With the Division II district tournament quickly approaching, the Hartley High School boys basketball team is feeling battle-tested.

The Hawks lost both of their matchups with Division III-power Ready, but their hopes of earning at least a share of the CCL championship remain alive.

Along the way, Hartley beat another strong Division III program, Wellington, 72-64 on Dec. 11, and also played 10 consecutive road games.

"When you play that many games on the road, you're constantly grinding and grinding," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "You get your crowd and you get your comfort zone."

The Hawks were 14-4 overall before facing Reynoldsburg on Feb. 12 and beat St. Charles 70-51 on Feb. 9 to finish 6-2 in the CCL.

The Raiders are a Division I program that was 13-7 before facing the Hawks.

Ready is 6-1 and Watterson is 5-2 in the CCL heading into their matchup Friday, Feb. 16, meaning a win by the Eagles would forge a three-way tie for the title.

More importantly, Hartley put itself in position to play host to one postseason game. The Hawks were seeded fourth of 22 teams in the district tournament, behind Beechcroft, Eastmoor Academy and Columbus South, and have a first-round bye. They will play host to 12th-seeded Centennial or 16th-seeded Licking Valley in a second-round game March 3.

Hartley's increasing ability to produce ball movement, in addition to the growth it experienced during the extended time on the road, should benefit its hopes of making a long postseason run after it lost in the second round of last year's tournament.

"We've been working on being a four-quarter team," Kortokrax said. "We're a good team when we reverse the ball a couple times. We're an average team when we catch it, (make) one pass and somebody goes.

"Tournament seeding (has been) on the line because you want to make sure you're playing the first two rounds at home. ... You've just got to switch your goals. It's better to do better in the tournament than it is in the league."

Another factor to watch is how the Hawks utilize Morgan Safford, a 6-foot-4 junior who can play multiple positions, including both spots in the backcourt.

Safford started at point guard for the first time in a 57-44 win over DeSales on Feb. 2, a game that the Hawks led by 24 points heading into the final period.

Safford was averaging 12 points through 18 games to complement an offense led by senior guard Garrett Tipton (15.0 points per game) and junior post player Payton Collins (13.5).

"We just have to work on being locked in on defense, playing help-side and protecting our home court," Safford said.

"We've been attacking the basket, getting open shots and getting back to what we used to be before (losing 65-59 in overtime to Ready on Jan. 26).

"I love my teammates and they always have my back. They switched me to point guard (against DeSales), so it was a big adjustment. I've just got to find my teammates. I like it. It helps my game and my development."

Swimming teams prepare for district

The boys and girls swimming are competing in the Division II district meet Friday, Feb. 16, at Ohio University. The district diving meet was Feb. 13 at Dublin Community Recreation Center.

The top two in boys and girls swimming events, as well as the top three boys divers and top two girls divers, automatically advance to the state meet Wednesday, Feb. 21, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

On Feb. 10 in a sectional at Columbus Academy, the girls scored 227.66 to edge Columbus School for Girls (225.33) for the championship and the boys were seventh (80) behind champion and host Academy (326) as 18 teams scored.

Winning sectional titles for the girls were its 200-yard medley relay of Deanne Archambeau, Olivia Bergmann, Mia Phillips and Kayla Williams (1 minute, 51.77 seconds) and Bergmann in the 100 backstroke (1:01.09), while earning runner-up finishes were Phillips in the 200 individual medley (2:16.69) and 100 breaststroke (1:08.97) and the 200 free relay of Archambeau, Cara Luallen, Maggie Phillips and Williams (1:42.28).

Girls basketball team earns outright title

Despite trailing by six points heading into the fourth quarter, the girls basketball team rallied for a 50-44 victory over DeSales on Feb. 8 to capture the outright CCL championship at 6-1.

It's the Hawks' first CCL championship since they shared the league title in the 2012-13 season.

Senior guard Kennedy Taylor had 16 points, including making seven free throws, to lead Hartley, which outscored the Stallions 18-6 in the final period.

The Hawks' other seniors are Lindsay Dunlap, Amaiah Jones and Jordan Kaylor.

"We've had great senior leadership this year," coach Donald Dennis said. "We have a couple freshman who have been playing varsity, so we really count on the seniors to get us through."

Hartley closed the regular season at 15-4 overall. Its games against Springfield Kenton Ridge on Feb. 10 and Dresden Tri-Valley on Feb. 14 were canceled. According to Dennis, both Kenton Ridge and Tri-Valley were required to make up games in their respective leagues on those dates.

Bowlers prepping for postseason

The bowling team are preparing to begin the postseason.

The boys will compete in the Division II sectional Friday, Feb. 16, at HP Lanes, with the top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advancing to the district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.

The girls squad will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes.

The boys team, which defeated Ready 1,940-1,718 on Jan. 30, finished the regular season 9-7 overall and 4-4 in the CCL, tying Watterson for third behind co-champions DeSales and St. Charles (6-2) and ahead of Ready (0-8).

Victor Jackson leads the Hawks with a 170.6 game average, followed by Adam van Ooyen (167.6), Anthony Metnes (164.1) and Jordan Davis (159.1).

The girls team finished the regular season 6-7 overall and 2-4 in the CCL, placing third behind co-champions Ready and Watterson (5-1) and ahead of DeSales (0-6).

Libby Erwin leads the Hawks with a 139.6 average, followed by Tara Bush (123.4) and Carla Pena (122.0).

Football players select colleges

Four members of the football team announce their college decisions Feb. 7.

Ethan Amaya will play for Ohio Dominican, Alexander Blackmon will compete for Walsh, Nick Cone will play for Ashland and James Reese III will play for Wheeling Jesuit.

They were joined at the school's signing ceremony Feb. 8 by teammate Patrick Gilliland, who signed in December to play for Ohio University.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Feb. 16 -- Home vs. Linden-McKinley

Feb. 17 -- Home vs. Whitehall

Feb. 20 -- At Johnstown

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Feb. 17 -- Home vs. 38th-seeded Olentangy Orange in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 36th-seeded Dublin Jerome in second round Feb. 23 at home of the higher seed. Hartley is the eighth seed.

WRESTLING

Feb. 15 -- CCL tournament at home

At a glance

Below are the district qualifiers with sectional time and district seeds for the Hartley boys and girls swimming & diving teams:

BOYS -- Chad Kegelmayer: 200 free (2:01.59, 12th), 100 breast (1:08.45, 12th); Owen Kennedy: 100 free (53.5,

11th), 100 back (59.84, sixth); Sam LeMay: 100 fly (1:02.99, 23rd); 200 free relay (1:45.42, 21st); 200 medley relay (1:52.01, ninth)

GIRLS -- Stephany Aeling: 200 free (2:04.67, seventh), 500 free (5:37.28, sixth); Deanne Archambeau: 50 free (26.32, 17th), 100 fly (59.75, fourth); Olivia Bergmann: 100 fly (59.67, third), 100 back (1:01.09, third); Olivia Bobak: 100 back (1:10.86, 29th); Gabby Jackson: 200 IM (2:33.99, 25th), 100 back (1:10.02, 24th); Cara Luallen: 50 free (25.5, fourth), 100 free (57.71, 12th); Kayla Malone: 50 free (26.37, 19th), 100 free (1:00.27, 28th), 100 breast (1:08.97, second); Liza McClung: 100 breast (1:18.25, 26th); Maggie Phillips: 500 free (5:37.83, seventh); Mia Phillips: 200 IM (2:16.69, second); Emma Simone: 200 IM (2:28.98, 15th), 100 fly (1:07.84, 22nd); Ellie Tanner: 200 IM (2:32.14, 20th), 100 breast (1:13.81, 13th); Kayla Williams: 50 free (25.66, sixth), 100 free (55.71, fifth); 200 free relay (1:42.28, second); 200 medley relay (1:51.77, first), 400 free relay (3:45.74, third)