During the regular season, the Watterson High School boys basketball team went 11-0 when all five of its starters were healthy and 9-2 when it didn't have its full starting lineup because of injuries.
The Eagles went 5-1 when 6-foot-4 senior wing player Matt Lehmann was sidelined in January and went 4-1 in their final five regular-season games when 6-5 senior post player Matt Hughes was out of the lineup.
Although coach Vince Lombardo was impressed with the way Greg Oman filled in for Lehmann and the way Ryan Lewis played in place of Hughes, he was glad to have his entire starting lineup available for the start of the postseason.
Watterson began defense of its Division II state championship with a 77-40 win over 13th-seeded Sparta Highland in the second round of the district tournament opener Feb. 25 at home to improve to 21-2.
The top-seeded Eagles, who had a first-round bye, played 10th-seeded Bexley in a district semifinal March 5 at Newark.
"It was nice to have all of our starters healthy again for the first time in a while and this was a good start to what we hope will turn into a long tournament run," Lombardo said. "It was great to have Matt back out there and he definitely gave us a lift with his play inside.
"But we had real balanced scoring overall, and we played strong defense and hit the boards hard, which was nice to see."
Hughes had 19 points and four rebounds against Highland. Also scoring in double figures were Andy Grieser (14), Lehmann (13) and Joe DiOrio (10).
The semifinal winner faces second-seeded Brookhaven or eighth-seeded Columbus South in a district final at 6 p.m. Friday, March 7, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Watterson beat Brookhaven 46-43 on Jan. 4, getting 19 points from Hughes and eight from Oman. Ronnie Williams led the Bearcats with 16 points and Shadrick Kimble scored 12.
Last season, Brookhaven handed Watterson its only loss. The Eagles lost to the Bearcats 59-56 during the regular season but defeated Brookhaven 56-52 in overtime in a district final.
"All three of our games against Brookhaven over the past two seasons have been decided by four points or less and there is no reason to think it won't be another close game if we get to play them again," Lombardo said.
"Williams is their leading scorer, but Brookhaven has good balance throughout their lineup and they're having a very good season. If (South) beats them, they will be a good challenge for us, too."
Entering the game against Bexley, Lombardo had 376 wins in his 30-year career, which includes nine seasons at Marion Catholic. He picked up his 300th win at Watterson against Highland.
"It was nice to get No. 300 in our last home game of the season and we're hoping to keep winning in the tournament," Lombardo said. "For us to keep advancing in the tournament, the key is to play consistent basketball, execute our offense and rebound the ball well."
Girls basketball team falls in district semi
The 16th-seeded girls basketball team lost to second-seeded Upper Arlington 45-31 in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 27 at Westerville Central to finish 16-8 overall.
Junior guards Maggie McCarthy and Bryn McQuade each scored seven points for the Eagles, who were out-scored 11-3 in the second quarter and trailed 20-9 at halftime.
"In that second quarter, I think we missed three layups and then when we did that, we started to question ourselves," coach Tom Woodford said. "I think we only hit one shot that wasn't a layup or a free throw the whole game. That's always been something we've had to fight against, not shooting the ball well and having difficulties scoring. As soon as we missed a couple gimmes, we started to question ourselves."
Watterson beat 31st-seeded Briggs 53-42 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 15 at home and upset eighth-seeded Teays Valley 68-54 in the second round Feb. 19 on the road before falling to UA.
McQuade had 17 points against Briggs and 16 against Teays Valley.
The Eagles went 5-3 in the CCL to tie Ready for second behind DeSales (6-2), ending their streak of consecutive league titles at six. Hartley (4-4) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8) rounded out the standings.
Watterson was swept by DeSales, losing 42-37 on Jan. 4 and 36-33 on Feb. 6.
The Eagles lose four seniors in guard Makenzie Bevins, point guard Emily Amen and post players Rachel Limes and Dominique Garrett.
Bevins, who was averaging a team-best 15.5 points before missing the final 10 games with a sprained ankle, was named first-team all-CCL and honorable mention all-district.
In addition to McCarthy and McQuade, expected to return are junior guards Juliana Bigler, Jordyn Brobst, Maria Fisher and Sydney Mayle.
McQuade was first-team all-league and McCarthy was second-team all-league.
Bowling season ends for Tillman
Freshman Claire Tillman of the girls bowling team rolled a 288 three-game series to finish 92nd of 134 competitors in the Division I district tournament March 1 at Eastland Lanes.
The top four individuals not on a qualifying team at district advanced to the state tournament Saturday, March 8, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.