The Watkins Memorial High School boys basketball team still is trying to figure out how to pull close contests into the win column.
The Warriors fell to host Lakewood 40-39 on Jan. 14, as their record in games decided by four or fewer points dropped to 2-3. They were 3-5 in games decided by eight or fewer points.
"I think we've seen in (the LCL), the parity has been tremendous," coach Pat Dimmick said. "Just about every game is going to be close where it will be decided in the final minutes. That's why every possession is so critical.
"We were in position to win again, but we didn't make the plays down the stretch. That's happened a lot. I'd say it's been a microcosm of our season. We're working hard, playing hard, and there comes a time where we have to finish a play and we don't. We've got to learn how to finish things."
Watkins Memorial was 5-6 overall and 3-6 in the LCL before playing Heath on Jan. 17.
Clay Gray's layup with 1 minute, 27 seconds remaining gave the Warriors their final lead against Lakewood, 37-36. Trailing 38-37 with 1:01 left, Hunter Holton's driving layup rolled out and the Lancers' Reece Dupler converted two free throws to make it 40-37.
Jared Clark's basket with 33 seconds left made it 40-39. The Warriors then forced a turnover, but Clark missed a short shot with 4.4 seconds left and the Lancers rebounded, but missed two free throws with 0.7 left.
The Warriors led 23-17 at halftime, and Gray's 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second half gave them a nine-point lead. But Lakewood scored 14 of the next 16 points to lead 31-28 after three quarters.
Gray finished with 12 points and Clark added eight.
Gray scored 30 points in a 70-51 win over Utica on Jan. 11. Joey Looney and Rickey Frey both added eight.
Through 11 games, Watkins Memorial's lone loss by more than eight points was a 66-43 setback Dec. 13 at Johnstown. The rematch is Friday, Jan. 24.
Wrestling team set for home meet
The wrestling team will play host to the 10-team Watkins Memorial Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Joining the Warriors will be Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Licking Valley, McConnelsville Morgan, Marysville, Reynoldsburg and Steubenville.
"The kids are looking forward to this," coach Mark Kurth said. "They always love to wrestle at home, although there's a lot of work for everyone involved when you host a meet. I think it's a pretty strong field. Marysville is outstanding as always and Central Crossing and Coffman always have strong teams and great individuals. Morgan and Steubenville are also traditionally pretty strong."
The Warriors, who did not compete in the Big Dawg Duals on Jan. 3 and 4 at Dresden Tri-Valley because members of the team were dealing with skin conditions, finished 24th (44.5 points) of 38 teams in the Marion County Invitational held Jan. 10 and 11 at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Dayton Christian (218.5) won.
Watkins Memorial split a pair of duals Jan. 9, beating Cardington 67-11 and losing to Buckeye Valley 52-18. The Warriors then defeated Licking Valley 46-25 on Jan. 15.
Andrew Lieb was the lone placer for the Warriors in the Marion County Invitational, finishing second at 132 pounds after losing to Willoughby South's Antonio Mitchell 8-4 in the final.
"Although Andrew was our only placer, it was a tough tournament and the kids wrestled well," Kurth said. "Alex Lieb went 5-1 at 106, but because of the format he was unable to place after losing his first match. Dean Marek was 4-2 at 120."
The Warriors are seeded sixth in Region 5-A of the Division I state team tournament and face third-seeded Lancaster on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Pickerington North in the first round. The winner advances to compete against second-seeded Pickerington North or seventh-seeded Hamilton Township, 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first round. The second-round winner advances to a Region 5 semifinal Jan. 29 at a site to be determined.
"Lancaster is really coming on strong down there in the past few years and they've built a good youth and middle school program," Kurth said.
"Pickerington has great wrestling programs. Last year, we lost to Central in the first round and North is the second seed, so we know we're facing challenges. We'll just go out and wrestle the best we can."
Entering the tournament, Alex Lieb is 21-2, Andrew Lieb is 16-1, Marek is 17-8, Robert Speaks (152) is 14-8 and Adam Tomkins (170) is 13-6.
Girls basketball team shows competitiveness
The girls basketball team has had a penchant for playing close games in the 2014 portion of its schedule.
Entering a Jan. 18 contest against Newark Catholic, the Warriors had played five consecutive games decided by four points or fewer. The Warriors were 1-4 in those games to fall to 4-11 overall and 3-8 in the LCL.
After losing to Utica 50-47 on Jan. 4, Watkins Memorial lost to Granville 51-47 in overtime Jan. 9, defeated Lakewood 28-27 on Jan. 11, lost to Northridge 39-36 on Jan. 13 and lost to Heath 41-37 on Jan. 16.
Emma Hock scored 10 points against Lakewood, in a game that had a one-point difference between the teams at the end of every quarter.
Vicki Smith scored 10 points against Northridge, and Hock and Lexi Dennison both added eight.
Hock scored 11 and Smith had 10 against Granville, but the Warriors were outscored 34-26 in the second half and 6-2 in overtime.