With a 61-55 loss to visiting Mifflin on Feb. 23 in the first round of the Division II district tournament, the season came to an end faster than Bexley High School boys basketball coach Dave Gustin anticipated.
"You know it's going to end sometime," he said. "It was just a little quicker than I would've liked."
The Lions, who finished 14-9, were the 10th seed while the Punchers, who improved to 10-13, were seeded 16th.
Mifflin scored 23 points in the first quarter to take a nine-point advantage, and they led 35-24 at halftime.
"The first half was just atrocious," Gustin said. "The second half, I thought we were going to get them. We were down two with about a minute and a half to play and had a pretty good look. It didn't happen."
Guard/forward Sam Nolan led Bexley with 22 points and guard Patrick McClendon added 17, but the undersized Lions once again had trouble rebounding.
"They killed us on the offensive boards," Gustin said. "We also had some early turnovers. We kind of took care of that matter, but they just kept making shots. We couldn't turn the corner completely, although we almost got there."
J Murrell scored 23 points to lead the Punchers, and he especially impressed Gustin.
"He was better than I thought," Gustin said. "They just shot the ball so well. They just made baskets.
"The boards killed us, but when they had to make shots, they made shots. I'm sure it was one of the better games they've played, which is good for us to know we took their best shot."
Shorr competes at district wrestling
Junior Sam Shorr lost his two matches in the 120-pound weight class during the Division II district wrestling tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath.
Shorr, a two-time district qualifier, fell to Uhrichsville Claymont's Kollin Clark 13-1 in the first round and then lost to Cadiz Harrison Central's David Forrester 10-2.
Claymont (182.5) won the district title. Bexley was not among the 42 teams that scored.
Shorr, who went 1-2 at district last year, finished the season with a 13-10 record. He got a late start because of a back injury suffered during a preseason practice.
Girls basketball team loses tourney opener
The 14th-seeded girls basketball team lost its Division II district tournament opener at second-seeded Brookhaven 40-37 on Feb. 20.
The Lions trailed by three points with 16 seconds to play in the second-round game, but pressure defense by the Bearcats prevented Bexley from getting off a shot.
"We didn't get a shot to even tie the game, but I can't be more proud of my kids," said coach Jim Strode, whose team had a first-round bye in the tournament and finished 10-13 overall. "They executed our game plan. They knew every single detail of Brookhaven's players, offense and defense. Our kids played out of their skulls and I think they deserved to win the game."
Senior forward Bri Stewart led a balanced attack with 10 points, while senior guard Lydia Lake had nine and sophomore center Elise Torrence added eight.
The Lions went 6-8 in the MSL-Ohio Division to finish behind Newark Catholic (14-0), Granville (12-2), Heath (9-5) and Licking Valley (9-5) and ahead of Whitehall (4-10), Columbus Academy (1-13) and Lakewood (1-13).
Lake led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game, and Stewart averaged 11.3 points.
Lake, who was a four-year varsity player, "physically gave everything she possibly could," Strode said. "The amount of growth she showed from a freshman to a senior, she's come a long way.
"She's a kid who never questions and always does what you ask. She knows you're going to put her in a position to succeed. She'll rank as one of my all-time favorite players to coach."
Torrence will be looked upon to help shoulder the scoring load next season. She showed that ability at times this year, including when she scored 22 points in a 60-23 win at Lakewood on Jan. 19.
"I'm hoping Elise makes some big strides this summer," Strode said. "I think she has the capability to be a dominant post player, not only in Division II, but in the area. She certainly has the skill.
"I look for her to be a bigger part of the offense. We'll have graduated our top two scorers, so we'll look for more from her."
While the season concluded in a difficult way, Strode believed his team remained dedicated until the end.
"I've lost tough games before as a coach," he said. "I've been part of big wins and heartbreaking losses. In this one I was proud of the kids' effort. I was beaming with how well they played. It wasn't for naught. They saved their best for last."