A pair of losses stayed in the back of the minds of the members of the Northland High School girls basketball team during its first two games in the Division I district tournament.
Still stinging from a 44-43 loss to Africentric in the City League final Feb. 10, the sixth-seeded Vikings easily won their postseason opener over 42nd-seeded Walnut Ridge, 80-34 on Feb. 17.
Then as his team prepared to face 18th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the second round Feb. 23, Northland coach Jaybee Bethea reminded his players that they had lost to Watterson in a second-round game last season.
The Vikings responded with a 54-40 victory over the Cardinals to advance to play seventh-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal Feb. 28. Northland beat the Golden Bears 46-35 on Dec. 9.
"(The loss to Africentric) really motivated them because they tasted victory," Bethea said. "I've told them this is like the NCAA tournament. The second round is always a tricky game. Last year, they lost to Watterson in the second round in their second game, so they were really focused."
The semifinal winner plays top-seeded Newark or 13th-seeded Watterson in a district final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion will play Dublin Coffman, Westerville South, Canal Winchester or Lancaster in a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 9 at Otterbein.
Against Thomas, Jeana Weatherspoon had 20 points and Charlea Henley scored 16 as the Vikings built a 28-21 halftime lead and held the Cardinals to six fourth-quarter points.
Newark, which was ranked first in the state poll earlier this season, was 23-1 before playing Watterson in a district semifinal. Bethea is hoping his team's similar size will help it match up well if the teams meet for a district title.
"We just pulled away and more and more we kept pressure on (Thomas) and just wore them down, but they had a good game plan against us," Bethea said. "All of the girls played their roles."
Also in the Division I district tournament, 10th-seeded Eastmoor Academy beat 12th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 31-21 in a second-round game Feb. 24 and faced 23rd-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal Feb. 28.
The winner plays third-seeded Pickerington Central or 25th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a district final at 1 p.m. March 3 at Ohio Dominican. The regional semifinal is at 6:15 p.m. March 6 at Otterbein.
In Division II district semifinals Feb. 27, third-seeded Independence played 11th-seeded Lakewood and ninth-seeded Linden-McKinley faced second-seeded Caledonia River Valley. The winners will face each other for a district title at 6 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Westerville Central.
The regional semifinal is at 8 p.m. March 6 at Zanesville.
In Division II second-round games Feb. 23, Independence defeated 18th-seeded Marion-Franklin 60-21, Linden beat 13th-seeded Jonathan Alder 71-67 in overtime, 10th-seeded Beechcroft lost to sixth-seeded Buckeye Valley 57-20, eighth-seeded South lost to fourth-seeded Granville 43-27 and 19th-seeded International fell to River Valley 77-19.
In Division III, top-seeded Africentric beat 24th-seeded Madison Plains 68-16 in a second-round game Feb. 24 and faced 17th-seeded Johnstown in a district semifinal Feb. 27.
The winner plays ninth-seeded Ready or eighth-seeded Centerburg in a district final at 8:30 p.m. March 2 in a district final at Ohio Dominican. The regional semifinal is at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Logan.
Boys basketball teams start postseason play
The Mifflin boys basketball team earned one of the Division I district tournament's first upsets when it beat 15th-seeded Grove City 69-55 in a first-round road game Feb. 23.
The 29th-seeded Punchers will play host to 30th-seeded Canal Winchester in a second-round game Friday, March 2, with the winner facing fourth-seeded Westerville North, 35th-seeded Groveport or 39th-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Daveonn Logan had 17 points and Ayub Mohamed and James Watkins both scored 15 for the Punchers, who outscored Grove City 21-8 in the fourth quarter.
Also in Division I, 22nd-seeded Walnut Ridge defeated 31st-seeded Central Crossing 67-64 in the first round Feb. 24 and will play at ninth-seeded Pickerington Central in the second round March 2.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Gahanna or 41st-seeded Briggs in a district semifinal March 7 at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Northland, seeded 23rd, begins its postseason March 2 with a second-round game at 14th-seeded Olentangy Liberty, with the winner facing second-seeded Upper Arlington or 47th-seeded Whetstone in a district semifinal March 7 at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
In Division II first-round games Feb. 26, top-seeded Beechcroft played host to 21st-seeded Utica, 12th-seeded Centennial played host to 16th-seeded Licking Valley, 11th-seeded Linden-McKinley played host to 13th-seeded DeSales, third-seeded South played host to 17th-seeded Buckeye Valley and second-seeded Eastmoor played host to 18th-seeded London.
In Division III, second-seeded Africentric played host to 23rd-seeded Horizon Science in a first-round game Feb. 26.
Wrestlers battle for district berths
City League wrestling programs opened their respective postseasons last weekend at sectional tournaments, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to district.
The Division I district tournament is Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby, where the top four finishers in each weight advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
In Division I sectionals Feb. 24, West's Matthew Shaw (220 pounds) and Dawson Shaw (heavyweight) were runners-up at Newark and Mifflin's Moutaga Sy (145) was second and Eric Shaw (170) placed third at Watkins Memorial.
In a Division I sectional Feb. 24 at Whitehall, Yaniel Castillo (120) was runner-up, Angel Sambois (126), Deric Luther (138) and Nykesse Averett (170) placed third and Sihlas Padmore (152) finished fourth for Walnut Ridge and Northland's Jamal Mohamud (113) was runner-up.
In the Division II sectional Feb. 23 and 24 at Licking Valley, Marion-Franklin's Jalin Goodman won the 113-pound title, South's Daquine Petty (220) was runner-up and Marion-Franklin's James Baily (heavyweight) and East's Ammaar Salaam (106) and Prince Galloway (220) all finished fourth.
The Division II district tournament is March 2 and 3 at Uhrichsville Claymont.
Cougars' Lyons ends season at district
Beechcroft senior bowler Heather Lyons closed her prep career by placing 23rd (457 three-game series) in the Division II district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, where the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Last season, Lyons became the program's first state qualifier.
"Heather Lyons was the cornerstone of this Beechcroft girls bowling team for the past four years," coach Matt Bell said. "Heather epitomized what it means to represent Cougar pride. ... She will be missed."