The Licking Heights High School girls basketball team couldn't hold on to a five-point lead in the final seconds of regulation against host Berne Union on Jan. 29 and went on to lose 64-59 in double overtime.
The loss was the third in a row for the Hornets, who were 8-10 overall and 4-5 in the MSL-Cardinal Division before playing Millersport on Feb. 2.
"(Berne Union has) lost just three games and we should've beaten them," coach Tay Tufts said. "They're second in the league. I'm very disappointed with the loss because we didn't play well at all and still should've won. That's twice they got us in a close one. They beat us (46-44 on Dec. 27)."
Entering play Feb. 1, the Hornets were fourth in the MSL-Cardinal, behind Liberty Union (10-0), Berne Union (7-2) and West Jefferson (5-3) and ahead of Fisher Catholic (4-6), Grandview (2-8) and Millersport (0-8).
Harvest Prep is not fielding a team this season.
"We've got to be more consistent," Tufts said. "We played very well against Liberty Union (in a 58-49 loss Jan. 19), then laid an egg the next game and lost to Licking Valley (79-59 on Jan. 23). We didn't play well against Berne Union and almost won."
Licking Heights led Berne Union 45-40 with just over 20 seconds remaining, but the Rockets got a field goal and, following a turnover by the Hornets, hit a 3-pointer to force overtime. Both teams scored seven points in the first overtime, but the Hornets were outscored 12-7 in the second overtime.
"We had a defensive breakdown and we missed a layup at the end of the first overtime," Tufts said. "We missed a ton of layups and went 15-for-25 from the (foul) line and that's a recipe for losing.
"Then in the second overtime, (point guard) Dameras Whitlock, who had three fouls in the first quarter, fouled out with us up one and two minutes left. Then (guard) Skyler Ortiz, who had four fouls at halftime, fouled out. We were fatigued and they pulled away."
Whitlock led Licking Heights with 23 points. Ortiz had 17 points and senior forward/guard Alyssa Stanley scored 12.
"Those are the three players we ask to score and they've all been doing terrific at that," Tufts said. "They also do well defensively. Whitlock and Ortiz had 25 rebounds combined against Berne Union, and that's unheard of for guards. We need some of our post players, who are young, to start getting rebounds.
"Everyone on this team has a role. When we all do our roles, we're a pretty good team."
Licking Heights will conclude the regular season this week with three home games. The Hornets will face Columbus School for Girls on Monday, Feb. 4, before league games against West Jefferson on Wednesday, Feb. 6, and Fisher Catholic on Friday, Feb. 8.
The drawing for the Division II district tournament will be held Sunday, Feb. 3. The tournament starts Feb. 16.
Wrestlers starting to prepare for postseason
The wrestling team will conclude the regular season Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Nye Classic at St. Charles.
Licking Heights then will prepare for the 13-team Division II sectional tournament Feb. 16 at home. Among the teams competing in the sectional are top-seeded Whitehall, second-seeded Caledonia River Valley, eighth-seeded Jonathan Alder, ninth-seeded Big Walnut and 10th-seeded Mifflin.
Also at the site are Bexley, Centennial, Columbus East, Columbus South, London, Utica and Watterson.
"I know Whitehall has a real good team and they have a 132-pounder, Josh Delgadillo, who is very good," said sophomore Ty Yeager, who was a sectional champion last season at 126. "I want to repeat as sectional champion and qualify for state. That's my goal, but I know it won't be easy."
The top four finishers in each weight class at sectional will advance to the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
Yeager, who went 0-2 at district a year ago, was 19-3, heading into the MSL-Cardinal dual tournament Feb. 2 at Grandview. He suffered a knee injury in the Robin Drumm Invitational on Jan. 19 at Heath but was hoping to be medically cleared Feb. 1 so that he could compete in the league tournament.
Yeager likes the progress that the Hornets have made this season.
"Brandon Haist (113) is a freshman who has surprised a lot of people other than the coaches and his teammates," he said. "A.J. Velasquez (220) has been strong and is solid on his feet. Michael Zaky (heavyweight) has improved and he won a match at district last year, and James Shaw (138) has definitely been improving all year."
Boys basketball team ends skid
The boys basketball team snapped a three-game losing streak by beating host Liberty Union 85-30 on Jan. 26.
The contest was the Hornets' fourth game in an eight-day stretch. Also during that span, they lost to Zanesville Maysville (63-60 on Jan. 19), Grandview (61-56 on Jan. 22) and Bexley (60-58 on Jan. 24).
Licking Heights was 13-4 overall and 9-1 in the MSL-Ohio before playing West Jefferson on Feb. 1.
The Hornets had four players score in double figures against Liberty Union in guards Babe Murphy (19), DeAnthony Hosley (16) and Tyshad Green (13) and forward Dante Burnette (12).
Guard John Righter did not play against Bexley or Liberty Union after twisting an ankle in the fourth quarter against Grandview.
Through 17 games, Murphy was averaging 19.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.7 steals and was shooting 51.3 percent from the field (124-for-243).
Righter was averaging 17.2 points and 2.3 assists and was shooting 46.8 percent from the field (87-for-186), including 45 percent from 3-point range (36-for-80). He also was shooting 77.4 percent from the foul line (65-for-84).
Hosley was averaging 8.7 points and was shooting 50.9 percent from the field (60-for-118), while Burnette was averaging 6.4 points and forward Douglas Benniefield was averaging 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds.