Dayrel Billingsley had one final chance and made the most of it.
The senior on the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team finished third at 145 pounds in the Division I sectional Feb. 15 at Marysville to qualify for the district tournament for the first time.
Billingsley will be joined by junior Shakur Laney (113) at district Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.
"This is the best feeling ... it's so great," Billingsley said. "I didn't make it as a freshman at Africentric and I lost my go-to match as a sophomore. Then, I couldn't wrestle after coming to Groveport last year, so this was my final chance."
Billingsley went 3-1 at sectional to improve to 21-12 on the season. He will face Pickerington Central's Jordan Pieczynski (26-8) in the first round at district.
Billingsley defeated Worthington Kilbourne's Andrew Cook 7-6 in his opening match at sectional before losing to Olentangy Liberty's Matt Snyder 5-2. He then beat Westerville Central's James Schneider 9-4 in his district-qualifying match before beating Dublin Jerome's Justin Chon 5-1 in overtime in the third-place match.
"He just kept fighting and fighting in the third-place match and was awarded a point when (Chon) was stalling with 11 seconds left," coach Pat Niemann said. "He had an absolutely wonderful last match that we hope will carry over at district."
Laney, who finished fourth at state at 106 last season, went 2-1 at sectional and placed second, losing to Marysville's Hayden Lee 4-2 in the final. Laney (40-3) will face Hilliard Bradley's Riley Amador (4-9) in the first round at district.
"Last year, Shakur was fourth at sectional before winning a district championship, so he only has to dig out of half the hole he was in last year," Niemann said. "He understands what went wrong in the (sectional final).
"He was overaggressive and didn't set up his shots. He maybe had two bad shots all year and he had four in the final and the last one cost him the match. I think he was surprised by how easy it was to get the first takedown so quick, but it was fool's gold."
Laney beat Olentangy's Brian Hallier 18-3 in the first round at sectional and Central Crossing's James Wimer 6-3 in a semifinal.
"I made some little mistakes in the final that I need to fix," Laney said. "I was trying to see what I could do, but now we'll have a game plan if we meet up again at district. I think I'll see (Lee) again in the (district) finals."
Sophomore Marshall Buck (170) fell one place shy of joining Billingsley and Laney at district, as he went 2-2 at sectional and finished fifth.
Also competing at sectional were senior Ryan Smith (126), junior Brendan Finneran (195), sophomores Matt Miller (106) and Eli Schleret (120) and freshman Kyle Duty (160). Smith went 1-2 and the others went 0-2.
Groveport scored 40.5 points in the 11-team sectional to finish 10th behind champion Marysville (218.5).
"I thought Marshall had a phenomenal day and Smith and Miller were both solid," Niemann said. "I was happy with the effort and attitude of all of our guys, not just today. They've been champions all season and most are underclassmen who have been introduced to the varsity level when they probably weren't ready yet.
"I think if we can pass our levy, we'll have six to 10 guys in our room all summer, and that would be a big bonus for us."
Boys basketball team places sixth in league
The boys basketball team is hoping its recent post play will continue in the Division I district tournament.
Groveport lost its last two regular-season games, falling to Thomas Worthington 63-61 in double overtime Feb. 11 and Reynoldsburg 72-63 in an OCC-Ohio Division on Feb. 14 to fall to 11-11 overall.
The Cruisers finished 4-10 in the league to place sixth, behind champions Gahanna, Newark and Pickerington Central (all 11-3), Grove City (9-5) and Reynoldsburg (8-6) and ahead of Pickerington North (2-12) and Lancaster (0-14).
Groveport was 7-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half against Reynoldsburg and led 29-20 at halftime. The Raiders took away the perimeter shooting early in the third quarter and the Cruisers turned to 6-foot-7 junior forward Carmearl Thomas, who responded with a career-high 17 points, all in the second half.
"I think the guards started trusting me and (coach Ryan Grashel) kept telling them to feed me," Thomas said. "I think if we can do those things together rather than in spurts, we're going to be tough to stop. Instead of forcing up 3-pointers, they can feed me and, if I don't have anything inside, I can get it back to them for open looks.
"We just started working real hard on post-entry passes and they did a pretty good job with it. I also have to body off my (defender) and give (teammates) room to get me the ball."
Tre Charles-Martin also scored 17 points against Reynoldsburg, with Tyus Ferguson and Tyrell Carter adding 13 and nine points, respectively.
Groveport is seeded 19th of 45 teams in the district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Cruisers will play 14th-seeded Thomas Worthington or 27th-seeded St. Charles in the second round Feb. 28 at the home of the higher seed.
The Cruisers have not played St. Charles this season.
Against Thomas Worthington, a tip-in at the buzzer by the Cardinals' Jaret Gerber provided the only points of the second overtime. Groveport had a late lead in the first overtime before Daniel Crease made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 61.
Charles-Martin (16), C.J. Crowder (14), Ferguson (12) and Tyrone Cherry (11) all scored in double figures.
"We gave up close to 20 offensive rebounds and that obviously was the story of the game," Grashel said. "You can't give up that many extra chances, especially because most offensive rebounds are closer looks than what you get on first shots. We also need to make free throws, which we didn't do."
Bowlers getting set for sectional tourney
The bowling teams will compete in the Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21, at Eastland Lanes.
The top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on a qualifying team in both the boys and girls tournaments advance to district March 1 at Eastland Lanes.
Last season, the boys team did not advance out of sectional competition and had one district qualifier in Brandon Klentz. The junior rolled a 674 series in the Columbus Western Bowl sectional a year ago before rolling a 521 at district to tie for 46th.
The girls did not compete as a team last postseason but had two individuals reach district, including junior Elizabeth Moore. Alizabeth Clements, a 2013 graduate, tied for 40th at district with a 454 series after rolling a 506 at sectional and Moore finished 48th at district with a 449 after rolling a 467 at sectional.
Girls basketball team falls to Greyhounds
The girls basketball team concluded the regular season Feb. 12 with a 77-36 loss to Grove City in an OCC-Ohio game.
Carlisa Hayes led the Cruisers with 14 points and Diaba Diane scored eight.
Groveport was 1-21 overall before playing top-seeded Reynoldsburg in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 17. The Cruisers, who posted their lone win against Franklin Heights (63-59 on Feb. 8), were seeded 47th of 47 teams.
The first-round winner plays 45th-seeded Columbus West in the second round Thursday, Feb. 20, at the home of the higher seed, with the winner of that contest advancing to a district semifinal Feb. 27.
Groveport finished 0-14 in the OCC-Ohio to place last, behind Reynoldsburg (12-2), Gahanna and Newark (10-4), Pickerington Central (9-5), Pickerington North (8-6), Grove City (4-10) and Lancaster (3-11).