The Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball team has the most difficult challenge in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Seeded 42nd, the Jaguars open postseason play Saturday, Feb. 23, at top-seeded Northland, which was ranked first in the state poll last week.
"We know Northland is the top seed in the district, the top team in the state poll and is ranked in the national poll," coach Michael Limbird said. "But we're going to approach it like every other game this season: It's Bradley vs. Bradley. If we go out and play our best and do the things we've worked on all season, that's all that matters."
The Jaguars were 1-20 overall before playing Jonathan Alder in their regular-season finale Feb. 19. They entered the contest on a 10-game losing streak, with their lone win coming against Teays Valley, 60-51 on Jan. 5.
Northland raised its record to 22-0 with a 55-53 overtime win over Africentric in the City League championship game Feb. 16.
Senior forward Armani Towns was averaging a team-high 13.7 points through 20 games, followed by senior guard Ty Hairston (11.4), junior forward Derek McKeithen (11.2), freshman forward Seth Towns (9.5), junior post player Jaylen Tucker (9.0) and junior guard Shemar Waugh (8.0).
"What we'll remind our players is that this is a unique opportunity," Limbird said. "Later in life they can talk about playing against a nationally-ranked team. We're looking forward to the challenge. It should be a memorable experience and a learning experience. If they want to be the best, like everyone always should want, they'll get a chance to see what that looks like.
"The three things we constantly harp on is playing hard, playing smart and playing together. We've accomplished that night-in and night-out. We practice harder than our past teams did."
The Bradley-Northland winner plays 41st-seeded Central Crossing in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the home of the higher seed. The second-round winner advances to a district semifinal March 6 at Marysville.
The Jaguars lost to Central Crossing, which is 2-20 and had a first-round bye, 45-44 in their season opener Nov. 30. The Comets, whose other win was a 50-43 victory over Gahanna Christian on Dec. 29, are led by sophomore guard Andrew Russell and his brother, junior guard Marc Russell. Senior Matt Dwane is their top post player.
Bradley finished 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal Division after losing to Darby 62-26 on Feb. 14. Post player Ryan Reffitt led with 11 points.
Point guard Brandon Glenn was averaging a team-high 10.2 points through 21 games. Reffitt was averaging 8.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, and wing players Brady Simpson and Jackson Murphy were averaging 7.2 and 7.0 points, respectively.
"Simpson has been our most consistent player in terms of energy and execution," Limbird said. "He has that team aspect and gives great effort. He's a warrior, especially on the defensive end."
Bradley finished last in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Westerville North (13-0), Dublin Scioto (11-3), Westerville South (9-5), Darby (8-6), Westerville Central (6-8), Dublin Jerome (4-9) and Worthington Kilbourne (4-10).
Jerome and North had to make up a league contest Feb. 19.
Season ends for girls team
The girls team lost to 16th-seeded and host Teays Valley 68-54 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16 to finish 12-11 overall.
Seeded 22nd of 43 teams, the Jaguars, who were outscored 27-12 in the second quarter, lost in the first round for the first time in the program's four-year history.
"They made four 3-pointers and they were good in transition and also moved the ball well," coach Kathy Lindsey said. "As bad as we had played, we were down 41-28 at halftime and we came out and got the deficit down to four points in the third quarter and missed a layup. They scored, we had a turnover and they scored again. Next thing you knew, we were down eight or nine and in a dry spell. We didn't keep the momentum there and it was tough for us to make another run at them."
Sophomore post player Meredith Miller had 23 points to lead the Jaguars and senior guard Feaira Crews scored 11. Guard Hannah Giammarino had 20 points and guard Shayna Harmon scored 19 to lead Teays Valley.
"I saw scouted them a few times and we had three tapes and Giammarino didn't score more than maybe six points in those games," Lindsey said. "She probably had a career high and we weren't expecting that from her. She had 10 in the second quarter."
Bradley went 8-6 in its first season in the OCC-Cardinal to place fourth, behind Westerville North (14-0), Scioto (9-5) and Jerome (9-5) and ahead of Westerville Central (7-7), Westerville South (5-9), Darby (4-10) and Kilbourne (0-14).
The Jaguars will lose three seniors in Crews and post players Amanda Fodor and Kayce Pharazyn.
Crews was named second-team all-league.
"They really grew as leaders after the holiday break," Lindsey said. "You have to remember that none of them ever played major roles on varsity before this season. They had been support players and then all of a sudden they had to get it done. They worked hard and held teammates accountable for their work ethic and they will be missed."
Bradley expects to return six of its top eight players in Miller, junior guards Jenna Fodor, Shelby Haworth and Christy Tieman, sophomore post player Ashley Hummel and freshman guard Grace Fodor.
Miller was first-team all-league and Hummel was honorable mention all-league.
"Two post players and plenty of guards come back and we'll be much more experienced entering next season," Lindsey said. "We went 7-3 in the last part of the regular season and we had a very competitive schedule, both in the league and non-league.
"We had three league teams with 15-plus wins (North, Scioto and Jerome) and we played four or five non-conference games against some of the top teams in the area in Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy and Hartley."