The Centennial High School girls basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 56-54 loss to Northland in a City League-North Division game Jan. 21 to all but drop out of contention for winning its first league title.
The following day, the Stars played poorly en route to a 59-42 loss at Westerville North. They were 10-7 overall and 9-2 in the City-North before playing Linden-McKinley on Jan. 28.
Coach Darrin Green acknowledged the Stars were feeling deflated after those back-to-back setbacks but said they need to quickly turn their focus toward getting prepared to make a run in the Division II district tournament.
The tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 2.
"We knew we could compete with Northland and we were right there with them until the very end of the game," Green said. "That was our chance to win our division but we didn't get it done, so we've got to move on because we still have a lot to play for. Right now, it's about improving and finishing our season strong so we'll be ready to make a run in the district tournament."
The Stars are looking forward to playing Thursday, Jan. 30, at Watterson, which defeated Centennial 53-34 last season. The Eagles were 11-5 before playing Marion Pleasant on Jan. 28.
"We put teams like Watterson on our schedule to challenge us and make us better," Green said. "They can push the ball and score in transition, so we'll need to get back on defense quickly."
The Stars play host Friday, Jan. 31, to Whetstone in a league game. Centennial beat the Braves 52-39 on Dec. 20, as Alyssa Dean scored 17 points and Akiya Brown scored 10.
Whetstone, which was 11-6 overall and 6-5 in the City-North before playing Mifflin on Jan. 28, is led by 5-foot-7 senior guard Kalie Mascarello, who scored 19 points in the first meeting with the Stars.
"Whetstone is a very well-coached, disciplined team," Green said. "Our girls took good shots against them, but we didn't shoot well as a team that day. We need to make more shots and we can't allow them to get many open looks. We need to defend the 3-ball and box out.
"We have the opportunity to play two good teams before the tournament and these are games that we need to win."
Dean said the Stars need to do a better job of finishing strong in close games. Entering the week, they were 1-4 in games decided by nine points or fewer.
The Stars were tied with Northland at 52 with 38 seconds left before giving up four consecutive points. Izzi Luaces' field goal with 1 second left accounted for the final margin.
Dean scored 13 points, Marissa Robertson and DeAuja Thompson each had 12 and Brown added 11.
"We feel good about the way we played overall, but we had a couple of defensive mishaps in the final 30 seconds that really cost us," Dean said. "We gave up an easy layup on one play and we fouled one of their better free throw shooters (Carli Codner-Pinto) at the end of the game to give up two more easy points.
"I feel like it's important to win at Watterson because we've come up short in most of our close games against good teams, so it would be a real confidence-booster to beat them."
Dean, who scored a game-high 18 points at North, was disappointed but not surprised the Stars fell to the Warriors.
"It was hard to get back up for this game because we were all emotionally drained from our game against Northland," she said.
Boys basketball team looks to sweep Braves
The boys basketball team is preparing for City-North rematches Friday, Jan. 31, at Whetstone and Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Brookhaven.
The Stars defeated the Braves 95-35 on Dec. 20 and lost to the Bearcats 77-43 on Dec. 13.
Centennial was 9-7 overall before playing Buckeye Valley on Jan. 27 and 6-4 in the City-North before playing Linden on Jan. 28.
The Stars lost to Northland 72-52 in a league game Jan. 21, snapping a five-game winning streak. Joe Thomas scored 21 points and Anthony Slappy had 12.
Centennial bounced back to defeat Dublin Jerome 64-63 on Jan. 25. Slappy scored eight points, including a bank shot as time expired. Gyai Gyamerah had 25 points and Thomas added 19.
Boys bowling team continues to roll
The boys bowling team rolled an 1,872 to defeat Northland (1,823) and Hartley (1,700) on Jan. 24, improving to 10-4 overall and 7-4 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central before facing St. Charles on Jan. 29.
Justin Taylor had a team-best 206.2 average entering the week, followed by Timothy Montgomery (137.3), Robert Turner (131.1), Russell Chambers (129.1) and Matt Ballard (127.4).
The girls squad lost to Hartley 1,472-1,411 on Jan. 24 to fall to 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the COHSBC-Central. Victoria Evans has a team-high 123 average, followed by Alexandria Wells (110.8), Nashira Tucker (108.7) and Gulchin Ashur (107).