Westerville North High School boys basketball coach Kevin Thuman knows one of the most important things about playing in the Division I district tournament is getting acclimated to the postseason.

Westerville North High School boys basketball coach Kevin Thuman knows one of the most important things about playing in the Division I district tournament is getting acclimated to the postseason.

Teams sometimes come out with first-game jitters, and Thuman hopes that won't happen in the Warriors' opener at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, against Watkins Memorial at Jonathan Alder.

North is the fifth seed and takes a 16-4 overall record into the contest.

"Once the tournament starts, you need to play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Thuman said. "It's kind of like a rebirth and you get some new energy after a long season. You always look forward to this second season."

Watkins Memorial enters the game at 4-16. The Warriors have lost 12 of their last 13 games with the only victory being a 47-46 decision over Johnstown, a Division III team.

"They're a team still learning to play under a new coach in Pat Dimmick, who did a great job as an assistant at Dublin Coffman as well as being the head coach at St. Charles before that," Thuman said. "I expect they will mix up their defenses and try to keep us off-balance."

In its final two regular-season games, Watkins Memorial lost to Franklin Heights 52-47 on Feb. 10 and to Hilliard Bradley 63-48 on Feb. 17. Senior guard Le'Trel Taylor (6-foot-1) and junior guard Thomas O'Sickey (5-11) both had 12 points against Franklin Heights. Junior forward Kevin Crawford (6-4) had 11 points and senior forward Evan Werner (6-3) added nine points against Bradley.

"It's been since 1988 or 1989 since we've played them," Thuman said. "Their (school) district has grown a lot over the past few years."

The winner plays Franklin Heights in the second round at 6 p.m. March 2 at Jonathan Alder.

North closed the regular season with a 68-61 win over Olentangy on Feb. 17 as Matt Rhodes scored 22 points and made six 3-pointers. Jaylen Benton scored 12 points, Taivion Thomas had 11 points and Cory Ledford added nine points.

In the OCC-Cardinal Division, Liberty won the title at 12-2 with North and Westerville South tied for second (11-3). Westerville Central (7-7) was fourth followed by Dublin Scioto (6-8), Olentangy (6-8), Dublin Jerome (2-12) and Marysville (1-13).

•The girls team started 1-5 and was 6-8 before winning its final six regular-season games.

The Warriors finished 12-9 after a slow start in a 60-42 loss to Hilliard Bradley on Feb. 16 in the opening round of the Division I district tournament at Olentangy Orange.

North trailed 17-2 after one quarter and 39-5 at halftime thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer by freshman guard Hannah Ferguson.

"We weren't ready to play, but it's been a tough week for us," said coach Jim Kloepfer, who completed his ninth season leading the program. "We lost (assistant coach) Eddie Guice to cancer (on Feb. 15) and the kids were a wreck at practice (the day before playing Bradley).

"But we could have just rolled over and didn't. I was really proud of the way they came out and played after halftime. These girls just don't quit."

Freshman forward Devin Jackson led the Warriors with 16 points and Ferguson had 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Junior point guard Breyonia Hearn and freshman guard Symone Simmons both scored six points.

Olentangy went 13-1 to win the OCC-Cardinal title, finishing ahead of Scioto (11-3), North (9-5), South (8-6), Jerome (8-6), Liberty (5-9), Marysville (2-12) and Central (0-14).

The Warriors lose two seniors in post player Alex Brooker and wing player Maddy Roseberry. Brooker averaged 2.4 points and 2.7 rebounds, and Roseberry averaged 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.

"You can't say enough about what Alex and Maddy were to this team on and off the court," Kloepfer said. "When you have so many young kids you need some leaders and they were there for us."

Simmons led the Warriors in scoring (12.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.8 per game). Jackson averaged 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds. Hearn led in assists (2.4) and steals (2.9) per game while averaging 6.2 points. Sophomore guard Kelsey Walker averaged 5.1 points.

"We had a team like this in my first year (2002-03) and we went on to win a district title the next year," Kloepfer said. "There are a lot of similarities between that team and this one. We won our final six games of the regular season both seasons and lost in the first round of the tournament. We were really young both times. It could be exciting next year."

Simmons was first-team all-league and Jackson was on the second team. Hearn was honorable mention all-league.

Also expected to return are juniors Jasmine Johnson, Gabrielle Pace and Christen Thomas as well as sophomore Ally Speed and freshman Anna Gibbs.