The Bexley High School boys basketball team snapped its three-game losing streak with a 68-65 win over visiting Licking Valley in the opening round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 21.
The 10th-seeded Lions had four players score in double digits and, for the fourth time in five seasons, opened postseason play with a victory.
"It was a great win. We beat a really good team after losing three games in a row and we showed resiliency," said coach Dave Gustin, whose team improved to 14-9. "We came back ready to play in a tournament game. It was satisfying."
Junior guard Drew Esposito led all scorers with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half, and he was 10-for-14 from the free-throw line. Junior point guard Niejel Young had 15 points and senior forward Sam Nolan scored 14.
Senior forward Marshall Drewry was 4-for-7 from 3-point range and scored nine of his 12 points in the second half. The Lions trailed 28-24 at halftime, but outscored the 16th-seeded Panthers 22-16 in the third quarter.
Drewry also had nine rebounds and Nolan had seven rebounds. Ty Griffith's 19 points led four double-digit scorers for Licking Valley, which finished 15-8.
"It was very good that we were balanced. We don't want Sam to have to carry us all of the time," Gustin said. "I was proud. After the Whitehall game (a 61-58 loss Feb. 8 to start the losing streak), it seemed like we had a big letdown.
"I thought we came back and did a nice job of regrouping."
Bexley faced MSL-Ohio Division rival and seventh-seeded Whitehall in a second-round game Feb. 26. It was their third meeting this season. The Rams, who earned a 56-52 opening-round tournament win over 20th-seeded Lakewood on Feb. 21, also beat the Lions 74-68 on Jan. 13.
A win over Whitehall would have advanced Bexley to a district semifinal for the first time since 2010. The district semifinal is Wednesday, March 5, at Newark against top-seeded Watterson or 13th-seeded Sparta Highland.
Bexley opened the season with a 74-63 loss to Watterson, the defending state champion, on Nov. 30.
The district final is March 7 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Wrestlers end season in district tournament
Four members of the wrestling team competed in the Division II district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Uhrichs-ville Claymont, but none advanced to state.
Senior captains Sam Shorr (138 pounds) and Daniel Lee (195), freshman Eric Crane (145) and sophomore Dylan Cramer (152) were hoping to become Bexley's first state qualifier since Jake Weisman at 112 in 2007.
Lee went 2-2 in his first trip to district, with all of his matches ending in a pin. He finished the season 30-13.
"Daniel Lee had a very good tournament," coach Ed Cruz said. "After losing his first match, he came back strong to win his next two matches."
Shorr had a tougher time in his third consecutive district appearance. He dropped his two matches 6-3 and 5-2 to finish the season 33-14.
"Sam Shorr lost two close matches. He injured his knee in the first match, which caused him a lot of pain in his second match," Cruz said. "He was not able to finish moves he typically would have been able to do -- definitely a tough break in his senior year."
Crane and Cramer each went 0-2.
"While Eric and Dylan did not win a match, it was a great opportunity to see the level of competition at the district tournament," Cruz said.
The Lions tied for 34th (6) behind champion Claymont (279.5) as 39 teams scored.
Girls team falls in district opener
The season ended for the girls basketball team with a 33-28 loss at 11th-seeded Galion Northmor on Feb. 20 in its Division III district tournament opener.
Junior center Elise Torrence scored 13 points to lead the 15th-seeded Lions, who had a first-round bye in the tournament and finished 9-13 under first-year coach John Callahan.