The OCC-Ohio Division has three of the top five seeds for the Division I girls basketball district tournament in top-seeded Reynoldsburg, third-seeded Newark and fifth-seeded Pickerington Central.
But New Albany High School coach Jeff Blunt thinks the OCC-Capital, with six teams in the top 25, has helped prepare the Eagles for what Blunt hopes will be a quality postseason run.
New Albany, which had won four of five games and five of seven before its league and regular-season finale Feb. 10 against Delaware, is seeded 18th for the tournament and will play host to 27th-seeded Marysville in a first-round game at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
"We're seeded right about where I thought we'd be," said Blunt, whose team was 13-8 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Capital before Feb. 10. "It was an interesting year for our conference with a decent amount of parity. I love where our team is right now. We've been really tenacious lately and showing the toughness we need to win games."
Mount Vernon and Olentangy were 12-1 in the league before playing Feb. 10 to decide the league title. Delaware and New Albany were tied at 8-5.
Among other OCC-Capital teams' tournament seedings, Mount Vernon is 10th, Olentangy is 13th, Delaware is 20th, Big Walnut is 21st and Worthington Kilbourne is 24th.
The first-round winner will play 19th-seeded Westland in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, on the better-seeded team's home court. That winner will play Rey-noldsburg, Columbus West or Groveport in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at Bloom-Carroll.
"It's always good when you can have a home game as a tournament game, and if we take care of our business we have a shot to get two home games," Blunt said. "I like the path we have. We're the best seed in our particular bracket and I think we have a good chance to get to a district semifinal. That said, there's probably going to be a great team (Reynoldsburg) sitting out there at this point."
New Albany continued its solid play with two wins last week, defeating Big Walnut 48-42 on Feb. 4 and Kilbourne 44-40 on Feb. 7.
Trailing Big Walnut 26-20 at halftime with center Meche'la Cobb in foul trouble, New Albany used an 18-10 third-quarter run to grab a 38-36 lead and hold on. Blunt credited Kaitlyn Gliha and Kyra Zuiderwig for making key defensive plays to help turn the game around.
"They got some key rebounds, handled the ball well and handled pressure," Blunt said. "They caused a lot of havoc for (Big Walnut). Right now, I feel confident going deeper into our bench than I ever have, and that's really a good thing with the tournament coming."
Cobb scored a game-high 17 points against Kilbourne.
Boys basketball team stays atop division
The boys basketball team extended its winning streak to six last weekend, potentially setting up a showdown for the OCC-Capital championship Saturday, Feb. 15, at Delaware.
New Albany improved to 9-2 in the league with a 60-39 win at Kilbourne on Feb. 7 and 11-7 overall with a 56-46 victory over DeSales on Feb. 8.
New Albany outscored Kilbourne 20-3 in the fourth quarter. Alex Sparks had 14 points, followed by 12 from John Miller and 10 from Austin Schaub.
Miller and Schaub each scored 12 points against DeSales.
The Eagles played host to Olentangy Orange on Feb. 11, beginning a three-game league stretch followed by a home game against Mount Vernon on Friday, Feb. 14, and the visit to Delaware. That game was postponed from Jan. 28 because of bad weather.
New Albany led Delaware (9-3) by a half-game before Feb. 11. Kilbourne was third (8-4) before playing Big Walnut on Feb. 11.
Also, New Albany earned the 18th seed in the Division I district tournament. The Eagles took a first-round bye and will visit 10th-seeded Delaware or play host to 22nd-seeded Dublin Jerome on Feb. 28.
"We've been getting a little bit better all along. There have been only two games this season where I thought we didn't play very well," coach Sam Davis said. "Earlier on we lost a lot of close games. But we've lost on good shots that didn't go through, on free throws that weren't made. We're playing OK -- it's just that we have to go through it. I just think the kids are getting better at doing things. The last two or three weeks, we've been getting into a flow."
Boys swimmers win sectional title
Six members of the boys swimming and diving team, seven girls and five of a combined six relays advanced to the Division I district meet from a sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington.
Led by Carson Barnes and Nick Noe, the boys team scored 207 points to win the sectional ahead of runner-up Westerville Central (183). Barnes won the 100-yard butterfly (54.16 seconds) ahead of teammates Brendan Murphy in second (54.41) and Blake Bergere in third (55.37), and was fourth in the 100 backstroke (58.44) to qualify for district in both events.
Noe won the 200 freestyle (1:49.38) and was second in the 100 free (49.88) to advance in both events. The 400 free relay was second (3:24.51) and the 200 medley relay was third (1:45.34) to advance.
The district swimming competition and girls diving take place Saturday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State. Boys diving is Friday, Feb. 14.
The girls were fourth (178) at sectional behind champion Thomas (212.5). Top performers included Taylor Berend, who won the 100 free (54.26) and was third in the 50 free (25.15), and Amanda Jenny, who was third in the 200 free (2:00.43) and fourth in the 100 free (54.2). Both helped the 200 free relay to a win (1:41.44) with Olivia Neff and Jessica Zaper. Grace Taylor was third in the 100 back (1:01.57).
The winner of each sectional event qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district advance to the state meet Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on times statewide. The top four boys and girls divers at district also advance to state.
Wrestlers prepare for district tourney
The wrestling team will participate in an 11-team Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 15, at Upper Arlington. The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to district Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby.
Other teams at UA will be the host Golden Bears, Briggs, Columbus West, Grove City, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy Orange, Thomas, Westerville North and Whetstone.