Even though the Watterson High School boys basketball team trailed Brookhaven by 11 points at halftime in a Division II district final, coach Vince Lombardo didn't make any major adjustments to the Eagles' 3-2 zone defense.
Instead, during halftime he emphasized the importance of limiting turnovers and hustling back on defense.
The second-seeded Eagles got the message, as they rallied to beat the top-seeded Bearcats 56-52 in overtime March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to capture their first district title since 2010 and their seventh overall.
Watterson extended its winning streak to a program-record 18 games and improved to 24-1. The Eagles face Sandusky Perkins in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Bowling Green State University.
Brookhaven finished 21-4.
"I felt comfortable sticking with our defense because I didn't feel like Brookhaven attacked our zone well the whole evening," Lombardo said. "... In the second half, we did a better job (protecting the ball and limiting their transition game) and our half-court defense did an outstanding job taking away any easy points they were getting in the first half."
Watterson is seeking its first regional title. Perkins beat Toledo Scott 50-47 in overtime in a district final March 9 to improve to 21-5, as 6-foot-4 guard Brandon Smith had 21 points. The Pirates also are led by 6-3 guard Nic Williams and 6-0 point guard David Doster.
The semifinal winner will face Cleveland Benedictine or Lima Bath in a regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at Bowling Green.
Benedictine defeated Cleveland Central Catholic 60-50 in a district final March 9 to improve to 10-16. The Bengals are led by 6-7 post players Wesley Parr and Tysean Powell and 5-5 point guard T.J. Steele.
Bath beat Elida 56-50 in a district final March 9 to improve to 22-4, as guard Cole Chambers had 13 points and forward Taren Sullivan scored 11.
Watterson has not played Bath or Benedictine this season.
"We're having a good season, so we just need to keep doing what we've been doing," guard Cody Calhoun said. "We need to play good defense while limiting our turnovers. We want to play consistent like we have been playing most of the year."
In winning the district title, the Eagles avenged a 59-56 loss to Brookhaven on Jan. 5 and a 57-43 loss to the Bearcats in a district final last year.
"We knew from day one that there was a good chance we would play Brookhaven in this game and we've been preparing for them all season," post player Matt Hughes said. "This feels amazing. We're on top of the world right now."
Calhoun scored 14 of his team-high 19 points against Brookhaven in the second half and overtime. Hughes had 11 points and wing player Andy Grieser added nine points and seven rebounds.
Guard Randal Clarkson had a game-high 23 points to lead Brookhaven, which led 32-21 at halftime. He converted a three-point play with six minutes left in the third quarter to put the Bearcats ahead 35-23.
The Eagles had eight turnovers in the first half and six in the third quarter, but they had only two in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
"No matter how hard or well you practice, you just don't see their kind of quickness very often and there was an adjustment period to their pressure," Lombardo said.
After Calhoun made two free throws to put Watterson ahead 55-52 with 20.3 seconds left in overtime, Clarkson missed a 3-pointer. Hughes got the rebound, was fouled and made a free throw with 11.9 seconds left to effectively seal the win.
The Eagles made 11 of 20 field-goal attempts and 10 of 13 free-throw attempts in the second half and overtime.
"I felt like any struggles we had can be attributed to Watterson's grit and fight," Bearcats coach Hali Robinson said.
Watterson beat seventh-seeded Eastmoor Academy 57-42 in a district semifinal March 6 at Olentangy, as post player Bryan Jackson had 19 points and Hughes scored 15.
CCL title is highlight for girls swim team
Among the season highlights for the girls swimming and diving team was its seventh consecutive CCL championship.
Watterson scored 404 points in the CCL meet Jan. 26 to finish ahead of host Columbus School for Girls (360), Hartley (210.5), DeSales (158.5) and Ready (1).
"Winning CCL again was a big highlight for our girls team," coach John Sands said. "We had a ton of great swims there to keep our streak of league titles going."
Competing in the Division I state meet held Feb. 21-23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton were the 200-yard medley relay of junior Madeline Grubbe, freshman Carrie Horan, senior Sam Schuttinger and freshman Josephine Fike (10th, program-record 1:48.16), Grubbe in the 100 backstroke (19th, 58.75) and Horan in the 100 breaststroke (20th, 1:07.13).
The Eagles scored 14 points to finish 34th at state, behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (234) as 55 teams scored. They placed 10th (111) in the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State behind champion Upper Arlington (491) as 24 teams scored and second (185) in the 12-team sectional Feb. 9 behind host Upper Arlington (463).
"Our girls team is very young, but we (had) a lot of girls (compete in) the sectional and district meets and that will give them good experience for the future," Sands said. "Our seniors were great leaders for us and we're losing a Division I college swimmer in Sam Schuttinger, but we've got a lot of good freshmen coming back and, as they get stronger and more mature, we'll do well in the future."
Schuttinger is a University of South Dakota signee.
The boys team ended its season in the Division II district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State, where it finished sixth (112) behind champion Granville (332) as 36 teams scored.
Sophomore Isaiah Mefferd placed third in the 100 back (personal-record 56.0) and eighth in the 100 butterfly (55.72), and the 400 freestyle relay of senior Michael Schwartz, senior Noah Oliver, senior Jack Preston and Mefferd placed fourth (3:33.55).
The Eagles placed third (214) in a five-team sectional Feb. 9 at UA behind Grandview (280) and Centennial (252) and finished third (190) in the CCL meet behind St. Charles (417) and Hartley (234) and ahead of DeSales (174) and Ready (8).
"Our boys had a great district meet to finish their season," Sands said. "Our boys team is losing some of its stronger swimmers, so we'll need to add numbers to build a strong core for next season."