The Centennial High School boys basketball team played better at home than it did on the road during the regular season, going 7-2 on its own court and 5-5 away from it.
Seeded eighth of 27 teams in the Division II district tournament, the Stars are looking to take advantage of playing at home in the first round against 22nd-seeded Hamilton Township at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Columbus South or 23rd-seeded Lakewood in the second round at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the home of the higher seed.
"I'm glad that we get to open the tournament at home because our kids are comfortable playing in our gym and we draw more fans to home games," said coach Roosevelt Osborne, whose team reached a district semifinal last season before losing to top-seeded Jonathan Alder 63-49. "Last year, we played all of our games at Heath. The year before that, we played our district games at Lakewood, and the year before going to Lakewood we had to go all the way to Centerburg to play in the tournament. We didn't have nearly as many fans come to those games, but we're expecting a big crowd for this game and I'm hoping our fans will be loud to fire our team up and give us an edge."
Hamilton Township dropped to 7-14 with a 58-57 loss to Teays Valley on Feb. 15. DeShawn Nelms, a 5-foot-8 sophomore guard, led the Rangers with 31 points and 5-9 sophomore guard Devon Peart scored 11.
Other key players for the Rangers are 6-4 junior forward Noah Williams and 6-1 sophomore forward Ty Taylor.
"They have some quick guards, but we've played some of the best guards out there, so I hope we'll be able to cope with them," Osborne said. "We'll apply some defensive pressure and we'll switch some things up defensively to try to confuse them."
Osborne said players will need to step up to fill the void left by forward Conrad Stephens, who is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game with a knee injury. Stephens is averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds.
"Conrad might be back in time for the second-round game, but we're going to have to get through one more (game) without him," Osborne said. "Conrad brings a lot of energy to our team and, at times, he's been our MVP. He creates a lot of matchup problems for our opponents because he runs the floor well and other forwards and centers can't keep up with him. He also rebounds and draws charges better than anyone else on our team."
Osborne is looking for his son, point guard Elias "Boo" Osborne, to continue to lead the Stars.
Osborne is averaging a team-high 19.3 points, 8.7 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 steals and scored his 1,000 career point in an 80-57 loss at Northland on Feb. 12.
"Scoring his 1,000th point meant a lot to Boo because he's worked hard to get there," coach Osborne said. "It's a great accomplishment because he shares the ball a lot, too, which you can see by the number of assists he has. We'll need Boo to be a good leader and make good decisions in the tournament."
Centennial finished 10-4 in the City League-North Division to place third, behind Northland (14-0) and Brookhaven (11-3) and ahead of Beechcroft (7-7), Columbus East (6-8), Mifflin (5-9), Whetstone (3-11) and Linden-McKinley (0-14).
Northland was ranked first in the Division I state poll last week.
Osborne had 14 points and 13 assists in a 70-52 win at Wellington on Feb. 14. Guard Gyai Gyamerah led the Stars with 22 points, including six 3-points, and forward Joe Thomas added 10 points.
Gyamerah is averaging 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds and Thomas is averaging 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds. Guard Christian Cumberlander is averaging 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds, point guard Eric Cofer-Wilson is averaging 6.1 points and forward Jamal Slappy is averaging 5.8 points.
"We've been running and scoring again, but we need to do a better job of going to the basket and drawing fouls in the tournament," coach Osborne said.
Maharry advances to state swim meet
Aaron Maharry of the boys swimming and diving team qualified for the Division II state meet that began Feb. 20 and concludes Friday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Maharry finished fourth in the 50-yard freestyle in 22.33 seconds in the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State and is seeded 23rd at state.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide. The top three girls divers and top boys diver also advanced to state.
"I feel really good about the way I swam the 50 free," Maharry said. "I feel like I can still drop more time at state, so that's my goal."
Centennial scored 80 points at district to finish 11th, behind champion Granville (332) as 36 teams scored.
No members of the girls team advanced to state.
Julia Brooks set two program records by placing 21st in the 100 backstroke (1:08.42) and 13th in the 100 free (58.42).
"It's awesome to be on a team that's really competitive at district and it felt great to break those records," Brooks said. "Breaking our school record in the 100 back meant a lot to me because I've been working for that one for three years."
Also setting program records were Katlin Hedges in the 500 free (5:50.71, 13th), Lexie Herron in the 50 free (26.34, 12th) and the 200 free relay of Herron, Sam Meanor, Sophie Maharry and Brooks (1:47.45, fifth).
"It was really exciting to break our school record in the 200 free relay here because all four of us dropped a little bit of time off our splits," Sophie Maharry said.
Centennial scored 71 points at district to place ninth, behind champion Granville (457) as 36 teams scored.
"This was a phenomenal meet for all of our kids," coach Maria Stead said. "We dropped time in almost every race, and we received compliments about the way we improved from the coaches of teams like Upper Arlington and Columbus Academy, and that says a lot."
Taylor advances to district in bowling
Justin Taylor of the boys bowling team will compete in the district tournament Friday, Feb. 22, at HP Lanes.
The junior rolled a 589 series to finish 10th of 166 competitors in the sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Columbus Western Bowl, as the top nine teams and top nine individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to district.
At district, the top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 2 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Centennial finished 23rd (3,100) of 30 teams at sectional, behind champion Newark (4,030).
Girls basketball team competing in tourney
The girls basketball team opened the Division II district tournament against 15th-seeded Caledonia River Valley in the second round Feb. 20.
Seeded fifth of 26 teams in the district, Centennial had a first-round bye and was 16-6 before facing River Valley. The winner faces second-seeded Brookhaven or 14th-seeded Bexley in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at New Albany.
The semifinal winner will top-seeded Eastmoor Academy, eighth-seeded Big Walnut, 16th-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek or 20th-seeded Hamilton Township in a district final March 1 at New Albany.
Wrestling team 13th at sectional
The wrestling team scored 30 points and finished last in the 13-team Division II sectional Feb. 16 at Licking Heights behind champion Whitehall (265.5).
The top four placers in each weight class advanced to the district, to be held Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath.
At district, the top four placers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament to be held Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.