Youth and inexperience have made the season a roller-coaster ride for the Olentangy High School boys basketball team.
The Braves were 8-13 overall before playing Marysville on Feb. 18 and finished 5-9 in the OCC-Capital Division after losing to Delaware 56-53 in overtime Feb. 14.
But the team does not have a senior on its roster, which bodes well for the future.
"Jimmy Gundling is the only player with much varsity experience from last year and he has had a great season," coach Chris Kelly said. "We focus on the positive as much as possible and we have been playing against some excellent basketball teams. The effort has been there and we have a lot of room to grow."
Gundling led the team in scoring through 21 games, averaging 17.8 points.
"We have gotten a lot better as team from the beginning of the season until now," he said. "Our record might not be great, but we are young and we will return every single player next year."
An example of the improvement came against Franklin Heights. The Braves lost to the Falcons 79-59 on Jan. 29, but rebounded to beat them 56-52 in overtime Feb. 8.
"We feel like we can beat any team, but we have to figure out how to be more consistent," Gundling said. "It just needs to click in the younger guys' mind and they need to stay focused. As the year has gone on, we have been doing a better job of figuring that out."
The Braves are seeded 30th in the Division I district tournament and open in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 26, against third-seeded Upper Arlington or 38th-seeded Pickerington North at the home of the better seed. UA is 20-1 and North is 3-19.
The winner plays in a district semifinal against 12th-seeded Grove City, 23rd-seeded Franklin Heights or 31st-seeded Mount Vernon March 5 at Marysville.
On Feb. 11, the Braves lost to Buckeye Valley 63-61 as Gundling scored 17 points, Seth O'Neal had 14 and Ryan Sieve added 11.
"We have had a lot of players stepping up for us, including Obi Anunike, who had 14 rebounds (against Buckeye Valley)," Kelly said. "We are taking things step by step and we're headed in the right direction."
Gundling scored 24 points to lead the Braves against Delaware and O'Neal added 11.
"This team works well together and (the players) have the rest of this year and the summer to work together," Kelly said. "Our defense has been up and down, but you expect that with a younger team."
Patriots beat Thomas in league finale
Liberty improved to 14-8 overall and finished 11-3 in the OCC-Central, closing the regular season with a 55-52 overtime victory Feb. 14 over Thomas Worthington.
Law Jones hit a 3-pointer in overtime to seal the win and finished with nine points. Brendon White led Liberty with 15 points, A.J. Kullman had 12 and Mike DeLeon scored eight.
The Patriots are seeded 13th in the Division I district tournament and open in the second round Feb. 28 at home against 17th-seeded Marys-ville or 32nd-seeded Watkins Memorial.
Pioneers wrap up regular season
Orange finished the regular season 3-19 overall after losing to Dublin Coffman 80-50 on Feb. 15.
The Pioneers finished 3-11 in the OCC-Capital after losing to Worthington Kilbourne 49-46 on Feb. 14. Dave Dawson had 13 points with three 3-pointers, and Grant Gossard and Colin Shepherd both had nine points on three 3s.
The Pioneers lost to New Albany 41-28 on Feb. 11 in league play. Shepherd led with 10 points and Jay Joseph had eight.
Against Coffman, Shepherd scored 18 points with four 3-pointers, Joseph had 11 points and Gossard added 10.
Orange is seeded 40th in the Division I district tournament and opens in the second round Feb. 28 against seventh-seeded Walnut Ridge or 41st-seeded Lancaster at the home of the better seed.