Sara Pribonic and the Northridge High School girls basketball team weathered a storm last season, and now it's paying dividends.
The Vikings, who finished 2-21 last season, were 9-11 overall and 8-9 in the LCL before playing Licking Heights on Feb. 8.
Pribonic, a 5-foot-6 senior guard, said last year's experience has made the Vikings a better team.
"I think confidence is the biggest thing," said Pribonic, who was averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 steals and 3.5 rebounds through 19 games. "We had only 12 girls in the program and we were trying to learn a system from a new coach (Fred Davis). We only had one senior (Lydia George) last year and she was out with a knee injury much of the season.
"This year, we have another new coach (Joe Rucker) who believes in hard work. He came in and told us that he knew we could be good and that he believed in us."
Rucker is the Vikings' third coach in four seasons.
"(Having three coaches in four seasons) is something that definitely brings you closer together," Pribonic said. "We have been able to adapt to different coaching styles and we had to be there for one another."
Rucker said Pribonic isn't driven to win as much as she is driven not to lose.
"I guess you could say Sara is a lot like me in the fact that she hates to lose more than she likes to win," Rucker said. "That's the way she plays the game."
For Pribonic, it comes down to giving maximum effort every day.
"I want to be able to go home and look in the mirror and know that I gave it everything I had," she said. "If I can do that, then I can be satisfied."
Pribonic led the Vikings in a pair of recent LCL victories. She scored 20 points in a 53-41 win over Heath on Feb. 3. Belinda Marcum had eight points, Jamie Swickard scored seven and Jenna Denune and Mikaela Pankuch both added six.
Pribonic scored 18 points Feb. 4 in a 53-47 win over Granville. Pankuch added nine points.
On Feb. 6 in a 50-38 loss to Licking Valley, Pribonic led the Vikings with 17 points.
"The way Sara plays inspires the team," Rucker said. "She leads by example and has a strong overall competitive nature."
The Vikings are seeded 14th in the Division III district tournament and open the postseason Saturday, Feb. 15, with a first-round game at seventh-seeded Fredericktown. The winner plays 13th-seeded Madison Plains in the second round Feb. 19 at the home of the better seed.
Fredericktown was 14-4 before playing East Knox on Feb. 6. Northridge has not played the Freddies this season.
Northridge and Granville Christian canceled their game from Jan. 28 after the schools could not agree on a makeup date.
Swimming teams compete in sectional
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams competed in a Division II sectional Feb. 8 at Columbus Academy.
The winner of each event qualified for district Friday, Feb. 14, at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event advance to the state meet Feb. 19-21 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Last season at district, Josie Bunstine finished ninth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 11.27 seconds) and 11th in the 100 butterfly (1:02.81). Riley Love finished 16th in the 200 individual medley (2:34.16) and 24th in the 100 backstroke (1:10.05).
Brandon Eckstein was 25th in the 200 IM (2:27.33) for the boys team. He also joined Mat Scott, Chris Lindsay and Jasen Dean on the 25th-place 400 freestyle relay (4:03.48) and the 24th-place 200 medley relay (2:02.37).
Wrestlers gearing for sectional tourney
The wrestling team competes Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15, in a Division III sectional tournament at Magnolia Sandy Valley.
The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to district Feb. 21 and 22 at Heath.
Last season, the Vikings won the 15-team Division III sectional at Cardington, scoring 206.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up Galion Northmor (158).
Northridge advanced 11 of 14 wrestlers to district, with Rob Mickey (160 pounds), Jake Adkins (106) and 2013 graduate Thomas Williams (145) winning titles.
In the LCL tournament Feb. 1 at Licking Heights, Adkins won the title at 106 as the Vikings finished sixth (152) of 10 teams behind champion Granville (309).
Jacob Maynard (132) and Steele Strout (120) were runners-up, and Jonathan Barber (220) and Michael Holly (113) placed fifth. Hunter Corbin (138) and Mason Toyer (170) placed sixth and Alex Arnold (145) was seventh.
Boys basketball team drops two LCL games
The boys basketball team was 7-12 overall and 5-11 in the LCL before playing Licking Valley on Feb. 7.
Bryant Garee scored 13 points with three 3-pointers to lead the Vikings in a 63-52 loss to Watkins Memorial on Feb. 4 in LCL play. Chris Wilkoski scored 12 points, Matt Grindle had 11 and Chad Campbell added nine.
On Jan. 31, Northridge lost to Newark Catholic 62-29 as Grindle scored eight points.