At this stage of the season, Grove City High School boys basketball coach Greg Waits realizes there's little room for error.
That was the case Feb. 28 when the Greyhounds held off an upset bid from visiting Franklin Heights and won a Division I district tournament second-round game 79-75.
"All wins are good in the tournament," Waits said. "In the tournament, you know you survive and you move on to another game. You have to give Franklin Heights a lot of credit. We have a lot of respect for them. They're pretty good."
Grove City was 17-6 and had won five consecutive games before playing third-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal March 5. The winner plays second-seeded Gahanna or 27th-seeded St. Charles in a district final Saturday, March 8, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
The 12th-seeded Greyhounds lost both OCC-Ohio Division games against Gahanna, 79-52 on Jan. 3 and 75-57 on Feb. 4.
The district champion plays Marysville, Pickerington Central, Westerville South or Zanesville in a regional semifinal March 13 at the Fairgrounds. Grove City also lost both league games against Central, 83-64 on Dec. 20 and 77-72 on Jan. 31.
The regional final is March 15 at the Fairgrounds.
Grove City completed a season sweep of the Falcons, having also won 72-67 on Dec. 27 at home.
The rematch was just as competitive.
The Greyhounds trailed 37-30 at halftime before outscoring Franklin Heights 31-14 in the third quarter for a 61-51 lead.
"Our coach always tells us the first three minutes of the third quarter will tell the game," said senior guard Tyler Cowles, who scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers. "We came out and got a couple stops and then we hit a couple shots and we just went off from there.
Nick Bapst led a balanced attack for Grove City with 20 points, and Tyler Dunn had 13.
Akiean Frederick led the Falcons with 24 points.
"Playing Franklin Heights is like a rivalry, like playing any team in our school district," Cowles said. "It's definitely a rivalry game and the intensity of the game goes up by 500 percent."
Comets coach sees reasons for hope
Central Crossing coach Anthony Mangette called late-season wins over Westland and Jonathan Alder the highlights of the season.
The Comets finished 4-19 overall and 1-13 in the OCC-Central.
Central Crossing lost at fifth-seeded Newark 82-46 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 21. Senior guard Marc Russell led the 43rd-seeded Comets with 12 points and junior forward Anthony Thompson scored 10.
Central Crossing won at Westland 57-53 on Feb. 14 for its league win. The Comets defeated Jonathan Alder 49-39 on Feb. 11 at home.
"We started out 2-1 and had high hopes, and then the way we finished against Westland and Jonathan Alder that one week we played real well," Mangette said. "Those are things we're looking forward to building on next year."
Central Crossing was hit hard by injuries as senior forwards Luke Duncan (broken right hand) and Dwight Diggs (right knee), junior guard Luke Cameron (left knee) and sophomore forward Noah Stephens (back) missed time this season.
"We didn't reach our goals that we set out for," Mangette said. "Injuries took a huge hit on us. Losing three starters and (Cameron) was injured at the beginning of the season, so you could say that we had four injuries that put us behind the eight ball. We didn't really recover as well as we would have liked, but we did manage to persevere long enough to get two victories in early February."
In three games, Stephens averaged 13.3 points. Russell averaged 13 points and his brother, junior forward Andrew Russell, averaged 7.8.
Marc Russell, who was one of four seniors, was special mention all-league.
Others eligible to return are junior forward Faizal Cali, junior guards Casey McManaway and Isaiah Napper and sophomore forward Blake Luebben.
Central Crossing finished eighth in the OCC-Central behind UA (13-1), Olentangy Liberty (11-3), Dublin Coffman (10-4), Thomas Worthington (8-6), Marysville (7-7), Westland (3-11) and Hilliard Davidson (3-11).