The Big Walnut High School boys basketball team didn't have the season it wanted, but coach Eric Myers doesn't think it was a bust.
The Golden Eagles finished 9-14 overall and 4-10 in the OCC-Capital Division. Seeded 18th of 28 teams in the Division II district tournament, they lost to 12th-seeded Centennial 78-71 in the first round Feb. 22.
"Overall, it was a decent season," Myers said. "We continued to work and tried to get better each day. We shot the ball better this season than last year."
Big Walnut, which finished 7-17 last season, trailed Centennial 26-11 after the first quarter. The Golden Eagles cut their deficit to 39-29 by halftime and 54-50 by the end of the third quarter.
"We got out to an incredibly slow start," Myers said. "We crawled our way back into it and took the lead with a couple minutes to go. We had some opportunities down the stretch. We just couldn't get the ball to go down."
Senior guards Logan Boyd and Nick Herbert and junior forward Zac Asher each had 14 points for the Golden Eagles, who ended the season on a four-game losing streak and lost eight of their final 10 games.
Big Walnut finished seventh in the OCC-Capital Division, behind co-champions Delaware (11-3) and New Albany (11-3), Worthington Kilbourne (10-4), Franklin Heights (7-7), Mount Vernon (5-9) and Olentangy (5-9) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (3-11).
Kilbourne had been in the OCC-Cardinal last season but moved into the OCC-Capital after Watkins Memorial left for the Licking County League. The Golden Eagles were swept by the Wolves, losing 56-38 on Dec. 17 and 54-39 on Feb. 11.
"We felt Kilbourne definitely increased the competitiveness of the league," Myers said.
Big Walnut loses three seniors in Boyd, Herbert and guard Chase LaVeer.
Boyd averaged a team-high 11.4 points and was named second-team all-league, and Herbert averaged 10.7 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Among those expected to return are Asher, juniors Michael Buckles (forward), Kyle Gose (guard), Mason Knight (guard) and Matt Tarney (guard) and sophomore Josh Seabrook (forward).
"We'll have some key (letterwinners) coming back," Myers said. "They have a big offseason in front of them and some opportunities to step in."
Eisnnicher places sixth at state wrestling tourney
Seniors Alec Eisnnicher and R.J. Martin of the wrestling team ended their prep careers in the Division II state tournament.
Eisnnicher went 2-3 and placed sixth at 170 pounds and Martin went 0-2 at 138 at state, which concluded March 1 at Ohio State. It was the second consecutive state appearance for Eisnnicher and the first trip to state for Martin.
Eisnnicher won his first two matches, defeating Sandusky Perkins' Alex Tetzloff 9-2 and St. Paris Graham's Lane Thomas 7-4, before losing to the eventual champion, Tiffin Columbian's Seth Williams, 3-1.
The loss prevented Eisnnicher from advancing to the championship match and dropped him into the consolation bracket, where he lost to Richfield Revere's Zeck Lehman 4-3 before being pinned by Wauseon's Aaron Schuette in 37 seconds in the fifth-place match to finish 29-4.
"Alec had a heck of a tournament," coach Luke Moore said. "In the match he lost (to Williams), he hurt his elbow. He wasn't 100 percent healthy going into the last match, but he wanted to make sure he wrestled at the end of his career and not lose by default. As a coach, I don't know if it was the best decision, but you don't tell a kid he's not wrestling his last match. He had a heck of a career."
Martin opened with a 16-0 loss to the eventual state champion, Graham's Kyle Lawson, before losing to Oak Harbor's Jeremy Balboa 11-9 in overtime to finish 31-20.
"Getting to the state meet was a big goal of his," Moore said of Martin. "I thought it was a great experience for him."
Big Walnut scored seven points at state to tie four teams for 52nd behind champion Graham (185.5) as 87 teams scored.
Eisnnicher and Martin were two of nine district qualifiers for the Golden Eagles, who scored 41 points in the meet held Feb. 21 and 22 to tie Millersburg West Holmes for 15th behind champion and host Uhrichsville Claymont (279.5) as 39 teams scored.
Eisnnicher went 4-0 and won a district title and Martin went 3-2 and placed fourth, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Also at district, senior Austin Carr (160, 32-16) went 2-2 and senior Austin Crow (220, 10-7), sophomores Nico Grier (113, 20-15), Wes Landrum (120, 20-19) and Evan Watkins (182, 21-22) and freshmen Matt Halbakken (126, 20-18) and Nate Helsley (106, 14-30) all went 0-2.
"Taking nine kids to the district tournament was a big accomplishment for our team and the kids who made it there," Moore said.
Big Walnut placed third (164) in the 14-team sectional Feb. 15 at Licking Valley behind champion Licking Valley (193.5).
Eisnnicher won a sectional title and Carr, Landrum and Martin placed second. Grier and Helsley placed third and Crow and Watkins placed fourth. Halbakken finished fifth but competed at district in place of a qualifier who withdrew because of injury. Sophomore Drew Cochran (132) also placed fifth at sectional.
Big Walnut went 2-5 in the OCC-Capital to place sixth, behind Delaware (7-0), Orange (6-1), Mount Vernon (5-2), Olentangy (4-3) and Kilbourne (3-4) and ahead of New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Golden Eagles competed in the state team tournament Jan. 22 at Licking Valley, losing to Whitehall 37-32 in the first round of Region 14-A.
"It almost played out exactly like I thought it would," Moore said of the season. "I knew we were going to take our lumps here and there because we had a young team and a few injuries, but I knew the guys are hard workers and, if we could get everybody healthy in the lineup by the end of the year, we could have a pretty good team. That's how it worked out for us."
Big Walnut loses four seniors in Carr, Crow, Eisnnicher and Martin.
Others expected to return include juniors Michael Nash (170) and Jack Schnurr (145), sophomores in Jacob Hadden (126), Tyler Hogg (220), Anthony Pisano (152) and Daniel Zitello (182) and freshmen in Carson Dearth (138), Dontae Egbert (113), Garrett Gollihugh (138), Chris Hale (170), Beau Kuhlman (138), Kyle McKibbon-Warren (145), Josh Parker (126), Alex Ramsey (145), Matt Russell (113), Aaron Shadwick (145), Luke Starkey (heavyweight) and Ryan Taurone (138).
"We're really excited,"Moore said. "We just had a meeting the other day with the underclassmen and they sat down and set out their goals. They listed what they want to do and came up with a plan for how they're going to get there."
Two girls bowlers end season at district
Senior Alexis Beiwinkler and junior Hanna Gollihugh of the girls bowling team ended the season in the Division I district tournament March 1 at Eastland Lanes.
Beiwinkler rolled a 357 three-game series to finish 77th of 134 competitors and Gollihugh rolled a 329 to finish 83rd.
The top four individuals not on a qualifying team at district advanced to the state tournament held March 8 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The girls team finished 28th (2,302) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes behind champion Briggs (3,345), as the top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to district.
At sectional, Beiwinkler tied for 63rd (390) and Gollihugh tied for 83rd (361).
Big Walnut finished 2-10 overall, went 2-9 in the 12-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division to finish 10th behind champion Westerville South (11-0) and went 0-5 in the six-team OCC-Cardinal to finish sixth behind champion Westerville South (5-0).
"I think (the girls) did well," coach Katrina Hartings said. "They improved over the season. All of them did."
Beiwinkler, who made third-team all-OCC-Cardinal, is the only senior on the girls team. In addition to Gollihugh, expected back are junior Frankie Gianessi and sophomores Mara Hartings and Holly Pinnix.
"That's a pretty strong core there," Hartings said.
The boys team concluded its season at sectional, finishing 33rd (2,928) behind champion Walnut Ridge (3,805). Senior Luke Hartings led the Golden Eagles with a 474, tying for 83rd and finishing 10 pins behind the final two individual district qualifiers.
Senior Joey Steller was the team's second-highest finisher, tying for 114th with a 425.
Big Walnut finished 6-8 overall, went 5-8 in the 14-team COHSBC-North to tie Gahanna for 10th behind champion Westerville South (11-2) and went 3-2 in the six-team OCC-Cardinal to finish third behind champion Westerville South (5-0).
The Golden Eagles lose six seniors in Hartings, Steller, Grant Burks, Adam Freeberg, Donnie Good and Garret Jackson. Hartings made first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and Steller was third-team.
Among the expected returnees are junior Conner Leidtke, who made third-team all-OCC-Cardinal, and sophomore Evan Thiergartner.
"We have four (boys) bowlers left and that's not enough for a team," Hartings said. "Hopefully, we can recruit more people for next year."