Antwon Hampton figured he would reach the 1,000 career-point milestone, but the senior for the Groveport Madison High School boys basketball team was surprised when it was announced during the Cruisers' 50-48 loss to visiting New Albany on Feb. 2 that he had done it.
"I knew a while ago that I could get there, but I put it out of my mind and just kept playing ball," said Hampton, a 6-foot-2 wing player who played the past two seasons at Central Crossing after playing at Groveport as a freshman. "I didn't know I was this close because I wasn't keeping track. It's not important for our team, so I wasn't focused on it, but it's a nice thing and something I wanted to do."
Hampton surpassed the milestone when he stole a pass and scored on a layup with 5 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
He entered the game with 994 career points and scored his first points on a two-handed dunk following a steal three minutes into the game. He injured his knee on the play, however, and spent the rest of the first half on the bench.
"That was rough because I wanted to be out there for my teammates," Hampton said. "We were in a pretty good flow out there (with an 8-1 lead) and we just seemed to get out of rhythm then."
The Cruisers led 16-12 after the first quarter and 26-25 at halftime before New Albany scored the first nine points of the second half. The Eagles led 39-31 through three quarters.
Hampton returned in the third quarter but did not score. He opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play and was sitting on 999 career points when he made the steal and layup.
"Antwon is a skilled wing that can score inside and outside and gets to the free throw line at a high rate," coach Ryan Grashel said. "We had to work with him on playing within our system to make him more versatile on both ends. He has been a high-level contributor and we hope he finishes the season on a strong note."
Hampton, who was averaging 15 points entering a game against Lancaster on Feb. 6, finished with 10 points against New Albany. Curtis Jacobs led the Cruisers with 13 points, Jhaiquez Ford scored 12 and Teron Pittman scored 11.
The loss to the Eagles was Groveport's third in a row by three points or fewer and its seventh of the season by that same margin. The Cruisers were 6-13 overall before facing Lancaster and are 3-5 in the OCC-Capital Division.
"It's been so tough on us. We just can't seem to make enough plays in the final minute or two to pull these games out," Grashel said. "We're right there and we've tried different things. It's a shame because we have talented seniors and talented players. If we make one extra play here or there, our record could be totally flipped and you're looking at a team with 12 or 13 wins right now."
The Cruisers lost to Canal Winchester 62-59 in a league game Jan. 26 and lost to Pickerington Central 64-63 on Jan. 30.
Hampton had 21 points and Tyreese Cherry scored 20 against the Indians.
Against the Tigers, Hampton had 22 points and Elijah Monroe scored on a drive with 16 seconds left before the Tigers' Jovahn Garcia made a game-winning jumper with 6.3 seconds left. Jacobs added 13 points and Cherry scored 10.
The contest against Central began Dec. 19 but was suspended when the Tigers' Adrian Nelson broke the rim on a second-quarter dunk.
Wrestling team making strides
The wresting team continues to show progress, according to coach Brian Brison.
"We're making fewer mistakes and becoming more aggressive as a whole," Brison said after eight Cruisers placed in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Feb. 3. "Almost everyone is putting their technique and mental approach together, so I think this is the start of us peaking."
Jake Nelson pinned Pickerington North's Elliot Mahaffey in 3:15 to win the title at 160 pounds and improve to 29-2 on the season for Groveport, which has an OCC-Capital dual Thursday, Feb. 8, at New Albany.
Tyler Hancock-Anderson finished third at heavyweight and Ethan Schleret was third at 195. Placing fourth were Muhamad Conteh (113), Clayton Saunders (120) and A.J. Joyce (220), while Jason Pinkston (106) and Trent Eaton (220) both placed sixth.
Saunders is 24-8 on the season, Joyce is 14-9, Conteh is 18-13 and Hancock-Anderson is 10-7.
The Cruisers finished seventh (99 points) of 20 teams in the event, behind champion Dresden Tri-Valley (150.5).
"Our younger wrestlers are beginning to understand the differences between practices and meets and are starting to carry their moves from practices into competitions," Brison said. "They are becoming more comfortable and more successful and that is making them more excited about the sport.
"They have had a taste of success in their first year in the sport. Now they are hungry and talking about how much better they can get in the offseason. They're already talking about it and making plans."
Girls basketball team closing regular season
The girls basketball team was 4-15 overall before playing Lancaster on Feb. 6 and is 2-7 in the OCC-Capital entering its regular-season finale Thursday, Feb. 8, at home against league champion Newark.
The Cruisers will shift their focus to the postseason after facing the Wildcats, who were 19-0 before playing Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 5 and were ranked first in last week's Division I state poll. They are seeded 46th of 50 teams and will play at second-seeded Dublin Coffman in the first round on Feb. 17.
Groveport lost at New Albany 69-21 on Feb. 2 in league play and fell to visiting Amanda-Clearcreek 53-33 on Feb. 3 for its fourth consecutive loss.
Bowlers preparing for postseason
The bowling teams were scheduled to conclude the regular season against Columbus Academy on Feb. 5, although a postponed match against Centennial was still trying to be rescheduled.
The Cruisers will compete in the OCC Coaches Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Tiki Lanes before preparing for the Division I sectional at HP Lanes. The boys sectional is Feb. 23 and the girls sectional is Feb. 24.
The girls team was 6-5 overall and 5-4 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-B Division before Feb. 5 and finished 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to place third behind Delaware (6-0) and Hilliard Darby (5-1).
Through 10 matches, Leah Deaner had a team-best 182.3 game average, followed by Shayana Carter (146.4), Katie Cordle (125) and Abby Quinn (119.9).
The boys team was 5-6 overall and 5-4 in the COHSBC-B before Feb. 5 and finished 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal, placing fourth behind Delaware (5-1) and Darby and Worthington Kilbourne (both 4-2).
Through 10 matches, Chaz Wilson had a team-best 197 average, followed by Lonnie Stuckey (189.6), Corey Claprood (165.1), Tyler Miracle (162.2) and Stephen Snyder (157.3).
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- At Newark. The Cruisers lost to the Wildcats 62-50 on Jan. 5.
*Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Newark. The Cruisers lost to the Wildcats 73-24 on Jan. 4.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 10 -- Division I sectional at Upper Arlington. Winner of each swimming event automatically advances to the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University. In addition, 27 at-large qualifiers will advance, based on times from the sectional sites in the Central District, East District and Southeast District. There is no diving at sectional.
*Feb. 8 - At New Albany