During a recent practice, members of the Watterson High School boys bowling team were instructed by their coach, Jerry Wagner, to stand in their lanes with their left knee bent and their right arm outstretched as if they had rolled the ball.
Wagner had them hold that pose for two minutes.
The idea behind the tactic is to help his bowlers mentally prepare for the sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 16, at Columbus Western Bowl.
"I made them hold a picture-perfect finish for two minutes because I want them to think about the importance of bending their left knee and following through," Wagner said. "We've been up and down all year and I want to get into their heads and make sure they bowl the best they can at sectional, because it's the most important tournament of the year so far."
The top nine teams and top nine individuals not on qualifying teams from each of the boys and girls sectionals qualify for the district tournament, which will be held Feb. 22 and 23 at HP Lanes, and 12 of the 30 squads in the Columbus Western Bowl sectional are seeded higher than the Eagles.
"Our boys are capable of bowling well enough to qualify for district," Wagner said. "It's all mental. It's just a matter of trusting themselves and staying focused."
Watterson finished 11-10 overall in dual matches and went 10-5 in the 16-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division to tie Grandview for fifth, behind Ready (14-1), Columbus Academy (12-3), DeSales (11-3) and Brookhaven (11-4).
The Eagles scored 2,000 or higher three times while winning five of their first six matches, including a season-high score in their 2,049-1,695 league win over Briggs on Dec. 12.
However, they scored less than 2,000 in all but two of their final 15 matches, including a season-low score in their final dual match, a 1,837-1,748 league loss to Columbus West on Jan. 31.
David Carter has a team-high 180.7 game average, followed by Michael Liston (167), Tony Viola (165), Aram Hosenfeld (153.4), Adam Forshey (144.6) and Phillip Andrews (141.5).
"We started well and then we fizzled during the second half of the season," Wagner said. "But we should do better than we're ranked because we didn't always have our best bowlers competing for us during the second half of the season because a lot of our kids are involved in other school activities.
"We'll need to have at least five of our best guys there, and they will need to bowl 850 to 900 per game as a group for us to make it through. Our boys are capable of doing that if they avoid bad habits and keep their focus."
The girls team will compete in the 26-team sectional Friday, Feb. 15, at Columbus Western Bowl.
"There are only 11 teams seeded higher than our girls at sectional, so I think they have a good shot at going to district," Wagner said. "They just need to stay focused and pick up more spares."
Watterson finished 10-5 overall in dual matches this season and went 7-3 in the COHSBC-Central to finish fourth of 11 teams, behind Ready (10-0), Northland (9-1) and Hartley (8-2).
The Eagles won their final three matches, including rolling a season-best score in a 1,534-1,322 league win over Linden-McKinley on Jan. 24.
Miranda Barnewell has a team-best 139.1 game average, followed by Colleen McDaniel (137.3), Katie Eberhart (131.9), Claire Pappa (120.4), Mary Merkle (115.8) and Jaide Reinhard (104.2).
Eberhart was an individual district qualifier last season, tying for 46th (446) at district.
"Our girls have been up and down almost the entire year, but they seem to be getting a little more consistent at the right time," Wagner said. "We were missing some of our better bowlers during a lot of our matches this year. But if we can get them all there for sectional, I think they can shoot 700 or higher per game, and that should put us in the mix to make it to district."
Girls basketball team earns share of CCL title
The girls basketball team earned a share of their sixth consecutive CCL championship, tying DeSales and Hartley for the title.
All three teams finished 6-2 in the league, followed by Ready (2-6) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
Watterson swept Hartley, winning 42-38 on Dec. 5 and 49-41 on Jan. 19, but was swept by DeSales, losing 42-35 on Jan. 5 and 55-43 on Feb. 2. Hartley swept DeSales, winning 41-33 on Jan. 12 and 31-30 on Feb. 9.
The Eagles concluded league play Feb. 9 with a 71-10 win over CSG. Forward Annie Gavin and post player Dominique Garrett each scored 10 points.
"Winning six league titles in a row is something extremely special," coach Tom Woodford said. "Having a three-way tie in the CCL just shows how important matchups are in the game of basketball."
Watterson is seeded 24th of 43 teams in the Division I district tournament and will open the postseason Friday, Feb. 15, at 20th-seeded Westland.
The winner will play fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman or 35th-seeded Marysville in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the home of the higher seed.
Watterson, which was 11-10 overall before playing Westerville South on Feb. 12, has not played Westland, Coffman or Marysville this season.
Woodford said the Eagles gained confidence heading into the postseason by defeating Centennial 53-34 on Feb. 4 behind 12 points from guard Kayla Cook and eight from post player Emma Nikolai.
Centennial is seeded fifth in the district in Division II.
"If we continue to defend well, like we did against Centennial, we'll have a shot at making a run in the district tournament," Woodford said. "I like our bracket. Westland and Dublin Coffman are both very good teams, but they are teams that I feel like we can compete with if we play our best game, because we match up well with them."
Westland was 10-11 before playing Coffman on Feb. 12. Through 20 games, 5-foot-7 forward Christina Simpson was averaging a team-high 12.2 points. Tanesha Dixon, a 5-7 guard, was averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 11.2 rebounds.
"Westland's an aggressive team with quick guards and post players who go after rebounds well," Woodford said. "Westland is strong and they play a physical style. We need to use our strength to match them while avoiding getting caught up into their style of game. We also need to be ready to withstand their half-court defense by making good decisions with the ball and making our shots."
Boys basketball team wins CCL title outright
The boys basketball team defeated visiting St. Charles 45-38 in overtime Feb. 8 to improve to 7-0 in the CCL and clinch the league title outright.
The CCL championship is the sixth for coach Vince Lombardo during his 20-year tenure. The other titles came in 1996, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2012.
"I'm proud of our team because our league is so tough from top to bottom every year," Lombardo said. "Winning the CCL is our first goal every year and it's very gratifying and exciting to get it done."
Watterson was outscored by St. Charles 16-5 in the fourth quarter but outscored the Cardinals 7-0 in overtime. Guard Cody Calhoun had 11 points and forward Matt Lehmann and post player Matt Hughes each scored 10.
"We had a poor stretch in the fourth quarter, but I like the way our guys responded in overtime," Lombardo said.
The Eagles beat Hartley 58-48 on Feb. 5 to clinch a share of the CCL title, as post player Bryan Jackson had 18 points and Hughes scored 17.
Watterson concludes CCL play Friday, Feb. 15, against DeSales at Otterbein. The Eagles won 58-41 on Jan. 11, as Hughes had 13 points and Lehmann and wing player Ryan Lewis each scored 12.
Darrien Scott, a 6-3 forward, had 13 points to lead the Stallions, who are 1-6 in the CCL.
"We want to go undefeated in the CCL for the first time since I've been here and I'm sure DeSales wants to ruin our undefeated season in league play," Lombardo said. "DeSales is playing better basketball in the second half of the season. They have good balance throughout their lineup, but they like to punch it inside to Scott and (6-4 forward Michael) Hippler as much as they can.
"As in any great rivalry, you can throw out the records and expect a tough battle, because DeSales is always a formidable opponent for us."
The Eagles earned the second seed for the Division II district tournament and has a first-round bye before playing host to 10th-seeded Bexley or 16th-seeded Mifflin on Feb. 28.
Hockey team prepares for district tourney
The hockey team is seeded 21st of 23 teams in the district tournament and will face 12th-seeded Gahanna in the first round at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The winner will play second-seeded Olentangy Orange in the second round at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Ice Haus. The second-round winner will face seventh-seeded Dublin Coffman, 11th-seeded Troy or 15th-seeded Centerville in a quarterfinal Feb. 23 at the Ice Haus.
Watterson, which is 5-17-1-1, lost to Gahanna twice in Capital Hockey Conference play, falling 6-3 on Jan. 12 and 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 26. The Eagles lost 10-0 to Orange in a league game Feb. 2.
Watterson lost to Olentangy 3-0 in the first round of the consolation bracket of the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 8 at Chiller Dublin.
Girls swimmers place second at sectional
The girls swimming and diving team scored 185 points to place second of 12 teams in the Division I sectional meet Feb. 9 behind host Upper Arlington (463).
The boys team placed third (214) of five teams in the Division II sectional Feb. 9 at UA behind Grandview (280) and Centennial (252).