Hartley High School boys basketball coach Randy Kortokrax wonders if the fact his team started its season about three weeks later than most central Ohio squads finally caught up to the Hawks during a recent three-game losing streak.
The opposition might have had something to do with it as well, as the Hawks had won 10 of their first 12 before losing to Vincent Warren 63-52 on Jan. 19, Watterson 46-40 on Jan. 24 and Bloom-Carroll 66-55 on Jan. 29 in road games.
Hartley played its 11th game of the month Jan. 31 when it traveled to DeSales, and the early indications were that the busy schedule had created tired legs.
The Hawks scored just four first-quarter points, but they bounced back to beat the Stallions 50-40. Hartley also beat DeSales 61-48 on Dec. 20 in its opener.
Watterson was second in last week's Division II state poll, while Bloom-Carroll was 11-4 and Vincent Warren was 14-3 entering the week.
"We were going good and then we just played six games in 10 days," Kortokrax said. "We went two weeks with no practices and everybody was tired and fatigued. In the first half (of the second game against DeSales) we did not play as a team.
"We took three losses in a row, but they were against all good teams and then we go on the road for the fourth time in a row. You've just got to trust in your system. You've still got to grind it out against a good team like DeSales."
Hartley was 11-5 overall and 4-2 in the CCL before playing its second-round league game Feb. 3 against Watterson.
That began a stretch of five home games to close the regular season. The Hawks played Wellington on Feb. 5 and play host to Westerville Central on Saturday, Feb. 8, and to Canal Winchester on Monday, Feb. 10.
The league finale is Feb. 14 at home against St. Charles, which beat Hartley 66-52 on Jan. 10.
Through 16 games, senior guard Chris Moxley was averaging 18 points and senior guard Drew Onega was averaging 13.3.
Those two are the only players who had significant varsity experience entering the season. Seniors Jared Brandewie and Kalil Morris, who played for the football team this fall, did not come out after being key players a year ago.
Senior guards Cameron Ball and Jacob Mercier saw limited action on varsity last winter, and junior post player Tayron Washington missed the first seven games because of injury. All three are now key players.
"We really only have two guys that played minutes last year," Kortokrax said. "It's really tough on a team. It's adversity."
Wrestlers win regional dual title
Senior Jacob Croswell knew what he was getting into when he hit the mat against Galion Northmor senior Cody Ross in the Division III, Region 21 championship wrestling dual at 160 pounds Jan. 29.
The Hawks trailed host Northmor 21-20, and Croswell was behind 7-4 in his match before landing a pin that gave Hartley a 26-21 lead and much-needed momentum.
Croswell, whose team went on to beat the Golden Knights 38-33 to advance to the state tournament for the first time, also beat Ross in two close matches earlier this season.
"He's gotten a little better than last year so it felt great, especially with me getting a pin, because it was nice for my team," Croswell said. "(Making it to the state tournament) has been our No. 1 goal all season."
Hartley, which was a regional runner-up a year ago, competes Saturday, Feb. 8, at Ohio State's St. John Arena. State quarterfinals are scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m., with finals at 7:30 p.m.
The Hawks were the top seed in Region 21-A and beat Utica 37-36 in a semifinal Jan. 29 to set up the match with Northmor, which was the top seed in Region 21-B.
Also winning matches against Northmor were Kristopher Hill (113), Josh Heinmiller (120), Patrick Moran (126), Grant Rathburn (145), Nate Jula (170), Trey Hampton (182) and Jared Croswell (220).
"We've had our eyes on this since the beginning of the season," coach Kevin Petrella said. "We're pretty excited."
Against Utica, Hartley led 31-30 when Jared Croswell (220) got a pin to give his team a 37-30 lead and clinch a spot in the regional final.
On Feb. 1, the Hawks scored 307 points to win the CCL tournament at St. Charles. The host Cardinals were second (186.5), followed by Ready (179), DeSales (166) and Watterson (114).
Winning titles for Hartley were Hill (113), Moran (126), Rathburn (138), Jacob Croswell (160), Jula (170), Hampton (182), Aaron Hannah (195) and Croswell (220).
Girls basketball team preps for tourney
The girls basketball team closes the regular season Saturday, Feb. 8, at Ready and Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Bexley.
The Hawks beat Columbus School for Girls 53-21 on Jan. 30 in league play and Olentangy Orange 43-34 on Feb. 1. They are 10-6 overall and 4-3 in the CCL.
Hartley earned the sixth seed for the Division II district tournament and will open the postseason against 16th-seeded Columbus South at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at home.
Bowling squads having solid seasons
Even though its best player wasn't ranked among the top 50 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference in average entering the week, the girls bowling team had one of the best records in the COHSBC-Central Division.
The Hawks were 9-2 overall and in the league before facing Ready on Feb. 3. Senior Molly Stitt was leading in average at 138.5, followed by seniors Chelsea Craft (134.6), Mia Meyer (131.3) and Katie Owens (129.4).
The boys were 8-5 overall and in the league before facing Ready. Senior Corey Wilbur was leading in average at 179.3, followed by senior Daniel Supino (149.2), juniors Mark Thiel (141.6), Ben Makowski (136.3) and Jared George (135.2) and freshman John Amland (135.1).
The boys will compete in the Division II sectional tournament Feb. 14 at Sawmill Lanes, and the girls will be in the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes.