The Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team was seeded 15th in the Division I district tournament last season, but was upset at home by 24th-seeded Westerville Central 43-42 in its opener.
Coach Bob Miller said his 14th-seeded squad again opens the district tournament against a dangerous opponent when it plays host to 27th-seeded St. Charles on Saturday, Feb. 22.
"They compete in a tough, hard-nosed league in the CCL, and they are a very aggressive and physical team," Miller said. "We'll need to be prepared to match their physical play, especially on the boards, where we'll need to box out well and be prepared to fight for rebounds."
St. Charles was 11-8 before playing Eastmoor Academy on Feb. 18. It beat Hartley 41-40 on Feb. 14 to finish 4-4 in the CCL, as junior guard Nick Pappa made the winning 3-pointer with two-tenths of a second left.
Miller said he was even more impressed with how well St. Charles played during CCL losses against defending Division II state champion Watterson (57-55 in overtime Jan. 3 and 54-47 on Feb. 7).
"St. Charles plays in one of the toughest, most physical leagues in central Ohio and they pushed Watterson to their limit twice this season," Miller said.
"They are a very good team, so it's nice that we get to play them at home."
Thomas went 7-3 at home during the regular season while earning a 14-8 overall record.
The Cardinals lost to Olentangy Liberty 55-52 in overtime Feb. 14 to finish 8-6 in the OCC-Central Division and snap a three-game home winning streak.
However, Miller said his team played well during that loss, as Yemi Sholesi scored 15 points, Daniel Crease had 11, Jaret Gerber scored 10 and Tyrrell Stewart added nine.
Crease scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, when Thomas outscored Liberty 17-5.
"Olentangy Liberty's a good team and we played them much better than we did during (a 53-40 loss Jan. 10)," Miller said. "We played with intensity and defended well, and we had our opportunities and just didn't follow through. The game seesawed back and forth and they just made more plays at the end than we did."
With a win over St. Charles, Thomas would play host to 19th-seeded Groveport on Feb. 28 in the second round.
The Cardinals defeated Groveport 63-61 in double overtime Feb. 11, as Sholesi scored 21 points, Gerber had 14, Stewart scored 13 and Crease added nine. Crease made a 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime to tie the score and Gerber converted a tip-in as time expired in the second overtime.
"I coached at Groveport for 18 years, from 1965 to 1983, so playing Groveport always brings back a lot of memories," Miller said.
"Hopefully we'll earn a chance to play them again in the tournament."
Wolves set team record for wins
Kilbourne wrapped up the regular season with two league victories to improve to 14-8 overall and finish 10-4 in the OCC-Capital.
By defeating Big Walnut 54-39 on Feb. 11 and Olentangy Orange 49-46 on Feb. 14, the Wolves set a team record for wins in a season.
Michael Chambers had 25 points and 15 rebounds and Seth Hill scored nine points against Big Walnut.
Against Orange, J.C. Bartok, Isaiah Young and Hill each scored 10 points, Griffin Dahn scored nine and Chambers scored eight. At one point, the Wolves made 17 consecutive free throws.
"This team has been very special and getting our school record for most wins is something we're very proud of," coach Tom Souder said. "This starts with having great senior leadership and Seth Hill has been everything you could ask for as a senior point guard. Michael Chambers has matured into a guy who is averaging pretty close to double figures in points and rebounds. J.C. Bartok, Griffin Dahn and Isaiah Young all are improving, too."
Kilbourne is seeded 16th in the Division I district tournament and opens by playing host Friday, Feb. 21, to 25th-seeded Westerville North. The winner plays Wednesday, Feb. 26, at eighth-seeded Westerville Central, with that winner advancing to a district semifinal March 5 at Orange.
North lost to Zanesville 73-59 on Feb. 15 to drop to 10-12. Isaiah Keene, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, scored 20 points and 6-7 senior forward R.J. Hutcherson scored 10.
Westerville Central beat Dublin Jerome 79-75 on Feb. 14 to improve to 16-5 before playing New Albany on Feb. 18, as 6-5 senior guard Eric James scored 21 points and 6-4 sophomore forward Will Maynus scored 15.
"Westerville North has some guys who can make plays, including Keene who can shoot and a big, long kid in the middle in (Hutcherson)," Souder said.
"I'm just happy we get to play at home to open the tournament."