As a teacher and coach at Columbus Academy since 1999, Jeff Warstler has witnessed several dramatic wins and disappointing losses.
In his first year as boys basketball coach, Warstler called his team's 51-49 loss to Worthington Christian in a Division III district semifinal March 5 at Delaware one of the more "stinging" defeats since he's been at the school.
"This is the worst professional moment of my life," he said moments after the game. "They made shots and we didn't. I don't know what else to say."
Second-seeded Academy finished 18-6 overall while the sixth-seeded Warriors went on to defeat eighth-seeded Ready 46-38 in a district final March 7.
The district semifinal was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than six points.
The Vikings took their final lead at 49-48 on senior post player Aakaash Paladugu's basket with 36 seconds remaining.
Worthington Christian regained the lead at 50-49 on A.C. Taylor's driving basket with 20 seconds left.
After senior forward Daniel Aronowitz missed a 15-foot jumper, the Warriors' Johnny Wordlaw made one of two free throws and Paladugu missed an off-balance, driving shot as time expired.
Aronowitz led Academy with 19 points and Paladugu scored 14.
"The boys do the best they can," Warstler said. "We're not a good shooting club and we knew it might be our Achilles heel. We got good looks down the stretch. They played as hard as they could and it just didn't work out."
Academy also lost at Worthington Christian 47-44 on Jan 29.
The Vikings defeated visiting East Knox 67-34 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 23 and visiting Cardington 60-34 in the second round Feb. 27.
Aronowitz was a first-team all-league and all-district selection. He led the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game and was second to Paladugu in rebounding, averaging 5.5 per contest.
Paladugu averaged 12.7 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Senior point guard Jared Harris averaged a team-best 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals.
Paladugu and Harris were second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and senior guard Hart Wise was honorable mention all-league.
Academy loses nine seniors.
"I've been playing with these guys just for four years because I was a new student in ninth grade," Paladugu said. "I never thought I would get this close to these guys, but the success that we had has made us so close together."
Players eligible to return are juniors Bryce Bailey (guard), Jonathan Kornberg (forward) and Jack Lint (guard) and sophomore Scott Mackenzie (forward).
Lint missed most of the season with an injury to his right shoulder sustained during track and field activities.
Academy went 11-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division to tie Granville for second behind Newark Catholic (13-1) and ahead of Bexley (8-6), Whitehall (6-8), Licking Valley (3-11), Heath (2-12) and Lakewood (2-12).
"They're wonderful boys," Warstler said of his players. "They're good kids."
Girls basketball team loses in first round
The girls basketball team finished 3-19 overall, losing to eventual district champion Johnstown 79-24 in the first round of the Division III district tournament Feb. 16.
Freshman post player Zaria McBride led the team with averages of 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds and was named second-team all-league.
"Zaria is about 6-foot, but she's real long," coach Heather Gepper said. "With her arm span, she's one of the longest players I've seen in the league."
Junior guard Kat Weikert, who was second on the team in scoring at 5.1 points per game, was honorable mention all-league.
Other players eligible to return are junior Brianna Stahl (guard), sophomores Kelly Brown (guard) and Natalie Weikert (post player) and freshmen Brianna Abell (post player), Neve Adler (guard), Caroline Aronowitz (guard), Jessica Hile (post player), Christina Lee (post player) and Allegra Solomon (guard).
The Vikings went 1-13 in the MSL-Ohio to tie Lakewood for seventh behind Newark Catholic (14-0), Granville (12-2), Heath (9-5), Licking Valley (9-5), Bexley (6-8) and Whitehall (4-10).
Academy's league win came against Lakewood, 37-23 on Feb. 6.
The Vikings also defeated Columbus School for Girls 48-31 on Jan. 8 and Wellington 46-28 on Jan. 22.
"I'm looking to get a lot of summer stuff going, maybe going to a camp," Gepper said. "The younger kids are hungry right now and they want to do things in the offseason, so I'm definitely excited for that."
Next season, the Vikings will compete in a realigned MSL-Ohio with Bexley, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson, Whitehall and Worthington Christian.