The Dublin Scioto High School boys basketball team has six OCC-Cardinal Division games left, but whether it remains in the race for its first league title since the 2008-09 season effectively could be settled in the next five days.
The Irish, who were 12-1 overall and rode a nine-game winning streak into their contest against Marysville on Jan. 22, are 7-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a showdown with host Westerville North on Friday, Jan. 25.
North, which was ranked second in the Division I state poll last week behind Northland, leads the OCC-Cardinal at 7-0. The Warriors defeated Scioto in the first round of league play 58-45 on Dec. 14.
The Irish then travel to Westerville South on Tuesday, Jan. 29. They beat the Wildcats, who are third in the OCC-Cardinal at 6-2, 48-43 on Dec. 22.
"We have a shot at (the league championship), and the great thing about basketball is that you have a shot after that because the (Division I district) tournament can be just as exciting," coach Tony Bisutti said.
In the first matchup with North, Scioto trailed by five points early in the fourth quarter before the Warriors pulled away. Forward Travis Wehder led the Irish with 13 points and forward Travis Yates scored 10.
"We're really pumped to get another chance at (North)," said guard Josh Ashwill, who was averaging a team-high 17.2 points through 13 games but was held to nine points by North. "We just have a lot of momentum right now and we know what these next two games mean for us in terms of winning a championship."
Jack Gibbs, a 5-foot-11 point guard who has signed to play at Davidson College, led North with 22 points. Guards Jaylen Benton and Adrian Cook added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Warriors, who had 11 steals in the contest and held Scioto to 15 shots in the second half.
"He had a big game and I do remember when they made their run he banked in a (3-pointer) and he could do nothing wrong from that point," Bisutti said of Gibbs. "I feel like our guys thought they were right there the last time, but we're going to have to have our A game to beat them."
Scioto has been using a seven-man rotation consisting of Ashwill, Wehder, Yates, guards Antonio Bisutti and Andrew McKinley, forward Chase Sult and post player Zac Brown, with Brown and McKinley coming off the bench.
Bisutti was averaging 14.5 points through 13 games.
"North is a tough matchup for us," Ashwill said. "They play a post (player) and four guards, which can create problems with our lineup. We've got to contain Gibbs this time. He kind of lit us up."
Against South, Ashwill had a team-high 13 points and Bisutti and Wehder both scored 11 as Scioto rallied from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The Irish converted 18 of 20 free throws.
"I think we're a more confident team," said coach Bisutti, whose team defeated Westerville Central 59-40 in a league game Jan. 18. "The game against Central was one of those where we had to find a way to get things going. We held them to 12 points in the second half."
Girls team set for league-leading North
The girls team plays host to Westerville North in a key OCC-Cardinal game Friday, Jan. 25.
Scioto, which was 12-4 overall and had won nine consecutive games before playing Marysville on Jan. 22, is second in the league at 7-2, two games behind North (9-0).
In the teams' league contest Dec. 14, the Warriors outscored the Irish 20-9 in the fourth quarter en route to a 63-44 win.
Freshman guard Camille McLellan had 14 points to lead Scioto and senior point guard Anna Buhigas scored 12. Guards Symone Simmons and Hannah Ferguson scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, for North.
Buhigas was averaging a team-high 17.7 points through 16 games.