After winning only two games last season, the Northridge High School girls basketball team will play in its second district semifinal in three seasons.
The 14th-seeded Vikings defeated 13th-seeded and host Madison Plains 51-39 on Feb. 19 in the second round of the Division III district tournament, advancing to play eighth-seeded Liberty Union in a semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Granville.
Before 2012, Northridge had not reached a district semifinal since 2002. The Vikings lost that 2012 district semifinal 68-28 to Centerburg.
"We said that we wanted to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season, and we have been doing that," said coach Joe Rucker, whose team improved to 11-12. "With the last few games of the regular season and the two tournament games, we have been able to do that."
The Vikings have not played Liberty Union this season. The Lions are 16-7 after defeating Amanda-Clearcreek 52-26 on Feb. 20.
The district final is 1 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Granville against top-seeded Africentric or 11th-seeded Galion Northmor. Africentric is 20-3 and was eighth in the final state poll. Northmor is 14-9 after defeating 15th-seeded Bexley 33-28 on Feb. 20.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 5 at Lexington.
"Our girls don't look at seeds or where the game is played," said Rucker, whose team also won at seventh-seeded Fredericktown in the first round, 41-40 on Feb. 15. "They are fighters and they can go toe-to-toe against anyone."
Against Madison Plains, the Vikings led 27-13 at halftime and 39-23 after three quarters. They did not make a field goal in the fourth, but hit 12 of 21 free-throw attempts in the final quarter to secure the win. Northridge finished 20-for-39 at the foul line.
Summer Prevost led the Vikings with 16 points, going 8-for-12 at the line.
"Summer played the best game of her career, and I'm not surprised by that at all," Rucker said. "She's a senior and you expect that from a senior. She came up big for us."
Belinda Marcum and Sara Pribonic both had eight points, and McKenna Kitchen and Mikaela Pankuch added seven apiece.
Pribonic scored a team-high 16 points against Fredericktown.
Swimmers set records at district
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams set three program records in the Division II district meet Feb. 14 at Ohio State.
The Vikings did not have any competitors advance to state, which was held Feb. 19-21 in Canton.
Senior Riley Love set the program record in the girls 200-yard freestyle while finishing 19th in 2 minutes, 12.94 seconds. The previous record was 1:02.81 by sophomore Josie Bunstine in 2013.
"I tried to sprint in the 200, so my legs feel like jelly," said Love, whose team finished 23rd (25 points) at district behind champion Columbus School for Girls (413) as 30 teams scored. "It's bittersweet because I was able to get the 200 record, but it's also my final high school meet. I've been having a lot of fun."
Bunstine broke the program record in the 100 butterfly while finishing fifth in 1:02.0, breaking her own mark of 1:02.81 from 2013.
The boys 200 free relay of junior Chris Lindsay, junior Steven Wickham, senior Brandon Eckstein and junior Mat Scott finished 20th in a program-record 1:46.85.
"It was my last (high school) meet and we came away with the record," said Eckstein, whose team did not score at district as Dover (259) won and 41 teams scored. "It feels great to be able to do that."
The performance broke the previous record of 1:46.89 set in 2008.
"We really wanted to get our name on the (school record) board," Lindsay said. "We just went out and tried not to breathe. Coach (Rachel Furr) tells us not to breathe in the water when you swim a 50(-yard race) because the bubbles slow you down. You can breathe on the turn. That's what we did."
Eckstein also competed in the 100 fly (1:05.92, 26th) and 200 individual medley (2:23.07, 19th). He also was a member of the 200 medley relay (1:59.38, 18th) with junior Jasen Dean, sophomore Adam Eckstein and Scott.
Junior Bryce Curtis, junior Mason Alexander, senior Nathan Castle and Dean placed 26th in the boys 400 free relay (4:09.24).
Bunstine also competed in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.57, 12th) and Love swam in the 500 free (6:03.11, 17th).
"I'm pretty happy with our performances (at district)," said Furr, who completed her first season. "Josie got up on the podium (in the 100 fly) for the first of hopefully many times and Riley got the 200 free record.
"Brandon was part of the 200 free relay that broke a record and he had good times at district after having all-star performances at sectional."
In a sectional Feb. 8, the boys finished sixth (66) behind champion and host Columbus Academy (270) as 18 teams scored and the girls finished 15th (15) behind champion CSG (273) as 20 teams scored.
Northridge sends six wrestlers to district
The wrestling team had six participants in the Division III district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Heath.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Thursday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 1, at Ohio State.
The Vikings had two champions in a sectional Feb. 14 and 15 at Magnolia Sandy Valley, where the top four in each weight advanced to district.
Jake Adkins won the title at 106 pounds, going 3-0 with one pin to enter district at 42-4 overall.
Rob Mickey won the title at 160, going 4-0 with two pins to enter district at 33-7.
Jacob Maynard (28-10 before district) was 4-1 at sectional and finished third at 132.
Placing fourth were Alex Arnold (145, 12-26 before district), Jonathan Barber (220, 19-16) and Storm Strout (120, 22-11).
Hunter Corbin (138, 16-21) and Michael Holly (113, 19-19) both placed fifth and were district alternates. Hunter Reece (126) also competed and finished 16-20 overall.
Last season at state, Adkins finished eighth at 106 and Mickey went 1-2 at 160.
Boys team has 11 days between games
The boys basketball team was 7-15 before opening the Division III district tournament Feb. 22 at 10th-seeded Fredericktown.
The 11th-seeded Vikings hadn't played since Feb. 11 in a 61-50 loss to Licking Heights.
The winner advanced to play at ninth-seeded Liberty Union on Thursday, Feb. 27, in the second round. The Lions are 12-10 and did not play Northridge this season.
The second-round winner advances to a district semifinal March 4 at Hilliard Davidson.
Through 22 games, Chad Campbell was averaging 13.0 points and Matt Grindle was averaging 11.8.