For the third consecutive season, the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team reached a district final.
Senior guard Natalie Carpenter attributes much of that success to staying loose, and flipping the necessary switch to remain focused on the court.
"We are focused, but we have a lot of fun," said Carpenter, whose team was 23-2 before playing second-seeded Eastmoor Academy in a Division II district final March 1 at New Albany. "There is some singing and dancing in the locker room before games. We listen to the 'Pitch Perfect' soundtrack and then some rap, but we're mature enough to know when we need to get focused."
That focus was apparent against seventh-seeded Brookhaven in a district semifinal Feb. 26 at New Albany. The top-seeded Johnnies took control quickly in an 83-49 victory.
Carpenter scored 10 points with three 3-pointers in the opening quarter as the Johnnies took a 23-7 lead. They led 44-15 at halftime.
"We came out super strong, and we like that kind of up-tempo game," said Kerrigan Williams, who scored 16 points and had two of the Johnnies' eight 3-pointers. "It's the way we play best."
Carpenter led Johnstown with 23 points and Laiken Valentine had 13 points with three 3-pointers and 10 assists. Makenzie Spang had 13 points with 14 rebounds, and Paige Cannon scored 11 points with six assists.
"We have all put in a lot of time in the gym and it's been rewarding," Carpenter said. "We want to keep this going."
The past two district-final appearances for Johnstown were in Division III. The Johnnies lost to Africentric 93-54 in 2012 and defeated Fredericktown 43-41 in overtime last season for the program's first district title.
Coach Carl Dufford has noticed that his team has turned up its focus in the postseason.
"On (Feb. 22) we had practice at 8 a.m., and that time on a Saturday is not always the best time to get the most from a practice," he said. "But they came in ready and we had a great practice. They really are focused and want to accomplish a lot."
The district champion advanced to a regional semifinal against seventh-ranked Springfield Kenton Ridge or Cincinnati McNicholas at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at Springfield. Kenton Ridge was 24-1 and McNicholas was 17-8 before the teams played Feb. 28.
The regional final is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, at Springfield against second-ranked Kettering Alter, third-ranked Clarksville Clinton-Massie, Norwood or Tipp City Tippecanoe.
Before Feb. 28, Alter and Clinton-Massie both were 25-0, Tippecanoe was 21-4 and Norwood was 16-9.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 13 at Ohio State.
Boys basketball team edges River Valley
The boys basketball team advanced to a Division II district semifinal, defeating visiting 11th-seeded Caledonia River Valley 66-64 in overtime Feb. 25 in the second round.
The fourth-seeded Johnnies improved to 19-4. They play sixth-seeded Bloom-Carroll or ninth-seeded Columbus East at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at Olentangy.
Bloom-Carroll was 18-5 and East was 14-8 before the teams played Feb. 28. Neither team has played the Johnnies.
"We just have to settle down and play the way we are capable of playing," coach Kevin Martin said. "No matter who we play, we have a week to prepare and that process (began Feb. 26). It's a district semifinal on a neutral court, so anything can happen when you get two quality teams out there."
The winner advances to a district final at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum against fifth-seeded Eastmoor or 12th-seeded Centennial.
Centennial improved to 15-8 by defeating third-seeded Granville 67-49 in a second-round game Feb. 26. The Stars did not play Johnstown this season.
Eastmoor was 18-6 after defeating Marion-Franklin 56-51 in overtime Feb. 27. The Warriors did not play Johnstown this season.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 13 at Kettering Fairmont.
Jason Carter scored 28 points and went 8-for-12 from the foul line to lead the Johnnies past River Valley, which finished 18-5. Will Orr had 17 points with four 3-pointers.
"I think it was just a typical basketball game with two good teams," Martin said. "They only had four losses coming into the game, just as we had. ... Our kids battled back like they have all season and that will help prepare us for the really good teams that lie ahead."
Bullard enters state unbeaten
Senior wrestler Clayton Bullard remained unbeaten while winning a Division II district title at 195 pounds Feb. 22 at Uhrichsville Claymont.
The top four in each weight class at district advanced to state Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.
Bullard entered state at 48-0 overall after going 4-0 with four pins in the two-day district tournament, where he was the Johnnies' only competitor. He scored 30 points to give Johnstown a tie for 22nd behind champion Claymont (279.5) as 39 teams scored.
Bullard had pins in all six of his postseason matches and in his last nine matches overall entering state.
"Clayton's definitely in a zone eight now," coach Bob Fresch said.
"He's wrestling like he's a lightweight now ... always moving. He's strong, smart and aggressive and that's a tough combination."