The focus of the Watterson High School boys basketball team entering its matchup with Brookhaven in a Division II district final March 7 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum was to limit the number of times Ronnie Williams drove to the basket.
The defensive strategy worked to perfection, as the top-seeded Eagles held the district Player of the Year scoreless in the first half and limited him to 10 points en route to a 48-28 victory for their second consecutive district championship.
Watterson, which improved to 23-2, continues its quest to defend its state championship when it faces Logan Elm in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at Ohio University.
"Our first major objective was to keep (Williams) from hurting us with his penetration, and our guys did a tremendous job of that," coach Vince Lombardo said. "Andy Grieser guarded (Williams) most of the time, with lots of support from our wings (Cody Calhoun and Matt Lehmann) and they were able to contain him really well. Brookhaven gets a lot of their offense from Williams' ability to penetrate, and I'm very pleased with how well we were able to contain him and their offense as a whole."
Second-seeded Brookhaven, which finished 20-5, missed its first 18 field-goal attempts and trailed 18-4 midway through the second quarter. Watterson led 21-9 at halftime and 29-16 through three quarters.
"Watterson did a wonderful job of keeping us from having an inside presence, and when we did have one, we usually didn't finish our opportunities," said Brookhaven coach Hali Robinson, whose team also lost to the Eagles during the regular season, 46-43 on Jan. 4. "They were as good as they needed to be for an extended period of time, and they were good at getting consecutive stops when they needed them."
Calhoun led Watterson with 16 points, 11 of which were scored in the fourth quarter. Lehmann had 13 points and eight rebounds, Grieser added nine points and Joe DiOrio had 13 rebounds.
"I mostly shot 3-pointers in the first half," Calhoun said. "But when they extended their pressure in the fourth quarter, I felt I could break their press. And when they covered other guys, I made layups or was fouled and scored at the free-throw line."
Watterson also defeated Brookhaven in a district final last season on its way to winning its first state title, beating the Bearcats 56-52 in overtime. Brookhaven handed the Eagles their lone loss a year ago during the regular season, 59-56.
"We've had three great ballgames against Brookhaven the past three years that were each decided by four points or less, so we didn't expect this sort of game," Lombardo said of his team's 20-point margin of victory. "Our kids just played outstanding team defense to slow them down."
Led by 19 points from guard Dillon Young, Logan Elm defeated Vincent Warren 61-45 in a district final March 8 to improve to 23-2.
The regional semifinal winner faces Dover or New Concord John Glenn in the regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at Ohio University. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 20 at Ohio State.
"Every team we play from here on out is going to present a great challenge," Lombardo said. "The key is to be true to ourselves in the way we play instead of letting our opponents dictate how we play."
Watterson defeated 10th-seeded Bexley 76-51 in a district semifinal March 5 at Newark, as Grieser had 22 points, Lehmann scored 21 and Matt Hughes scored 16.
"Offensively, we've had great balance and we need to continue to do what we need to do based on who has the hot hand in each game," Lombardo said. "... Our five starters have done a terrific job all season and Greg Oman, Tommy Geraghty and Ryan Lewis are giving us great minutes off the bench."
Wrestling team had 3 district qualifiers
Three of the wrestling team's 11 members were Division II district qualifiers this season.
Unfortunately for Watterson, two of those qualifiers -- Mark Guza (126 pounds, 28-13 on the season) and Michael Guza (132, 34-16) -- are seniors.
Michael Guza and sophomore Ben Kring (120, 25-11) both went 0-2 at district, held Feb. 21 and 22 at Uhrichsville Claymont. Mark Guza was unable to compete at district because of a concussion he sustained in the 14-team sectional Feb. 15 at Licking Valley.
At sectional, Michael Guza went 2-1 and placed second, Kring went 4-1 and placed third and Mark Guza went 1-2 and placed fourth, as the Eagles scored 45 points to finish 10th behind champion Licking Valley (177.5).
The Stallions did not score at district.
Watterson finished fifth (114) in the CCL tournament Feb. 1 behind Hartley (307), host St. Charles (187), Ready (179) and DeSales (166).
The Eagles' only league champion was Kring.
Watterson loses four seniors but expects to return Kring, junior Jack Haley (170), sophomore Karrington Norwood (182) and freshmen Will Fortkamp (heavyweight), Spencer Gregory (126), Cal McCaninch (120) and Jason Mullenix (145). Haley finished 26-9.
"We had some holes in our lineup, but all of our guys improved a lot over the season and I'm real proud of their effort," coach Tommy Martin said.
"Our seniors were nice leaders and our juniors and sophomores performed well, too. I like the freshman class we have, and we're trying to generate more interest in our team to get more guys in our room as freshmen so we can build the numbers of our team back up to where they need to be."
Gymnast finished season at state
Watterson had one gymnast this season in Becca McManamon, who placed 21st on vault (8.975) in the individual state meet March 1 at Hilliard Bradley.
The junior tied for second on vault (9.35) at district Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, as the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to state.
"Becca did really well on vault, especially considering this was her first time competing at state, with all of the noise and distractions that go on there," coach Shea Stammen said. "This is only her sixth year of doing gymnastics, but she has no fear. She will try anything and, when she crashes, she gets right up and does it again. She worked hard in the offseason to increase the difficulty of her routines, and it paid off."
At district, McManamon tied for 34th on uneven bars (7.8), tied for 61st on floor exercise (8.4), tied for 78th on balance beam (7.25) and finished 35th in the all-around (32.8).
"Becca was a little inconsistent on bars and beam, but she's also a diver on Watterson's swim team, so she doesn't get as much practice time as most other gymnasts," Stammen said. "She's come a long way in a short amount of time and she's already making goals to do better next season."
Hockey team posts first winning season
The hockey team put together its first winning season in its five-year history.
Watterson finished 15-13 overall and won its first league championship, going 7-9 (14 points) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division to place ahead of Kilbourne (14, 6-8-0-2), Olentangy (12, 6-10), Thomas Worthington (5, 2-13-0-1) and Dublin Scioto (0, 0-16).
The Eagles won the tiebreaker with Kilbourne for having more wins.
Watterson also posted its first district tournament win, beating 14th-seeded Centerville 6-4 in the first round Feb. 14 as the 16th seed before losing to fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 8-3 in the second round Feb. 16.
Watterson loses four seniors in forwards Luke Andracki and Jaesuk Bae, defenseman Scott Engram and goaltender Aaron King. Andracki was named second-team all-CHC and first-team all-CHC-Blue.
Expected to return at forward are juniors Sam Magee, Zac McKenna, Derek Petrucci and Isaac Royer, sophomores Jerrod Petersen, Johnny Shultz and Nate Simpson and freshmen Thomas Abrams, Brandon Arens, Nick Infante and Jake Shultz.
Also expected back are juniors Tommy Hatem and Noah Slade and sophomores Nick Naderhoff, Adam Schrepferman and Mark Zelnik on defense and junior goalie Sean Roark.
In 16 league games, Andracki had 17 goals and 10 assists, McKenna had 15 goals and 24 assists, Magee had 13 goals and 20 assists and King had an .860 save percentage.