The Thomas Worthington High School girls basketball team entered the week with its sights set on winning the OCC-Cardinal Division championship.
The Cardinals were 9-1 in the league before playing host to Dublin Scioto on Feb. 6 and would have secured the outright league title with a win over the Irish, who entered the contest with a 7-2 league mark.
Thomas closes the regular season Friday, Feb. 9, with a league game at Hilliard Darby. The Cardinals beat the Panthers 63-47 on Jan. 9 behind 22 points from Jazzlynn Gaiters and 20 from Breanne Beatty.
"We want to win the league championship and be the first team (in program history) to win a district championship," said Gaiters, who set program records in three consecutive games over a recent seven-day stretch.
Gaiters, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, was averaging 19 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.4 assists through 17 games for the Cardinals, who won their first league title in 21 years last season when they finished 11-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to share the title with Hilliard Bradley. She also was shooting 50.9 percent from the field (135-for-265).
"We're playing pretty well right now," said coach Laurie Barr, whose team defeated Mifflin 61-29 on Feb. 1 to improve to 11-6 overall with its fifth win in six games. "Jazzlynn has been on fire lately and she and our seniors want to leave with back-to-back league championships."
Gaiters became the fifth player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points when she scored a program-record 35 points against Mifflin. She recorded a triple-double against the Punchers, as she also had a program-record 11 steals and 12 rebounds.
Gaiters entered the week with 1,031 career points. Jada Sleet, a 2017 graduate, is the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,118.
Gaiters previously had set the program's single-game scoring record with 32 points in a 56-39 league win over Dublin Jerome on Jan. 26 and had a program-record 23 rebounds and 17 points in a 54-48 loss to Chillicothe on Jan. 29.
She became the program's all-time leading rebounder earlier this season and entered the game against Scioto with 758.
"I like the rebounding records better because I feel like I have to work harder for those because of my size," Gaiters said. "To me, rebounding is mostly mental. I tell myself I'm big enough and quick enough to get it. I just like to go after the ball. The same is true with loose balls.
"I'm not one to sit back and wait, especially if I can get a defensive rebound, because transition is a lot of our offense. If I get (a defensive rebound), I can just take off until someone stops me."
In addition to the single-game and career rebounding records, Gaiters owns the single-season mark with 217, which she set last year.
"Jazzlynn is on the brink of setting two more records and it's because of her aggressiveness and tenaciousness that she is achieving these records," Barr said. "It's who she is. She is one of our energy-givers. She gets us going by the things she does defensively and offensively, whether it's her steals, rebounds, putbacks or and-ones. She's a great teammate and role model."
Beatty, a junior guard, added 14 points against Mifflin and was averaging 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists through 17 games.
"Breanne helps me a lot," Gaiters said. "I can't do much of this stuff without her. She's my other half on the court."
It will take a full team effort for the Cardinals to win their first Division I district title. They lost by one point in district semifinals in each of the past two years, falling 40-39 to Bradley last season and 53-52 to New Albany in 2016.
Thomas is seeded 18th of 50 teams in the district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Cardinals will play sixth-seeded Northland or 42nd-seeded Walnut Ridge in the second round Feb. 23 at the home of the higher seed.
"I'm going to miss this so much, but I know it's coming," Gaiters said. "So, I'm putting in the extra effort so that once we get into the tournament, we can put off the end for as long as we can."
Boys basketball team loses two close games
On the heels of an upset victory, the boys basketball team dropped a pair of close games last week.
Thomas, which was 3-15 overall and 0-9 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing at Scioto on Feb. 6, will play Darby in a league contest Friday, Feb. 10. The contest represents its regular-season home finale.
The Cardinals appeared to have found some life after upsetting Westerville South 49-46 on Jan. 27, but lost to Hilliard Davidson 42-39 in overtime Jan. 30 and fell to Centennial 45-43 on Feb. 3.
Entering this week, Thomas had lost four games by four points or fewer.
The Cardinals led Centennial 43-38 with just over a minute remaining and had a 43-42 lead with 17 seconds left but missed two free throws. The Stars then made a three-point play with 6.1 seconds left.
Thomas got the ball across midcourt and called timeout, but was called for traveling before it could take a final shot.
Ben Wight had 18 points and Kyler Block and Charlie Mamlin each scored seven.
Against Davidson, the Cardinals were outscored 3-0 in overtime after Mamlin scored in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. Mamlin and Block both had 10 points and Wight scored eight.
Swim teams set for home sectional
The boys and girls swimming teams will play host to a Division I sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 10.
The winner of each swimming event automatically advances to the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
There is no diving at sectional.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby. The Cardinals lost to the Panthers 52-45 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 10 -- At Olentangy
*Feb. 9 -- At Darby. The Cardinals beat the Panthers 63-47 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 9-11 -- Blue Jackets Cup. The Cardinals are in the consolation bracket.
*Feb. 8 -- At Dublin Scioto
Feb. 10 -- Home vs. Granville and Utica
Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy, New Albany and Whetstone