After winning three consecutive games, all by three points or fewer, the Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team was upset by upstart Worthington Kilbourne 68-56 on Jan. 26.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 6-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, but they remained in second place behind Bradley (7-0) entering the week.
"I was disappointed in our effort defensively," said coach Chris Maul, whose team was 10-6 overall before playing Canal Winchester on Jan. 30. "We allowed too many easy scores. They shot 55 percent from the floor, mainly due to our poor defense. We also were in foul trouble all night because of poor man-to-man defense. We scored 58 points and that should be enough to win the game."
Kilbourne, which has won four of its last five games to improve to 6-12 overall and 4-5 in the league, led 16-7 after the first quarter and 31-19 at halftime.
"I think we lost our composure and started placing the blame on the referees or each other instead of owning our poor defensive effort," Maul said. "We cut the deficit to six points with six minutes left and didn't get the stops we needed."
Maul said the team was getting back to work in order to preserve its strong season after finishing 4-19 last season.
"The difference for us this year, I think, has been our defense," Maul said. "We've been down in a handful of games and have gotten defensive stops, which kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win some close ones. We've preached the emphasis on making winning plays and that can be defense, offense, rebounding and getting a loose ball."
The Panthers entered the week having won five games by three points or fewer, including victories over Delaware (36-35 on Jan. 19), Davidson (48-45 on Jan. 20) and Dublin Scioto (44-41 on Jan. 23).
Against Scioto, senior Ben Gbur scored 12 points, junior Jaeln Benjamin scored eight and senior Chandler Barlow added seven. Benjamin, senior Josh Govine and freshman Andrew Patrick all scored 10 points against Kilbourne, while senior Brice Stultz scored nine and Barlow added eight.
Through 16 games, Govine was averaging 10.6 points, followed by Barlow (9.1), Benjamin (8.6), Gbur (8.1) and Stultz (7.9). Barlow was averaging a team-best 4.1 rebounds and Benjamin was averaging 2.4 assists.
"Our senior group is so unselfish," Maul said. "They move the ball well and are a great group to lead our younger guys. They are 100 percent bought in to what we are doing and they're also good students and good people."
McDonald wins two OCC swimming titles
Senior Lexie McDonald of the girls swimming and diving team won two individual titles in the OCC-Cardinal meet held Jan. 26 and 27 at Thomas Worthington.
McDonald won the 100-yard breaststroke for the second season in a row, finishing in 1 minute, 7.44 seconds. She also won the 200 individual medley (2:12.58) and joined Isabel Quimba, Madyson Leone and Taylor Leone on the second-place 200 freestyle relay (1:43.38).
Taylor Leone tied for second in the 50 free (25.1) and placed fourth in the 100 free (55.39), and in the 500 free, Natalie Wood finished third (5:44.5) and Mackensie Stellrecht was fourth (5:53.52).
Also finishing fourth was Halli Reinhard in diving (302.35 points).
The Panthers finished fourth (172.5) behind Dublin Jerome (412), Delaware (244) and Thomas (204) and ahead of Scioto (154), Kilbourne (137) and Bradley (79).
For the boys team, Hayden Apel was first in diving (429.55), Braden Bower placed third in the 500 free (5:09.67) and fifth in the 200 free (1:54.75), Riley Brokaw finished fourth in the 200 free (1:54.51) and fifth in the 500 free (5:14.2) and Kendall Jones was fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.39) and seventh in the 200 IM (2:13.27).
The Panthers finished sixth (115) in the league, behind Jerome (412), Delaware (222), Thomas (150), Scioto (145) and Kilbourne (137) and ahead of Bradley (60).
Ball wrestling way back into shape
Jared Ball has been rolling since his return to the wrestling team Jan. 18 in an OCC-Cardinal dual against Scioto.
The senior, who placed third in the Division I state tournament at 182 pounds last season after finishing third at 160 in 2016, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus after injuring his left knee Dec. 8 during the Walsh Ironman at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
Ball, who is now competing at 195, won a title in the Frank Ferguson Classic on Jan. 27 at Wellsburg (West Virginia) Brooke after winning his weight class during the Comet Classic on Jan. 20 at Central Crossing.
"Jared is 13-1 and is working his way back into health and into wrestling shape," coach Brendan Moody said. "I would say that he is competing at about 70 percent but is improving every week. He still has a little rust and is working on his conditioning, but his talent is allowing him to still defeat stiff competition.
"Since his return, he has defeated three state-ranked wrestlers, either by first-period pin or tech-fall. I think that speaks to the level of his talent and the intensity of which he competes."
Senior Jacob Cover finished third at heavyweight in Frank Ferguson Classic and is 31-5 on the season for Darby, whose next meet is a league dual Feb. 8 at home against Scioto.
Rodney Beneker (182), Caiden Rayburn (152) and Ryan Blackerby (120) all finished seventh in the Frank Ferguson Classic. Beneker is 20-7 on the season, Rayburn is 6-5 and Blackerby is 13-13.
"All three of them lost close matches along the way," Moody said. "If we can make some more small adjustments with those three, then they are capable of making nice runs in February and March.
"Overall, our team still has plenty of work to do in preparation for the postseason. As a program, we have recently taken a step in the right direction of competing harder and being more aggressive, but we are still finding ways to lose close matches. Some of that is positioning errors and some of it is confidence. I believe we have enough depth and motivation to make a nice run this postseason, but we do not have a minute to spare when it comes to training."
Darby was seeded fourth in Region 6-A of the Division I team dual tournament and lost to fifth-seeded Davidson 42-21 in the first round Jan. 24 at home.
The individual postseason begins Feb. 24 with sectional competition.
Girls basketball team hits rough patch
The girls basketball team had lost three consecutive games and was 10-9 overall before playing Canal Winchester on Jan. 30.
Darby, which is 4-6 in the OCC-Cardinal, will play at Jerome on Friday, Feb. 2, before closing the regular season Feb. 9 at home against Thomas.
During their losing streak, the Panthers were plagued by one bad quarter in each game.
In a 55-41 loss to visiting Bradley on Jan. 27, Darby was outscored 18-7 in the third quarter. In a 42-38 loss to visiting Kilbourne the day before, the Panthers were outscored 15-6 in the fourth quarter after leading 33-27 through three periods.
In a 62-42 loss at Scioto on Jan. 23, the Panthers were outscored 23-0 in the first quarter.
Sydney Wyngarden had 19 points against Scioto and she and Annie Rauch both scored nine against Bradley.
Against Kilbourne, Bri Pizzurro had 11 points and Alexa Dixon scored eight.
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and gymnastics teams:
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome. The Panthers beat the Celtics 57-55 on Jan. 5.
*Feb. 2 -- At Jerome. The Panthers lost to the Celtics 40-38 on Jan. 5.
*Feb. 7 -- Northland at Game of Western Bowl
Feb. 1 -- At *Worthington Kilbourne with *Bradley and Davidson