Junior guard Ethan Knisley of the Bexley High School boys basketball team loves the anticipation that builds in the days leading up to the start of the Division II district tournament.

Junior guard Ethan Knisley of the Bexley High School boys basketball team loves the anticipation that builds in the days leading up to the start of the Division II district tournament.

"Tournament time is my favorite time of the year," he said. "There's definitely a different vibe around our team."

The Lions, who are 6-14 overall after concluding the regular season with a 79-54 loss to Columbus Academy on Feb. 17, open the tournament against Caledonia River Valley in the first round at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Dublin Scioto. River Valley fell to 11-8 with a 65-45 loss to Buckeye Valley on Feb. 17.

"River Valley has some height and some good shooters," said coach Dave Gustin, whose team hasn't lost a tournament opener since falling 67-62 to London in 2009. "We have some tall guys, too. We're going to be able to put some height and length on them. Hopefully that will neutralize their inside players."

The winner faces second-seeded Brookhaven or Hamilton Township in the second round at 7:45 p.m. March 3 at Scioto. The Lions have not played River Valley or Brookhaven this season but defeated Hamilton Township 64-34 on Dec. 6.

Gustin believes his team got a confidence boost with a 68-45 win over Whitehall on Feb. 14. Bexley had lost to the Rams 57-49 on Jan. 14.

"(The Whitehall) win definitely gives our team confidence," said Gustin, whose team has lost 11 games by nine points or fewer. "If we continue to play like that, we could do well in the tournament."

One of the keys to the win over Whitehall was the Lions' defensive play. Rams point guard Demetrius Carr scored 30 points, including five 3-pointers, in the teams' first meeting, but Knisley and senior forward Jalen Robinette combined to hold him to 10 points in the rematch.

"He just went off on us (Jan. 14) and we knew we couldn't allow him to do that again," Gustin said of Carr. "There's no way we can withstand another 30-point effort from someone."

"(Carr's performance Jan. 14) definitely had me working harder in practice," Knisley said. "We knew if we shut him down, we can shut their whole team down."

For Bexley, Aaron Aldridge scored 20 points against Whitehall, with Jalen Robinette scoring 15 and Sam Nolan 13. In the loss to Academy, the Lions got 13 points from Nolan and 12 from Robinette.

The Lions finished 4-10 in the MSL-Ohio to place sixth, behind Academy (12-2), Newark Catholic (12-2), Granville (9-5), Licking Valley (9-5) and Heath (6-8) and ahead of Lakewood (2-12) and Whitehall (2-12).

•The girls basketball team lost 45-35 to fifth-seeded Eastmoor Academy in the first round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 16 at Delaware to finish 7-14 overall.

The Lions led 17-15 at halftime but were outscored 14-3 in the third quarter and trailed 29-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

Trailing 38-33 with 3 minutes, 16 seconds left, Bexley had a turnover, missed two free throws and had another shot blocked during a 90-second stretch. The three missed scoring opportunities thwarted the Lions' comeback chances.

"Our kids were giving it everything they could, but it's pretty deflating when you don't finish the easy ones," coach Jim Strode said.

Junior point guard Lydia Lake led the Lions with 15 points and junior forward Brianna Stewart scored 10. Bexley held Eastmoor's leading scorer, Tajanee Wells, who was averaging 16.8 points, to seven points.

The Lions started the season 0-6 but went 7-7 in their final 14 regular-season games.

"We all got together (after a 44-39 loss to Buckeye Valley on Dec. 20 to drop to 0-6) and talked about what we needed to do better and how we could pick it up," senior guard Sara Prater said.

Bexley went 4-10 in the MSL-Ohio Division to tie Columbus Academy and Heath for fifth, behind Newark Catholic (13-1), Licking Valley (11-3), Whitehall (9-5) and Granville (9-5) and ahead of Lakewood (2-12).

The Lions will lose two seniors in Prater and guard/forward Emily Hart. Prater averaged 1.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists and Hart averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 steals.

Expected to return are Lake, Stewart, juniors Jill Clark (guard), Jackie Delap (center) Michelle Ghitman (guard), Meghan Heckman (forward), Hannah Schmelzer (guard) and Natalie Schwager (guard), sophomores Audrey Mitchell (forward) and Sidney Woodford (guard) and freshmen Mary Massarelli (forward), Olivia Riley (guard) and Elise Torrence (center).

Lake averaged 10.2 points and 3.2 rebounds and Stewart averaged 6.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals.

"The future is bright," Strode said. "We're not satisfied with a losing season this year. Hopefully next year we'll be right there because we put in our time in the offseason."

•After finishing 16th in the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 24.68 seconds and 28th in the 100 backstroke during the Division II district swimming meet Feb. 17 at Ohio State, junior Ian Davis has some goals remaining for next season.

"I didn't drop any time (at district), which is a little disappointing, but it is what it is," he said. "My goal next year is to get on the podium. I just have to practice harder and spend more time doing what I'm doing."

The boys team finished 28th at district with 15 points behind champion Granville (325.5).

In addition to the 200 IM and 100 back, Davis scored in the 200 medley relay with senior Kris Baker, junior Sebastian Parra and freshman Ben Hoffman (1:52.98, 14th) and the 200 freestyle relay with junior Jacob Turner, Baker and Hoffman (1:40.21, 13th).

The girls team tied Buckeye Valley for 17th (22) at district behind champion Granville (475).

Scoring points were junior Sierra Humphrey in the 100 breaststroke (1:15.14, 12th), sophomore Maya Saar in the 200 free (2:10.03, 12th) and 500 free (6:01.67, 15th) and the 200 medley relay of sophomore Megan Niemeyer, Humphrey, freshman Abbey Early and Saar (2:06.55, 12th).

Only the top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advanced to the state meet Thursday, Feb. 23, and Friday, Feb. 24, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.

The boys team finished fourth (77) in a sectional meet Feb. 11 at Academy behind champion Granville (252) and placed fifth (102) in the MSL meet Jan. 28 at Academy behind champion Granville (302). The girls team finished sixth (67) in the Academy sectional behind champion Granville (336) and placed fifth (95) in the MSL meet behind champion Granville (410).

The boys team loses only one senior in Baker. Davis, Hoffman, Parra, Turner and sophomore Marek Kuspan are among the expected returnees.

The girls team also loses one senior in Katlin Hiller. Among those expected are Early, Humphrey, Niermeyer, Saar, junior Sandy Spira and sophomores Carly Berndt, Ashley Marra and Jocie Steinke.

•The wrestling team finished seventh (87) in the 14-team Division II sectional tournament Feb. 18 at Licking Heights behind champion Licking Valley (194.5) and advanced four members to the district tournament, which will be held Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25, at Uhrichsville Claymont.

Seniors D.J. Jones (132 pounds) and Derek Cane (152) were sectional runners-up. Freshman Sam Shorr (106) was third and senior Ahmed Khaloufi (220) placed fourth.

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.

In their respective finals, Jones lost to London's Arron Thompson 7-2 and Cane lost to Granville's Alex Marcum 9-3. In their respective third-place matches, Shorr pinned London's Nathan Nagel in 43 seconds and Khaloufi was pinned by Licking Valley's Blake Owens in 4:56.

In the first round at district, Shorr (18-10) faces Whitehall's Noah Jay (31-5), Jones (30-6) goes against Minerva's Dalton Hartshorn (30-12), Cain (27-9) faces Winterville Indian Creek's David Johnston (19-12) and Khaloufi (6-8) competes against Whitehall's Alex Farrow (33-3).

The top four finishers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament March 1-3 at Ohio State.