The Dublin Scioto High School girls basketball team likely hasn't forgotten a 70-62 overtime loss to Pickerington Central in a Division I district final a year ago.

The Dublin Scioto High School girls basketball team likely hasn't forgotten a 70-62 overtime loss to Pickerington Central in a Division I district final a year ago.

Coach Todd Hardesty has been using it as evidence in his push for a stronger defensive effort for the Irish, who have plenty of firepower with four returning starters.

"We have plenty of people who can score and we're feeling really good about that," said Hardesty, whose team opens Tuesday against Worthington Kilbourne. "The way last season ended with us giving up 70 points, we've made defense a priority. If you score 62 points in the district final, you expect to win."

The Irish have won at least 20 the last three seasons, with three consecutive appearances in the district championship game and three league championships.

Last year ended at 20-4 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Capital Division ahead of Big Walnut (7-3), New Albany (7-3), Olentangy Liberty (6-4), Watkins Memorial (2-8) and Franklin Heights (0-10).

"We're just trying to have a repeat of last year, but better," 5-foot-9 senior guard Kesi Hess said. "There's a lot of unity on this team and we're very familiar with each other."

Hess, the OCC-Capital Player of the Year, was second-team all-district and first-team all-league with teammate Brandi Gorniak, a 5-7 guard who averaged 16.9 points and set a school record with 57 3-pointers.

She also led the team in assists with five per game.

Hess' numbers were just as good (16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists).

The fourth-year letterwinners have been starters since their sophomore seasons.

"They're showing some genuine leadership that's not artificial or contrived," Hardesty said. "It's reflecting on the floor. I think Kesi and Brandi are smart enough to know that they're skilled players, but they also know they've worked hard and it takes everybody around them to be successful."

A strong junior class is led by Katie Papesh (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league), who averaged 9.3 points. She along with 6-0 post player Lindsey Kell (5 points, 7.8 rebounds) and 5-9 forward Jamie O'Connell (4 points, 4.1 rebounds) earned plenty of minutes.

The Irish should have plenty of support on the bench in juniors Devon Chappell (6-1 post player) and Shelley Diewald (5-6 guard) and senior Danielle Miller (5-9 forward), who transferred from Pickerington Central early last year.

Post player Christine Simpson, the team's leading rebounder, was the only player to graduate last season, compared to the five graduates Hardesty had to replace in 2006-07 when the Irish reached a Division I regional final.

"If we're content on being an offensive team then we'll be good, but I don't know that we'll be a great team," Hardesty said. "One great way to help us get better defensively will be our level of competition."

Scioto will compete in the Pickerington Shootout over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and face Cleveland Central Catholic, which in the past has been ranked by USA Today as one of the top programs in the country.

The Irish should be the favorite in the OCC-Cardinal.

"We're going to be facing some teams that we've been familiar with such as Marysville," Hardesty said. "Westerville South has always been a team that will guard it and I look for them to be a real challenge for us."

At a glance

•Coach: Todd Hardesty, 12th season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Worthington Kilbourne

•Key players: Brandi Gorniak, Kesi Hess, Lindsey Kell, Jamie O'Connell and Katie Papesh