DeSales High School boys basketball coach Blair Albright's scouting report on Marion-Franklin for their matchup in a Division II district final largely was accurate, but he would have accepted a few mistakes.
The 11th-seeded Red Devils lived up to Albright's expectations, sprinting to a 10-point lead midway through the first quarter and leading by as many as 23 points late in the third quarter en route to a 56-34 win March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
DeSales finished 13-12.
Marion-Franklin, which improved to 14-12, harassed the 13th-seeded Stallions into 12-for-48 shooting from the field and didn't allow them much penetration beyond its front line featuring 6-foot-4 guard Dominique Cartier, 6-5 forward Shavon Hairston and 6-8 forward Marquiez Lawrence.
"In these tournament games, they've gotten off to fast starts," Albright said of Marion-Franklin, which won its first district title since 1993. "We knew it'd be important to not allow them to do that, and that wasn't the way it went. I was very, very concerned about how their length and athleticism would affect us at the basket, especially with our ability to finish at the rim, but that wasn't nearly as big an issue as I thought it'd be. What ended up happening was their length and their quickness at the guard spots was really disruptive. We couldn't get it past their top three guys."
Senior guard Josh Jordan had eight points and senior forward Darrien Scott scored seven for DeSales, which had a first-round bye and upset third-seeded Granville 36-34 in the second round Feb. 27 and eighth-seeded Centennial 55-52 in a district semifinal March 6 to reach a district final for the first time since 2010.
Marion-Franklin held a 15-5 lead 4 minutes, 50 seconds into the game and led 21-8 after the first quarter. The Red Devils extended their advantage to 43-20 late in the third quarter before the Stallions went on a 14-3 run.
Marion-Franklin, which will play Kettering Alter in a regional semifinal Thursday, March 14, at Kettering Fairmont, closed the game with a 10-0 run.
The Stallions, which won six of their final eight games, went 1-7 in the CCL to tie Ready for fourth, behind Watterson (8-0), Hartley (5-3) and St. Charles (5-3).
DeSales loses seven seniors, including Scott (team-high 9.3 points per game), Jordan (5.3 ppg) and guard Oliver Grimard (7.4 ppg). Scott was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Junior forward Bryan Stopar averaged 4.8 points and was one of three underclassmen to get regular playing time, along with junior guard Taz Collins and junior center Luke Melsop. Collins was honorable mention all-district.
"We showed a lot of grit and a lot of toughness on the road to this game, but we ran into something tonight that just overwhelmed us," Albright said of Marion-Franklin.
Girls team expects to return most of lineup
While a 53-44 loss to CCL-rival Hartley in a Division II district final March 1 at Gahanna ended the prep career of the only senior on the girls basketball team, it also left coach Brian Cromwell optimistic about next season.
"We hate to lose (guard) Miranda (Johnson)," Cromwell said. "We all wanted this (district title) for her. She's led us to three district final games and we've won two of those (in 2010 and 2012). The bottom line is this is a good group that got through some adversity to get here. There's no reason to think we can't be just as good next year."
Sophomore guard Carli Codner-Pinto had 12 points against Hartley to lead DeSales, which trailed 23-17 at halftime but tied the game at 33 late in the third quarter. The Hawks reclaimed the lead at 35-33 on a layup as the quarter ended and didn't trail again.
Codner-Pinto averaged a team-high 12.1 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Johnson averaged 8.5 points and junior guard Maggie Simon averaged 7.7, with both making first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Also expected to return are juniors Tessa Mulligan (guard) and Coley Tuel (forward), sophomores Jori Arnold (guard), Simone Douglas (guard), Taylor Freeman (guard), Joenyia Herd-Middlebrooks (forward) and Morgan Madigan (center) and freshman forward Monica Billings.
Arnold was second-team all-league.
The Stallions finished 17-9 overall and went 6-2 in the CCL to share the title with Hartley and Watterson. Rounding out the league standings were Ready (2-6) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
Seeded sixth in the district tournament, DeSales defeated 18th-seeded Licking Heights 66-51 in a first-round game Feb. 16 at home, 25th-seeded Lakewood 52-21 in the second round Feb. 20 at home and fourth-seeded Utica 57-36 in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at Gahanna before falling to third-seeded Hartley.
"It was a difficult year in the CCL, and (the district final) proved that," Cromwell said. "You had to be on top of your game every night."
Wrestling coach pleased with season
Nick Preston is hoping his second season as coach of the wrestling team will feature stronger postseason performances and increased turnout.
Senior Ian Ferguson went 2-3 and placed sixth at 160 pounds in the Division II state tournament held Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State, finishing 39-7 on the season and becoming the Stallions' first state placer since Payton Gutierrez -- a four-time state qualifier and three-time state placer between DeSales (2011) and Pickerington North (2012-13) -- finished seventh at 103 two years ago.
Ferguson was the Stallions' lone state qualifier, scoring eight points as DeSales finished 50th behind champion St. Paris Graham (155.5) with 85 teams scoring. Graham won its 13th consecutive state title.
"I know our whole team had success throughout the year. It was fun (and) definitely something to build upon," Preston said. "It was fun helping develop those athletes. We're very exciting about seeing that pay off and having a resurgence in this program."
Ferguson went 4-0 to win the title in his weight class in the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath, as DeSales finished 18th (32) behind champion Uhrichsville Claymont (182.5) with 42 teams scoring.
Ferguson was one of four district qualifiers for the Stallions. Also competing were senior Jeff Maynard at 145 (0-2, 4-7), sophomore Conner Cua at 126 (0-2, 13-17) and freshman Jake Maynard at 120 (2-2, 32-11).
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
DeSales finished seventh (83) in a 13-team sectional Feb. 16 at Licking Valley behind champion Sparta Highland (182) and placed fourth (137) in the CCL tournament Feb. 2, behind St. Charles (263), Hartley (238) and Ready (149) and ahead of Watterson (79).
Ferguson (170) and Jake Maynard won league titles.
In the inaugural team state tournament, the Stallions were seeded third in Region 14-A and defeated sixth-seeded Linden-McKinley by forfeit in the first round Jan. 23 and upset second-seeded Columbus South 41-36 in the second round Jan. 30 before losing to top-seeded Whitehall 71-11 in a regional semifinal later that night.
DeSales loses three seniors in Ferguson, Jeff Maynard and Reno Cua (138). Expected returnees include Conner Cua, Jake Maynard, juniors Nick Myers (132), Tyler Darling (152) and Malik Gray (220), sophomores Mitch Saunders (182) and Nick O'Brien (285) and freshman Nick Rafter (126).