If Delaware Hayes girls basketball coach Jim Morgan had to put a number on the length of time it takes to build a program, it’s three to five years.

“It depends on the group that you have coming,” he said. “We’ve got some strong juniors and some strong freshmen and the seventh- and eighth-grade classes are really, really strong.”

Morgan already saw improvement last season with five wins (two more than the 2014-15 campaign).

“We’ve made a lot of progress with a lot more to go — we’ve got a ways to go yet,” Morgan said. We’re still in the building process, but I think we’ve laid some foundation. Hopefully we can keep building and adding to that foundation.”

This year is about building confidence.

The Pacers enter their first season in the OCC-Cardinal Division with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne — which isn’t an easy league.

“We’ve switched divisions this year … it’s still very challenging with Kilbourne and Hilliard Bradley,” Morgan said.

So, he’s scheduled some games in his non-league that he hopes will help his team build confidence.

“I’ve tried to put us in position to where we can compete and be successful,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, we can build some confidence with our non-league games that will transfer to league competition.”

Delaware has a return contest at Delaware Christian Dec. 22 after a Pacers’ 53-37 win at Hayes to open last season.

Tree of Life, Hamilton Township, Franklin Heights, Johnstown Northridge, Groveport-Madison, Grandview Heights, Cristo Rey, Westland and Newark Catholic round out the non-league slate — six of which are in lower divisions.

Eight players return from last year’s squad, which finished 5-18 including a first-round exit in the tournament.

The Pacers lost leading scorer Brandy Bauer, but return Katie Blair (senior) and Madison Eldridge (junior), who finished second and third in scoring. Blair was the team leader in assists and steals.

“(Blair and Eldridge have) improved quite a bit,” Morgan said. “We’re going to be a team (that scores) by committee for sure.”

Seniors Elishia Lowery, Keiona Houser and Hannah Rafeld, juniors Rachael Bourget and Jessica Walker and sophomore Piper Adkins return from last year’s squad.

“(Walker) had offseason surgery that kind of put her behind a little bit, but she’s progressing,” Morgan said. “Keiona Houser had a pretty consistent summer and fall, so I’m looking for her to help us inside.”

Senior Olivia House and junior Maddie Wilson join freshmen Sydney McMillin and Abby Weller as newcomers to the team.

“I’m pretty high on Abby Weller and Sydney McMillon — both give us some size that we didn’t generally have,” Morgan said. “They both give some athleticism that we lacked at times last year.”

Delaware opens Dec. 3 at Hamilton Township at 2:30 p.m. and opens its home slate Dec. 9 against Hilliard Darby at 7:30 p.m.

By Michael Rich

[email protected]

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.