After receiving the third seed for the Division II district tournament, the Hartley High School girls basketball team wasn't surprised when it advanced to a district semifinal for the fourth time in five seasons by beating ninth-seeded Licking Valley 49-37 on Feb. 20.
One question remained: Would the Hawks be able to take what coach Mike Lanza calls "the next step?"
They did by beating seventh-seeded Granville 47-31 on Feb. 27 and sixth-seeded DeSales 53-44 on March 1 in games at Gahanna to capture their first district title since 2001.
"It means so much to us," senior post player Jaana Motton said. "It's been our goal since the beginning of the season."
"This has been rewarding," Lanza said. "We won 15 games last year. The year before, we were 16-4 and we made (earlier) exits in the tournament. It's been a big hurdle for our girls mentally to put together a winning season, but also do well in the tournament on top of that."
Hartley, which also beat DeSales 41-33 on Jan. 12 and 31-30 on Feb. 9 as the two shared the CCL title with Watterson at 6-2, was 21-4 entering the regional tournament.
The Hawks played Millersburg West Holmes in a regional semifinal March 5 at Zanesville. The winner plays Fairfield Union or Athens in a regional final at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Zanesville.
The regional champion will play Clarksville Clinton-Massie, Dayton Carroll, Dayton Chaminade Julienne or Eastmoor Academy in a state semifinal at 8 p.m. March 14 at Ohio State. The state final is 2 p.m. March 16 at the same site.
In the tournament win over DeSales, sophomore post player Marissa Brown and junior guard Taylor Kilgore-Barr each scored 13 points and Motton added 12.
Hartley has beaten the Stallions six consecutive times.
"Our kids, our players, they've come so far this year," Lanza said. "They just bought in to what we were trying to tell them as far as what we needed to do to be successful. ... This team has been so much fun to coach."
Hill places sixth at state wrestling
Sophomore Kristopher Hill lost his opening match at 113 pounds in the Division III state wrestling tournament Feb. 28 but bounced back to finish sixth.
Hill was one of two state qualifiers for the Hawks, who scored nine points to tie for 53rd behind champion Troy Christian (95.5) as 95 teams scored.
"I just had to go back and refocus on my next match," Hill said. "I feel really good (about finishing sixth). I wasn't expecting to make it this far."
Hill didn't gain his first wrestling experience until his freshman season and ended up 36-11 this season.
At state, he lost to Lima Bath's Colin Ingram 5-3 but followed with wins over Castalia Margaretta's Tyler Rogers (6-5), Jeromesville Hillsdale's Jeff Heldenbrand (4-3) and Loudonville's Colton Ullman (5-1). After losing to Ashland Mapleton's Zack Durbin 9-0, Hill fell to Newark Catholic's Caleb Ohl 5-4 in the fifth-place match March 2 on the final day of the three-day tournament at Ohio State.
"For a second-year wrestler, I thought he did a phenomenal job," coach Kevin Petrella said. "I'm very proud of him. He just stays in all of his matches."
While Hill went 3-3, junior Grant Rathburn opened state at 132 by beating Lorain Clearview's Matt Hollingsworth 15-2. He lost to Edgerton's Jared VanVleet 5-0 and Dayton Christian's Alex Becker 5-4 in his final two matches.
"He wrestled the Dayton Christian kid (earlier this season) and lost to him 10-2, and this time we lost 5-4," Petrella said.
"He gave up a takedown in the first period that hurt him. The kid Grant beat 15-2 (placed fifth) so the draw maybe had a little to do with it."
Boys team falls in second round
The fifth-seeded boys basketball team lost to 11th-seeded Marion-Franklin 51-48 in its opening Division II district tournament game, a second-round home contest Feb. 28.
The Hawks lost their final four games and finished 12-9.
In the tournament loss, senior post player Jacob Matuska battled foul trouble and was held to five points.
Senior forward Trevonn Brown scored 16 points and junior guard Drew Onega added 13.
"We knew their size and athleticism were going to be a tough matchup," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "It kind of played out like I thought it would. Their 6-foot-8 kid (Marquiez Lawrence) gave us some problems. Like most of our games, we were right there."
Bolden, Cottrell led swim program
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams will have a new look next season after losing seniors Ronnie Bolden and Andrea Cottrell.
Bolden won the boys state championship as a junior in the 50-yard freestyle (21.13 seconds) and was second (20.93) in the event this season in the Division II state meet, which concluded Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
A University of Kentucky recruit, Bolden also was third at state in the 100 butterfly (50.13).
Cottrell won the girls 100 breaststroke (1:03.32) and was third in the 200 individual medley (2:04.57) at state as a junior and this season took third in the 100 breast (1:03.46) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:05.06). She has signed with Louisville.
Also competing at state was the boys 200 medley relay, which finished 23rd (1:45.25) with Bolden, senior Vince Canini, sophomore Patrick Lawrence and freshman Jonathan Kluczynski.
The boys tied for 21st (33) behind champion Dayton Oakwood (288) as 58 teams scored. The girls finished 19th (31) behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (321) as 47 teams scored.
On Jan. 26 in the CCL meet at Columbus School for Girls, the boys placed second (234) behind St. Charles (417) and ahead of Watterson (190), DeSales (174) and Ready (8). The girls were third (210.5) behind Watterson (404) and CSG (360) and ahead of DeSales (158.5) and Ready (1).
In a sectional meet Feb. 9 at Columbus Academy, the boys tied Bexley and DeSales for third (109) behind Granville (279) and Academy (149) as 21 teams scored. The girls were fourth (120) behind champion Granville (339) as 24 teams scored.
On Feb. 15 in the district meet at Ohio State, the boys were third (160) behind Granville (332) and Dover (241) as 36 teams scored and the girls placed fourth (152) behind champion Granville (457) as 36 teams scored.
Key competitors eligible to return for the girls team include sophomore Lauren Bailey, freshman Hayley Elizondo and junior Alexa Williams.
Also expected back for the boys team is sophomore Michael Bungard.