Winners of back-to-back Division I district championships and ranked in the area coaches poll all season, the Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team rarely has struggled with its confidence this winter.
Now the Raiders have one thing they've been lacking -- a signature win -- to back up the notion that they're hitting their stride at the right time.
Reynoldsburg, which was fifth in last week's area poll, edged the state's third-ranked team, Pickerington Central, 55-50 on Feb. 2 to forge a tie atop the OCC-Ohio Division with the Tigers.
Both teams are 8-1 in the league, as Central beat the Raiders 56-50 in overtime Dec. 22.
Reynoldsburg's last league title came in 2013-14.
"It helps us know what we can do," junior forward Uju Ezeudu said of the win over the Tigers. "Our seniors had never beaten them. I've won district and I've won a regional, but I've never won an OCC or shared it, so that would mean a lot to our team."
Reynoldsburg is 15-5 overall and must win Friday, Feb. 9, at Pickerington North to earn at least a share of the league title. Central closes its league schedule that night at Grove City.
The Raiders snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Tigers just two days before receiving the fourth seed for the district tournament. They will open the postseason Feb. 17 at home against 44th-seeded Briggs.
"The first time (we played Central) I wasn't sure that with all of the talent they had that we could compete with them," coach Jack Purtell said. "I think we came away thinking we could have won that basketball game. We had a really good week of practice (heading into the rematch). We had a lot of lot of focus and our seniors have been great."
Reynoldsburg trailed Central 30-24 at halftime but got 13 points from sophomore guard Kyria Walker in the third quarter and led by as much as seven before the Tigers charged back.
Central got to within 51-50 when Ezeudu scored off a pass from Mackenzie Davis with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining.
The Tigers had a chance to tie, but senior guard Adrian Crockwell -- who played for Reynoldsburg the past two seasons -- missed a 3-pointer.
Walker finished with 23 points and Ezeudu and Jalynda Salley both scored 10.
"We ran our little lob and Mackenzie threw a great pass to Uju and she ended up making it," Purtell said of Ezeudu's basket to make it 53-50. "(Then) we got a stop.
"The seniors might only have a month left in their season. We're just going to cherish every day, work hard every day and try to get better."
Wrestlers tuning up for postseason
The wrestling team concludes OCC-Ohio action Thursday, Feb. 8, at home against Grove City and Lancaster.
The Raiders, who are 1-2 in the league, close the regular season Saturday, Feb. 10, in the All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome.
"The All-North Tournament will be a good tune-up before sectionals and give us an idea of what we need to improve on," coach Jon Forgy said.
The Raiders open the postseason with a Division I sectional Feb. 24 at Upper Arlington.
Forgy was encouraged by what he saw Jan. 20 when Reynoldsburg finished fourth (136.5) in the 20-team Hamilton Township Invitational behind champion Hilliard Davidson (233). Thomas Baire (heavyweight) captured a championship, Gage Chapman (138 pounds), Kyle Copas (145) and Cameron Simpson (160) were third, Luke Goeschel (120) was fourth, Noah Ratliff (152) finished fifth and Isaiah Boateng (113) placed sixth.
Then on Jan. 27 in the Watkins Memorial Invitational, Reynoldsburg placed eighth (117.5) of 12 teams behind champion Springboro (265) as Baire and Goeschel were third, Simpson and David Smiley (132) finished fourth, Copas and Colin Harvey (220) were fifth and Chapman, Ratliff and Jonathan Axel Balmeo (195) placed sixth.
Copas (28-6) and Simpson (28-9) lead the Raiders in wins, followed by Ratliff (27-9), Chapman (24-11) and Goeschel (20-11).
"As a team we really showed where we are at the Hamilton Township tournament," Forgy said. "We won some matches that were close. I think we're progressing each week but still have some small things we need to improve on before we get to sectionals. Gage Chapman, Luke Goeschel and Noah Ratliff have really come along this year and have shown growth and ability to win when needed."
Boys team will try to avenge loss to North
On Friday, Feb. 9, the boys basketball team will play at OCC-Ohio leader Pickerington North looking to avenge a 48-42 loss Jan. 5.
The Raiders trailed just 16-15 at halftime but were outscored 21-12 in the third quarter. Tre Williams had 12 points and Ben Fort added 11 to lead Reynoldsburg.
North was 15-2 overall before playing Canal Winchester on Feb. 6. The Panthers are 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Raiders, who were 11-7 overall before playing Central Crossing on Feb. 6, fell to 3-5 in the league after losing to Pickerington Central 63-58 on Feb. 2. They also lost to Central 72-57 on Dec. 22.
Williams scored 26 points in the rematch against the Tigers, who fell behind 15-9 in the first quarter but were tied with the Raiders at 42 after three periods.
The Division I district tournament drawing is Sunday, Feb. 11, and the Raiders figure to be seeded at about the same or lower than a season ago when they entered the postseason as a No. 10 seed.
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- At Pickerington North. The Raiders lost to the Panthers 48-42 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 12 -- At Hartley
*Feb. 9 -- At Pickerington North. The Raiders beat the Panthers 54-35 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 12 -- Home vs. Zanesville
Feb. 14 -- Bexley at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 10 -- Division I sectional at Upper Arlington. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University.
*Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Grove City and Lancaster
Feb. 10 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome