Wellington School boys basketball coach Brian McCants doesn't believe Grove City Christian is capable of matching the size or strength of 6-foot-3, 220-pound center Billy Brisk and 6-3, 215-pound forward Jahi Dial.
Look for the seventh-seeded Jaguars to attempt to get the ball to Brisk and Dial inside the paint early and often when they play host to the 13th-seeded Trojans in their Division IV district tournament opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27.
The winner will face third-seeded Fairfield Christian or 18th-seeded Morral Ridgedale in a district semifinal March 4 at Westerville North.
"We have some big horses down low and we need to establish our inside game instead of depending on outside jumpers," McCants said. "Jonathan Robinson is a 6-1 guard who is cut and Tyler Sharp is a 6-1 point guard who gives a lot of people size mismatches, too. We're a big team, so we need to get to the basket and use our size to our advantage. Once we score enough inside that they have to bring more people into the paint, our big guys can kick it back out and let our shooters do their thing."
Grove City Christian lost its final three regular-season games to fall to 8-12. In an 88-57 loss to Worthington Christian on Feb. 14, 6-2 senior guard Michael Howard had 16 points and 6-1 senior forward Derek Vaughn scored 15.
McCants, whose team beat Ridgeway Ridgemont 68-58 in its regular-season finale Feb. 16 to improve to 12-9 behind 17 points from Sharp and 16 from Brisk, believes the Jaguars' schedule also works to its advantage.
"While they played all the other Christian schools all year, we were playing bigger teams like Bexley, Delaware, Bellefontaine, Centennial and Columbus Academy to get us ready for the tournament," McCants said. "We lost some of those games, but playing that kind of competition made us better."
Dial was averaging a team-high 13.1 points through 20 games, followed by Robinson (11.3), Sharp (10.3), guard Lorenze Gordon-Haynes (7.4) and Brisk (5.6).
"We need to put pressure on Grove City Christian to force turnovers and end this game early," McCants said. "If we let them hang around, that's how last-second shots and upsets happen.
"We can't overlook them because they have nothing to lose and they're going to play hard. When we beat Shekinah Christian (72-56 on Jan. 19) to win the Jaguar Classic, we thought we were rock stars and we ended up getting our (butts) beat by Bexley (70-35 on Jan. 29) because we were still celebrating."
Two divers among state qualifiers
Brittany Anderson of the girls swimming and diving team placed second in diving with 427.65 points behind DeSales' Andrea Aquista (476.75) in the Division II district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State and was seeded fourth at state.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advanced to the state meet that began Feb. 20 and concludes Friday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide. The top three girls divers and top boys diver also advanced to state.
The diving competition at state was held Feb. 20.
"District was more challenging than I thought it would be," Anderson said. "I messed up an inward double on my last dive and that's why I got second. I think I can win state if I do all my dives to the best of my ability."
Last season, Anderson won district and placed second (415.25) at state behind Wauseon's Kendall Weber (432.5).
The girls team also will be represented at state in two swimming events. The 200-yard medley relay of Jenna Tugaoen, Annie Miller, Abby Fleeter and Kate Miller placed fourth at district in a program-record 1 minute, 54.86 seconds and Annie Miller finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.69).
The relay is seeded 23rd at state and Miller is seeded 20th.
Wellington scored 128 points at district to place sixth behind champion Granville (457) as 36 teams scored.
"This was a great meet for our girls," said coach Bill Miller, who is not related to Annie or Kate Miller. "Annie and Jenna did a good job of leading our team and our 200 medley relay did what it needed to do."
The boys team was represented at state by diver Michael Haring, who won the district title with 396.65 points ahead of runner-up Brian Hearns of Hartley (369.65) and was seeded eighth at state.
Last season, Haring won the district title and finished 17th (234.45) at state.
Matthew Xin placed eighth at district in the 200 freestyle in a program-record 1:55.48 but didn't qualify for state.
The Jaguars scored 44 points to tie Bexley for 17th behind champion Granville (332) as 36 teams scored.
Girls basketball team falls in tourney opener
The girls basketball team lost to second-seeded Worthington Christian 70-16 in the first round of the Division IV district tournament Feb. 16 to finish 6-17.
Center Donnette Cox scored six points for the 17th-seeded Jaguars, who were outscored 21-0 in the second quarter and trailed 32-6 at halftime.