The Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball team has been finding ways to win close games lately.
Entering their game against Big Walnut on Jan. 24, the Pacers had won three consecutive games by four points or fewer. In their first 11 games, they were 1-2 in contests decided by six points or fewer.
"These past few games, we've gotten better at playing smarter basketball down the stretch," said coach Jordan Blackburn, whose team was 11-3 overall and 5-3 in the OCC-Capital Division before facing Big Walnut. "We've been without two of our smartest players for a bunch (of games) lately. (Six-foot-8 forward) Alex Stevens has a hip flexor and has been out (since a 53-30 win over Mount Vernon on Jan. 3) and (forward) Jamie Lahman had a concussion and has been in and out (of the lineup)"
Delaware defeated host Toledo Start 55-53 on Jan. 20 after edging Worthington Kilbourne 47-44 in a league game Jan. 17 and holding off Dublin Jerome 70-66 in overtime on Jan. 14.
Against Start, forward Gaige Linville made two free throws with 4.9 seconds left to give the Pacers a 53-50 lead. Blackburn then had his team foul Start before it could attempt a 3-point shot, and the Spartans made only one free throw.
Senior guard Phil Frentsos had a team-high 16 points and forward Khalil Iverson scored 13.
"Frentsos is coming on strong," Blackburn said. "He's playing defense and rebounding and starting to do all the little things and that's why he's seeing more playing time now."
Against Kilbourne, guard Noble Moore made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left and Lahman blocked a 3-point shot attempt at the buzzer. Iverson led the Pacers with 15 points and guard Tyler Treese scored 10.
"We like our balance," Blackburn said. "Khalil is getting better at quickly recognizing double-teams and getting the ball back out for good shots. We have a lot of weapons. When we use them all, we're tougher to defend."
Iverson was averaging 17.4 points and 9.9 rebounds through 14 games. Treese was averaging 5.9 assists, Moore was shooting 43.8 percent (32-for-73) from 3-point range and Stevens was shooting 80.9 percent (38-for-47) from the foul line.
"We lost two Division I college players (from) last season (to graduation) after losing one the year before and people wondered what we could do this year," said Blackburn, whose team was tied with Kilbourne for second place in the OCC-Capital behind New Albany (5-2) entering play Jan. 24. "It's a testament to these players and the amount of hard work they put in during the offseason. We've gotten great production from a lot of guys who had not previously played major roles.
"We have worked hard for several years to strengthen this program all the way down to the fourth-grade level. Our freshmen, j.v. and varsity practice together and the coaches and kids in this program have worked extremely hard to get this program where it is now."
The three college players to whom Blackburn was referring are 2013 graduates Mike Wells and Griffin Kinney and 2012 graduate Matt Bingaya.
Wells is attending St. Thomas More Preparatory in Oakdale, Conn., preparing to play for the University at Albany (N.Y.). Kinney is attending Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia and Bingaya is a freshman at Southern Mississippi, where he was averaging 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds through 19 games.
Wrestlers advance to regional semifinal
The wrestling team cruised through the first two rounds of the Division I, Region 5 state team tournament Jan. 22.
The Pacers, seeded second in Region 5-B and competing at home, defeated seventh-seeded Westerville Central 64-3 in the first round and beat third-seeded Olentangy Orange 46-24 in the second round.
Delaware will compete against top-seeded and host Westerville North in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Jan. 29, with the winner facing Lancaster or Teays Valley in the regional final. The Golden Gales and the Vikings were seeded third and fourth, respectively, in Region 5-A.
The regional champion advances to the state tournament Feb. 8 at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
"Westerville North is the top team and, obviously, is talented and deep, but I think we are, too," coach Josh Heffernan said. "We're going to focus on the things we need to do and just pay attention to detail during practices."
Delaware, which played host to the Rieman Invitational on Jan. 25, finished ninth (115) in the 42-team Top Gun tournament held Jan. 17 and 18 in Alliance behind champion Clovis (Calif.), which scored 302 points.
Raymond Simpson went 5-2 and placed fifth at 160 pounds and Shawn Johnson went 3-3 at 182 and placed sixth. Andrew Sierawski went 5-2 and placed seventh at 220 and Greg Brusco (126), Chris Martinez (170) and Max Wright (113) each went 4-3 and placed eighth.
"All 12 wrestlers we entered won at least one match and all but two finished .500 or better," Heffernan said. "We wrestled great and I'm very happy with a top-10 finish in a meet like that. We were in fourth place for a while and competing well. We were a bit banged up, but the guys dealt with their injuries, bumps and bruises and sucked it up."
Balanced scoring key for bowling teams
The bowling teams have had balanced scoring this season.
The girls team, which is 8-6 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal, had five members averaging 143 or better per game through 12 matches. Alicia Halstead had a team-best 161.7 average, followed by Katie Fleming (157.2), Anna Williams (156.2), Kayla Bowmar (150.8) and Odette McKnight (143.7).
The boys team, which is 6-8 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal, had five members averaging 160 or better through 12 matches. Jordan Lanham had a team-best 199.1 average, followed by Dakota Brugler (169.0), Lane Price (166.6), Patrick Woller (161.9) and Noah Bowmar (160.1).