It didn't seem to matter that the New Albany High School boys basketball team had just defeated Mount Vernon 52-23 in a Division I district tournament second-round game Feb. 27.
Coach Sam Davis breathed a sigh of relief, mostly because his fourth-seeded squad had gutted out two home wins in the first two rounds and was that much closer to playing for a district title.
"We played with a lot more confidence this game than we did the first game," said Davis, whose team defeated Marysville 63-61 in the first round Feb. 22 and entered the week at 22-2. "I think we were just tight in the Marysville game. (Against Mount Vernon), I thought we defended well. We got over things and when we guard, we're better. I think that opened up some things offensively."
Junior guard Avery Schneider had a game-high 12 points, senior guard Jack Serbin scored 11 and senior forward Devon Pitts had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Eagles, who led 10-5 after the first quarter and used a 14-2 second-quarter advantage to break the game open.
"We didn't see any surprises from Mount Vernon," said Pitts, whose last-second layup sealed the victory against Marysville.
"They didn't change anything, so we just played our game and did what we needed to do."
The Eagles had swept the Yellow Jackets in two OCC-Capital Division matchups, winning 37-29 on Jan. 11 and 50-31 on Feb. 15. Davis said that familiarity made the strong start even more important.
"We talked about that, actually. We felt that it was important for us to get off to a good start and be patient," he said. "We thought they'd zone us. We wanted to be patient against their zone; we wanted to go inside-out. They really did. We wanted to guard and we really, really guarded well."
New Albany advanced to play 18th-seeded Olentangy Orange in a district semifinal March 6 at Pickerington North. The winner will play seventh-seeded Dublin Coffman or 10th-seeded Pickerington Central in a district final at noon Saturday, March 9, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, and the district champion will play Gahanna, Newark, Reynoldsburg or Westerville North in a regional semifinal March 14 at the Fairgrounds.
The Eagles did not play any of their potential district final opponents during the regular season.
New Albany is seeking its first district championship since 2006, when it competed in Division II. That year, the Eagles lost to eventual state champion Dayton Dunbar 77-54 in a regional final.
"We know we can go a lot farther," Pitts said. "Our standard right now is to win districts, then after that, maybe reach state. We think we have a chance."
Wrestling team loses three seniors
The wrestling team loses three seniors -- district-qualifier Nic Fluty (120 pounds) as well as Corey Mulvey (152) and Gabriel Sheets (170) -- from a team that went 1-6 in the OCC-Capital and qualified two wrestlers to the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
Fluty went 1-2 at district after a second-place finish in the Westland sectional Feb. 16. Freshman Matthew Jones was fourth at 195 at sectional and 0-2 at district. Fluty finished 38-11 and Jones went 15-14.
The Eagles' other expected returnees include juniors Frank Boscarillo (138, 13-17) and Jeff Kim (182, 7-7), sophomore Garrett Dildine (160, 12-11) and freshman Alex Boffo (113, 12-19).
New Albany finished sixth in the OCC-Capital behind Mount Vernon (7-0), Delaware (6-1), Orange (5-2), Watkins Memorial (4-3), Olentangy (3-4) and Big Walnut (2-5) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-7). In a Division I, Region 5-B first-round match in the state dual tournament Jan. 23, the eighth-seeded Eagles lost to top-seeded Darby 76-3.
New Albany finished 10th (46) in the 10-team sectional behind champion Hilliard Davidson (224.5). The Eagles were 32nd (3) at district behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored.