Upper Arlington High School boys basketball assistant coach Gregg Allocco spent the afternoon of Feb. 9 watching Olentangy defeat Olentangy Orange 54-49, mostly because he felt like seeing two teams not on the Golden Bears' schedule.
One of them wasn't at the time, anyway.
Olentangy was seeded 21st of 42 teams during the Division I district tournament draw Feb. 10 at Gahanna. UA was seeded 22nd, and the Bears wasted little time lining up against the Braves for a first-round game Feb. 23 at Olentangy.
The winner plays ninth-seeded Gahanna or 38th-seeded Teays Valley in the second round Feb. 27 at the home of the higher seed.
"We as a (coaching) staff like to get out and see some different teams who aren't in our league," said Allocco, who coached the Bears in a 56-49 win over Westland on Feb. 8 and attended the tournament draw in place of head coach Tim Casey, who was tending to an out-of-state family matter. "You never know who you might see in the tournament. Go figure it worked out the way it did."
UA is 11-9 overall after losing to Watterson 59-50 on Feb. 11 and 8-5 in the OCC-Central Division heading into its regular-season finale Friday, Feb. 15, at home against Dublin Coffman. The Bears lost to the Shamrocks 67-54 on Jan. 11.
Against Westland, junior guards Kevin Vannatta and Danny Hummer scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, and junior forward Logan Richter scored 15.
UA entered the week having won five of its previous six games. That stretch started when the Bears erased a five-point deficit in the final minute of regulation en route to a 60-55 overtime win over Hilliard Darby on Jan. 22. Hummer had a game-high 29 points against the Panthers, including 27 in the second half and overtime.
"I think this team is starting to settle in," Allocco said. "We're really a young team, even though at this point of the year sophomores aren't sophomores anymore and juniors aren't juniors just because they've played so much basketball.
"In our top seven, we play three sophomores (guards Gabe Akins, Chris Allocco and Griffin Caldwell), three juniors (Hummer, Richter and Vannatta) and a senior (forward Austin Ping). It takes some time for younger kids to grow up a lot of times. But things have stabilized, and we've played smarter the past few weeks."
Swimmers rule home pool at sectional
Seventeen members of the girls swimming and diving team and 15 members of the boys team qualified for the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 16, at Ohio State from the Bears' home sectional Feb. 9, and five earned top seeds in two events.
Senior Joey Long, an Ohio State signee, won the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 42.08 seconds) and 500 free (4:42.35) and earned the top seed for both at district as the boys team scored 351 points to win the 12-team sectional ahead of runner-up St. Charles (263).
Senior Ian Reardon also earned two top seeds by winning the 100 breaststroke (59.0) and 200 individual medley (1:55.62), and junior Thomas Trace did the same in the 50 free (21.57) and 100 backstroke (51.45).
The girls team amassed 463 points in the 12-team sectional to easily outdistance runner-up Watterson (185).
Sophomore Gracie Long is the top district seed in both the 100 free (51.85) and 200 free (1:51.83) and junior Jenny Smith is the top seed in the 200 IM (2:06.13) and 500 free (5:01.61).
The winner of each sectional swimming event qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until district.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21-23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide. The top three boys divers and top four girls divers advance to state.
Hockey team takes consolation Cup title
Two wins in as many days powered the hockey team to the championship of the consolation bracket in the Blue Jackets Cup, further fueling coach Jay Graham's optimism entering the district tournament.
The Bears defeated Olentangy 3-0 on Feb. 9 and beat Worthington Kilbourne 3-2 in the final Feb. 10 at OhioHealth Ice Haus. Freshman forward Danny Logan had two goals against the Braves and one against the Wolves, and senior forward Jack Whitman had a goal against Kilbourne after assisting on all three goals against Olentangy.
"We're hitting a stretch where we're peaking some," Graham said. "We're getting the puck to the net and getting it across the middle to get better angles for shots."
UA, which is 16-10-1-1, is seeded eighth in the district tournament and will face 18th-seeded Oxford Talawanda in the first round at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, at the Ice Haus. The winner will play eighth-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier in a second-round game at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Ice Haus.
The second-round winner will play top-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 23rd-seeded Beavercreek in a quarterfinal Feb. 23 at the Ice Haus.
UA was scheduled to play Talawanda on Dec. 26 in the Findlay Trojan Invitational, but the game was canceled because of bad weather. The Bears beat St. Xavier 3-2 on Dec. 16.
"We could have been seeded higher, but I liked that we got to choose where we wanted to go," Graham said.
"With (southwest Ohio) teams, you don't always know much about them, and that's not always bad. You can worry about playing your own game and not what they have."
Wrestlers preparing for sectional tourney
Coming off a 44-33 win in its OCC-Central and regular-season finale Feb. 7 at Westland, the wrestling team will return to that site for a 10-team Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 16.
Also competing in the sectional are Central Crossing, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Grove City, Hilliard Davidson, Kilbourne, New Albany, St. Charles and Westland.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Darby.
Freshman Izak Wunderlich, who saw time at 170 pounds while junior Blake Reid was sidelined for several weeks because of injury, won the 160 title in the All-Freshman State Wrestling Tournament on Feb. 9 at Dublin Scioto. Wunderlich won four matches by pin en route to the championship.
Gymnastics team ties for third in OCC meet
Sophomore Mary Kate Keethler won the vault (9.2) and placed fifth on the uneven bars (8.625) to help lead the gymnastics team to a third-place tie in the OCC-Ohio meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
UA and Olentangy both had a 131.7 to finish behind Thomas (134.8) and Dublin Coffman (141.2) and ahead of Darby (123.85) and Grove City (108.5).
The Bears went 2-3 in league duals and finished fourth in the overall OCC-Ohio standings with 13 points, behind Coffman (24, 5-0), Thomas (20, 4-1) and Olentangy (15, 3-2) and ahead of Grove City (6, 1-4) and Darby (6, 0-5).
Sophomore Emily Jones placed fourth in the league meet on bars (8.8) and sixth on the balance beam (8.95). In the all-around, Keethler placed seventh (34.575), Jones was ninth (34.4) and freshman Alyssa Cooper was 11th (32.475).
UA will compete in the district meet Feb. 23 at Kilbourne.