When looking to set up his team for what he hopes will be a deep postseason run, Bexley High School girls basketball coach Jim Strode opted to take an opening-round bye in the Division II district tournament.
The 14th-seeded Lions will play at second-seeded Brookhaven or at home against 24th-seeded Linden-McKinley at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the second round.
In all likelihood, the Lions will face Brookhaven, which finished the regular season 16-4.
"We were going in wanting a bye," Strode said. "We want more time to prepare. We also have a goal to get to the district (semifinal) level, so looking at other spots in the bracket, do we want to play two tough road games or one? We decided we'd play one (at Brookhaven) and we'll see how it shakes out."
Strode compared how he believed his team would match up against the area's top teams and decided to take his chances with the Bearcats.
"We've done our due diligence in terms of scouting," he said. "We scouted all the top teams, including Brookhaven, prior to the draw (Feb. 3). We knew what we're getting ourselves into. This wasn't an accident. We know we're going to have to play a top team to advance to the district (semifinal) level, so it's pick your poison."
Following a 55-41 home win over Whitehall on Feb. 2 and a 39-38 overtime victory at Columbus Academy on Feb. 8, Bexley was 10-11 overall and 6-7 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Newark Catholic on Feb. 11 in its regular-season finale.
Guard Lydia Lake scored 23 points and forward Bri Stewart added 12 against Whitehall.
"(Lydia) scored 14 of her points in the third quarter," Strode said. "We decided we were going to play a half-court game against Whitehall. We didn't want to just rely on full-court pressure to get us prepared for the tournament.
"Then we had to come back firing because at halftime we were down by seven points. Lydia got key steals and took the ball inside a lot. Her outside shot wasn't hitting, so she went inside and that's what we've asked her to do."
Lake scored 18 points and Stewart had 11 against Academy.
Center Elise Torrence had 13 rebounds against Whitehall. Her continued improvement bodes well for the postseason, according to Strode.
"If we're going to be a team that advances we have to (rebound)," Strode said. "It's nice to see (Torrence) grab a bunch of rebounds for us.
"We're going to have to play a very good defensive game (against Brookhaven). We can't let them get off shots. We have to try to disrupt their offense."
The winner plays fifth-seeded Centennial, 13th-seeded Mifflin or 15th-seeded Caledonia River Valley in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at New Albany.
Boys basketball team preparing for tourney
The boys basketball team improved to 13-7 overall and 7-5 in the MSL-Ohio by beating Whitehall 71-55 on Feb. 9.
The Lions have been in a stretch in which they are playing the other top teams in their league. They lost to Newark Catholic 52-34 on Feb. 1 and Granville 50-48 on Feb. 5.
Bexley played Newark Catholic again Feb. 12 and closes the regular season Friday, Feb. 15, at home against Academy. The Lions lost to Academy 54-38 on Jan. 12.
Entering the week, Newark Catholic led the league at 11-1, Academy was 11-2 and Granville was 10-3. Bexley was next in the standings, followed by Whitehall at 6-7.
Point guard Ethan Knisley said the stretch can help the Lions prepare for the Division II district tournament, which begins Feb. 23.
"It'll get us ready," he said. "We're playing some great teams and we'll be ready for whomever we see in the first round of the tournament."
Size will continue to be an issue for Bexley, according to Knisley.
"We have to work much harder than most teams," he said.
"We make up for our lack of size with our work ethic and scrappiness. Our (players' average height is) under 6 foot, so we have to play up tempo with aggressive defense that translates over to the offense."
Wrestling team places 8th in league tourney
The wrestling team finished eighth (96 points) behind champion Whitehall (396) in the eight-team MSL tournament Feb. 9 at Heath.
The Lions will compete in a 13-team Division II sectional Saturday, Feb. 16, at Licking Heights. The top four individuals in each weight class will advance to district Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath.
Sam Shorr (120/126 pounds) advanced to the district tournament last season while Daniel Lee (220), according to coach Edward Cruz, has the potential to advance.
"Our goal is for each of our wrestlers to wrestle the best they have all year," Cruz said. "All of our less experienced wrestlers have shown steady progress."
He said those competitors include Dylan Cramer (145/152), John Hartshorne (138), Craig Music (heavyweight), John O'Toole (126) and Jonah Stuber (126/132).
In the league tournament, Shorr was fourth at 120, Stuber was third at 126, Cramer was third at 145 and Lee was third at 220.
Swimming teams compete at sectional
In Division II sectional meets Feb. 9 at Academy, the boys team tied DeSales for fourth (109) behind champion Granville (279) as 21 teams scored. The girls team finished sixth (59) behind champion Granville (339) as 24 teams scored.
The boys' 400-yard freestyle relay of Marek Kuspan, Patrick Lape, Drew Powell and Ben Hoffman finished third in 3 minutes, 44.7 seconds and earned an at-large berth to the district meet Friday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State.
The winner of each sectional event qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
The top boys diver and top three girls divers at district advance to state.