Shan Trusley wanted to make sure his Westerville North High School boys basketball team understood the significance of what it had accomplished.
The fifth-year coach took a moment before practice Feb. 3 to remind the Warriors. A 70-56 victory over Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 2 etched their team into program history by capturing at least a share of the OCC-Buckeye Division title. Their 68-40 win over Westerville South on Feb. 9 clinched the outright title.
It's the Warriors' first league championship since they won the OCC-Cardinal in 2013 and their third in 20 years. It's also the first for Trusley, who replaced longtime coach Kevin Thuman.
"We walked the kids over on Saturday morning (Feb. 3) and showed them where their patch would go -- 2018 -- up there on the banner (on the wall of the gymnasium)," said Trusley, whose team is 18-3 overall after defeating Whitehall 102-74 on Feb. 12 and 8-1 in the league. "We'll also have a picture there in our 'champions room' (a meeting room adjacent to the locker room) and it's something nobody can ever take away from them.
"In 25 years, they can come back here and point up to the banner and tell their kids or their family, 'Hey that was me. I was a part of that.' It's exciting that they are going to have those kind of memories."
North holds a three-game edge on South and Westerville Central (both 5-4). Liberty is 4-5, followed by Olentangy Orange (3-6) and Olentangy (2-7).
Winning the OCC-Buckeye was no easy task. Entering play Feb. 12, only Liberty (10-11) had a losing overall record, and the teams were a combined 49-18 in non-league games. Last-place Olentangy handed Upper Arlington its only loss of the season, 68-60 on Jan. 9.
"It's a big thing (winning the league) because we know that our conference is good and is probably one of the best in the state," said junior guard Jeremiah Keene, who scored 22 points with four 3-pointers in the league-clinching win over Liberty. "We knew we had a chance to be really good coming into the season, but that doesn't guarantee anything. It was big for us."
The Warriors didn't let down after clinching a share of the title, defeating Dublin Coffman 63-53 on Feb. 6 as senior point guard Julius Brown led the way with a career-high 30 points and five 3s.
"I think we are playing our best basketball right now and we have to stay focused," Brown said. "We started the season strong and continued learning to play together on the floor. It means a lot to bring something that big to the school."
Despite clinching the title, senior guard Julian Malone said the Warriors aren't about to pump the breaks.
"They say if you reach for the stars, you can fall into the clouds. We don't want to do that," Malone said. "We clinched (against Liberty), but we're looking to continue winning. Just because we clinched, we cannot stop there. We have to keep winning and keep it going."
The Warriors are seeded fourth for the Division I district tournament behind Pickerington North, UA and Hilliard Bradley. They open Feb. 24 at home against 35th-seeded Groveport in the first round.
"We like our balance in our ability to guard and our ability to score," Trusley said. "People always talk about defense winning championships, but I'm a big believer in balance. I've seen a lot of good teams that just couldn't score.
"Our ability to get stops and also get buckets has made us very successful. We have kids who can make shots and kids who can stop you from making shots, and that's worked out well for us."
Swimmers heading to district meet
Siblings Jason and Janessa Mathews helped lead the boys and girls swimming teams to the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 17, at Ohio University.
Jason Mathews won two events in a sectional Feb. 10 at UA and is the top seed in both at district. The senior won the 100-yard breaststroke in 55.46 seconds and the 200 individual medley in 1:53.84.
His sophomore sister also won the 100 breast (1:02.83) and is the district's top seed. She was third at sectional in the 200 IM (2:10.78) and is seeded fourth at district.
Junior Andrew Bernsdorf is the top seed at district in the 500 freestyle after winning sectional in 4:40.53. Freshman Hayden Yeager finished first in the 100 butterfly (54.74) and is the ninth seed, and he was fourth in the 200 IM (2:03.8) and is seeded 12th.
The girls diving district meet was held Feb. 12 at Dublin Recreation Center, with the top four finishers advancing to state Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Emily Richards finished 17th (239.75) and Emma Weisgerber was 23rd (143.15).
The winner of each sectional event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advanced to district.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advance to state Feb. 23 and 24. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on district times statewide.
Wrestlers to battle for league title
The wrestling team will battle Liberty for the OCC-Buckeye championship for the second consecutive season.
Both teams are 4-0 in the league entering their contest Thursday, Feb. 15, at Liberty. Last season, the Patriots won 56-9 to capture the title.
North kept pace by defeating Olentangy 49-24 on Feb. 10. Bodi Bien (195 pounds), Davis Gaylord (heavyweight), Gabe Ohle (106), Zach Pryfogle (160), Nathan Scott (220), Lucas Seibert (120) and Blake Wright (132) all won by pin.
Mosely named volleyball coach
Amanda Mosely has been named girls volleyball coach, pending school board approval.
Mosely, who teaches business at North, coached Licking Heights from 2008-15, winning MSL-Cardinal titles in 2012 and 2013, and was an assistant at Central in 2016. She did not coach last fall.
"We're really excited to get someone of Amanda's experience, and we're happy with how well she fits in at North," athletics director Wes Elifritz said. "We have had a good tradition in the past at North and we're proud of what Dylan Johnson did for us in the past couple of seasons. We're in a tough (OCC-Buckeye) division, and we want to hit the reset button and get that positive mindset back."
Mosely replaces Dylan Johnson, who had a 12-33 record in two seasons.
Last season, North finished 7-16 overall and 1-9 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Downs to play at Air Force
Senior Alek Downs committed Feb. 7 to play football at Air Force.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 16 -- At Olentangy Orange. The Warriors defeated the Pioneers 68-61 on Jan. 16.
*Feb. 15 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*League contestAt a glance
Below are the district qualifiers with sectional time and district seeds for the North boys and girls swimming teams:
BOYS -- Andrew Bernsdorf: 500 free (4:40.53, first); Jason Mathews: 100 breast (55.46, first), 200 IM (1:53.84, first); Hayden Yeager: 100 fly (54.74, ninth), 200 IM (2:03.8, 12th); 200 free relay (1:43.03, 30th); 200 medley relay (1:40.09, sixth); 400 free relay (3:22.93, 10th)
GIRLS -- Maggie Bolen: 100 breast (1:13.01, 30th); Christy Harper:
100 back (1:01.35, 20th), 200 IM (2:21.7, 29th); Janessa Mathews: 100 breast (1:02.83, first), 200 IM (2:10.78, fourth); 200 free relay (1:46.26, 14th); 200 medley relay (1:56.15, 15th); 400 free relay (3:57.81, 20th)