Bexley High School boys basketball coach Dave Gustin believes his team might be in position to capitalize on the new district tournament format.
The 10th-seeded Lions play host to 16th-seeded Mifflin in their Division II postseason opener at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. The winner would play a second-round game at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at second-seeded Watterson, which beat visiting Bexley 52-51 on Dec. 22.
If the Lions knock off the Punchers, they like their chances against the Eagles.
"I met with our kids and the new format, with the higher seed getting a home game, was something we wanted to take advantage of," Gustin said. "We asked who we'd like to play second if we win the first game. We had four or five teams and Watterson was one of them.
"We only lost to them by a point in our first loss of the year. They've only lost one game this year and we had them on the ropes."
Watterson was 19-1 before playing Caledonia River Valley on Feb. 19.
Gustin, however, sees the Punchers as a formidable foe. Mifflin finished the regular season 9-13.
"Mifflin must think they can get us because they jumped on us (at the tournament drawing)," Gustin said. "I've watched them. They're athletic and they full-court press the whole game. They score a lot of points."
Gustin said his team hasn't seen a lot of full-court pressure this season, and any matchup likely will feature a size disadvantage for the Lions.
But Bexley hasn't been dwelling on its lack of height as of late, and Gustin said a 49-48 home loss Feb. 12 to eventual MSL-Ohio Division champion Newark Catholic was the perfect example of that.
"I can't remember a game when more effort was given in a long time," Gustin said. "It was fun to watch. It was a great high school game. We would've loved to come out on top, but from an effort standpoint, we outplayed them.
"Newark Catholic goes 6-7, 6-5, 6-5 (in the frontcourt) and you would've never known watching the game that they had a height advantage. We used to talk about that, but by midseason we stopped. We have such good help defense and we scramble so well and work so hard."
Guard/forward Sam Nolan scored 16 points and guard Patrick McClendon added 11 to lead Bexley.
"McClendon played well against (Newark) Catholic with three assists," Gustin said. "One of their scorers, Kevin Cox, didn't have a point against us and Patrick was guarding him."
On Feb. 15, guard Josh Hoffman returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle and scored 12 points as the Lions closed the regular season with a 55-47 win over Columbus Academy. Nolan had 15 points and McClendon and guard Ethan Knisley both scored 10.
Bexley is 14-8 overall and finished 8-6 in the MSL-Ohio.
With an eight-day break until the tournament opener, the Lions planned to use the time "to simulate the offense and defense of (Mifflin)," Gustin said. "We've got to be able to stop what they do and make sure we can break their press and be efficient in our attempts to score off the press."
Shorr advances to district in wrestling
The wrestling team finished 12th (36 points) behind champion Whitehall (265.5) in a 13-team Division II sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Licking Heights.
Sam Shorr finished third at 120 pounds to advance to district Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Heath. The top four in each weight class will advance to state Feb. 28 through March 2 at Ohio State.
Shorr (13-8 overall) is to face Uhrichsville Claymont's Kollin Clark (29-8) in the first round.
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were Dylan Cramer (145, 0-2), Josh Hartshorne (138, 0-2), Daniel Lee (220, fifth, 3-2), Craig Music (heavyweight, 0-2) and Jonah Stuber (126, sixth, 2-3).
Swim season comes to close
The season ended for the boys and girls swimming and diving teams in the Division II district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State.
Competing for the boys were Ian Davis (100-yard backstroke, 1 minute, 8.57 seconds, 28th), Ben Hoffman (200 freestyle, 1:57.23, ninth; 100 butterfly, 57.75, 15th), Marek Kuspan (500 free, 5:32.1, 13th), Alex Musick (100 breaststroke, 1:13.68, 27th), Ryan Reed (100 fly, 1:08.09, 29th), the 200 free relay (1:39.99, 11th), 400 free relay (3:44.36, 11th) and 200 medley relay (1:58.37, 16th).
Competing for the girls were Sierra Humphrey (100 breast, 1:15.77, 20th) Maggie Jones (100 free, 1:02.57, 26th), Tyler Mansfield (500 free, 6:05.51, 18th; 100 back, 1:07.2, 19th), the 200 free relay (1:57.18, 17th), 400 free relay (4:08.17, 10th) and 200 medley relay (2:05.56, ninth).
"We had 17 kids compete at districts (including the relays) and they all had at least one of their personal bests," assistant coach Mitch Fries said."
The season featured full squads for both the boys and girls.
"We had 42 swimmers on the team," Fries said. "We had so many kids come out that unfortunately we had to cut at the beginning of the year. It left us with a lot of kids who wanted to work and that paid off."
The boys were 17th (44) at district behind champion Granville (332) as 36 teams scored and the girls were 12th (32) behind champion Granville (457) as 36 teams scored.
In sectional meets Feb. 9 at Columbus Academy, the boys tied DeSales for fourth (109) behind champion Granville (279) and the girls finished sixth (59) behind champion Granville (339).
In the MSL meet Jan. 26 at Academy, the boys finished fourth (143) behind Granville (299), Academy (166) and Grandview (147) and the girls were third (116) behind Granville (421) and Academy (273).
Girls basketball team opens postseason
The 14th-seeded girls basketball team played its Division II district tournament opener Feb. 20 at second-seeded Brookhaven.
The winner advanced to play fifth-seeded Centennial or 15th-seeded River Valley in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at New Albany. The district final is 7 p.m. March 1 at New Albany.
The Lions were 10-12 overall before playing Brookhaven. They finished 6-8 in the MSL-Ohio.