When Dublin Coffman High School boys basketball coach Jamey Collins learned his team would play Dublin Jerome to begin the Division I district tournament, he realized it wouldn't be a typical opening-round contest.
Although it appeared the seventh-seeded Shamrocks had an advantage against the 32nd-seeded Celtics, Collins believed his team would be challenged.
The Shamrocks received that challenge in a 64-55 home win Feb. 23.
"They were playing very well," Collins said. "We don't pay attention to records. You're not going to find a better 32 seed. They had a tough schedule. They got it going here late. We expected them to be just like they were, extremely competitive."
Jerome finished 7-15.
Coffman was 17-4 before playing host to 16th-seeded Grove City in the second round Feb. 27.
The Greyhounds improved to 15-8 by defeating Hilliard Davidson 77-51 in the first round Feb. 22.
The winner advanced to play fifth-seeded Dublin Scioto or 10th-seeded Pickerington Central in a semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at Pickerington North.
Scioto leads the all-time series with Coffman 3-2, with the Irish winning the last meeting 51-32 in December 2008.
Central is the defending state champion.
The Shamrocks and Tigers last met in January 2011, with Coffman winning 59-47.
The winner will play fourth-seeded New Albany, sixth-seeded Zanesville, 18th-seeded Olentangy Orange or 28th-seeded Mount Vernon in a district final March 9 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Against Jerome, Coffman led 18-10 after one quarter, but the Celtics closed to 31-26 at halftime.
The Shamrocks opened a 38-28 lead early in the third before Jerome again rallied, cutting the lead to 41-34 on guard Mason Baich's drive down the lane.
Coffman opened its largest lead at 51-38 after three quarters, capped by post player Hayden Dygert's two free throws and guard Seth Fuller's 3-pointer.
The Celtics pulled within five points four times in the fourth, but Coffman hit six free throws in the final minute.
Guards C.J. Saunders and Tyrel Jackson each scored 15 points to lead Coffman, and forward Jason Hall added 10 points.
"I usually come in and look for my shot," Saunders said. "I'm out there to rev it up, get after it. It was a fun game."
"C.J. just gave us a great spark," Collins said. "He's just getting better every day in practice. This doesn't surprise me that he came up big in a game like this. His confidence level is really high right now."
Girls team to play Northland
The fourth-seeded girls team will play fifth-seeded Northland in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Hilliard Davidson.
The Shamrocks improved to 21-2 by defeating 24th-seeded Watterson 68-35 in the second round Feb. 20 at home.
Kamerine Taylor led the Shamrocks with a career-high 26 points, including a team-record six 3-pointers.
"It actually started out pretty slow, but I got into a rhythm and it didn't really stop," Taylor said.
Forward/center Sade Olatoye had 16 points.
Northland, which is 18-5, had a first-round bye and defeated 32nd-seeded Delaware 77-37 in the second round Feb. 20. Northland is led by senior guard Alexis Peterson, a four-year starter who will play at Syracuse.
"It all starts with her," Coffman coach Bryan Patton said. "She's just a great player, not only a great scorer, but just an all-around great player. I have a lot of respect for her. The rest of her team kind off feeds off her, so we have to do our best to keep her in check. You're not really going to stop her, but you hope that you can at least slow her down from time to time."
Coffman and Northland last met in a district semifinal in 2011, with the Vikings winning 58-46.
The winner will play third-seeded Orange or 11th-seeded Zanesville in a district final at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at Davidson.
Orange is coached by Mary Ann Grimes, who led the Coffman program for 12 years before taking over at Orange in 2008.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal against Gahanna, Olentangy, Pickerington North or Scioto at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at Otterbein University. The regional final is March 8 at Otterbein.
"This is where you want to be," Patton said. "There's nothing but good teams from here on out."