against us, Ashley was the one they left open because she didn't look to shoot the ball very often," coach Tom Woodford said. "Now she's the focus of those kinds of defenses because she's improved her skills and is more confident in herself."

After averaging 1.6 points as a sophomore, Andracki began taking shooting lessons from former Ohio State player Toni Roesch and spent countless hours shooting baskets on her own during the offseason.

Andracki's hard work began to pay off during her junior season, when she started every game at point guard, averaged 7.2 points and was named first-team all-CCL and honorable mention all-district in Division I.

She proved to be a clutch scorer that season as well, as she made two free throws against DeSales in a one-and-one situation with less than a minute remaining to tie a game the Eagles won 54-50 in overtime.

"I felt like I was young to be on varsity my sophomore year and I didn't feel confident enough to shoot the ball a lot," Andracki said.

"But our top scorer, (Western Michigan recruit) Courtney Haley, tore her ACL before the start of last season, and coach told me I had to step it up that season, so I worked on my shooting and tried to do more to score that year."

As one of three returning starters this season, Andracki worked to improve her ball-handling skills and her shooting range during the past offseason, and she scored in double figures in 10 of the Eagles' first 13 games.

She made four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 18 points in a 42-32 league win at Hartley on Dec. 7, and she established a new personal-best by scoring 22 points in a 53-40 victory over Upper Arlington on Dec. 29.

She also has learned to score in a variety of ways, as she has made shots from the outside, has scored from the free-throw line and has scored in transition.

"I've picked up the intensity because it's my senior year and I want to give it my all," she said. "The biggest difference for me this year is I'm shooting with more confidence and using my speed to create scoring opportunities on defense.

"I've gotten better at anticipating passes, stealing the ball and scoring at the other end."

Andracki leads her team in playing time and, according to Woodford, she does a good job of handling the ball in the face of defensive pressure and setting up her teammates for quality scoring opportunities.

"Ashley's been our most consistent scorer, but she doesn't care if she scores 22 points or four points as long as we win," Woodford said. "She handles the ball when we need her to and she has a lot to do with her teammates' scoring because she passes the ball well."

Andracki and classmate Regina Smith have taken turns guarding their opponents' best perimeter player.

According to Woodford, they have more than held their own on the defensive end of the floor.

"Along with Regina, Ashley guards the other team's top guards, and she's a tough defensive player," Woodford said. "A lot of times, Ashley's offense is created by steals. She probably scores one or two baskets per game off of steals."

Even though she's developed into Watterson's top player, Andracki credits her coaches and teammates for much of her improved play. Being raised in Clintonville, she has played basketball with classmates Celeste Cantwell, Judy Sauter and Smith since they were fourth-graders.

"We all hang out together during the weekends, and I'm not just talking about the four seniors, because we're good friends with the younger girls, too," Andracki said. "Everyone on our team works hard in practice and has something to do with our success. We all make each other better."

Andracki is being recruited by several Division III colleges. She is considering playing for Wilmington College.

"I have a few options to play college basketball, but I'm not entirely sure what I want to do yet," she said.

"I want to major in sports training or physical therapy because I want to stay involved in athletics, so it's important that I find a school that has a good (academic) program in those areas.

"I realize that this could be my last season of basketball, and that's motivating me to work hard and make the most of it."