Noah Duperre didn't put much stock into the fact that he exceeded last year's point total from the Division I boys state diving meet with one attempt to spare, but the New Albany High School sophomore acknowledged that was indicative of his comfort level.
Duperre finished as state runner-up to Shaker Heights junior Lyle Yost for the second consecutive year Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, scoring 579.05 points to Yost's 602.4.
Last year, Duperre scored 506.25 points and Yost won with 531.1.
"It's not the same judges every time so it can vary, but I think I did way better this year than last year even though I got the same place," Duperre said. "I just felt much better. I was a little less nervous this time. I was more calm. I felt more ready."
Duperre incorporated more difficult dives after winning the district championship Feb. 13, saying he thrived off an inward 2 1/2 in the fifth round that earned him 53.5 points.
"I chipped away at Lyle and tried to get closer and closer, but in the end he was just better," Duperre said.
Diving coach John Coffman applauded Duperre's consistency, which he said comes with experience.
"Last year, I think it was more of a feeling out process and he was more conservative on everything. This year, he just let it go in the hopes of winning," Coffman said. "Consistency at the state meet comes from the board first. They tend to judge on height of dives, so we try to make sure board work is consistent and he is jumping really well."
New Albany's other diving qualifier, freshman Jordan Rzepka, had to withdraw because of a fractured right thumb suffered last week in practice.
Duperre's finish earned most of New Albany's 29 points. The Eagles finished 24th behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored.
New Albany's only boys swimming qualifier, Pearson Spychalski, finished 10th in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 42.13 seconds) and 12th in the 100 free (47.0).
"Race-wise, (the final) was a lot smoother than (the preliminaries Feb. 23)," Spychalski said. "I feel like I actually executed my race in the 200 free even though I added time, but other guys had great races, too. But in the 100 free, after all these races, it's great to finish 12th.
"It's mainly strategy going into the race. I went out too fast (in the preliminary) and in my last 50 (in the 200 free), I didn't have the strength to pull it into the end. (In the final), I controlled myself going out. I saw people going ahead of me and I had the determination to get 10th."
Led by a fifth-place finish from its 200 free relay (1:35.34), the girls team scored 84 points and tied Olentangy Liberty for 10th behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
Lauren Sadler joined Mia Lachey, McKayla Moffat and Kelly Shur on the relay for the state meet, replacing Lexi Elkovitch.
"We knew we had to be fast," said Sadler, who also was on the 11th-place 200 medley relay (1:47.42) with Isabel Jenny, Shur and Emili Toppari. "My coaches believed in me and put me on this relay, and I couldn't be more grateful. This is emotional. This is an amazing experience."
The 400 free relay was seventh (3:30.26) with Elkovitch, Lachey, Moffat and Stacy Saribalas.
Lachey placed 10th in both the 100 free (52.26) and 200 free (1:52.87). Moffat was 12th in the 100 free (52.61) and Jenny was 16th in the 100 backstroke (57.97).
Elkovitch finished 24th in both the 50 free (24.78) and 100 free (54.08).
Boys basketball team prepares for Warriors
Unlike in recent seasons, the boys basketball team has two weeks between its last regular-season game and the start of the Division I district tournament, and that's fine with coach Sam Davis.
The Eagles, who are 7-15 and seeded 39th of 48 teams, visit fourth-seeded Westerville North for a second-round game Friday, March 2. New Albany has not played since a 67-38 win over Franklin Heights on Feb. 16.
"We usually try to play during that week before the tournament, but I felt with the young team we have, we needed more time to prep and do some things to help get us more ready for the tournament," Davis said. "I like this group of kids, and it's a good thing to get to work with them a little more. I know we're 7-15, but we've done a lot of good things. There have only been a few games where we didn't play well."
New Albany lost to North 76-57 on Dec. 19.
The winner plays 29th-seeded Mifflin or 30th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Of those teams, the Eagles defeated Mifflin 63-35 on Jan. 3 and split two OCC-Capital Division games against Canal Winchester, winning 61-50 on Jan. 5 and losing 71-65 in overtime Feb. 9.
Boys bowlers, Hammond advance to district
The boys bowling team and Adriane Hammond of the girls team will compete in their respective Division I district tournaments Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
In the boys sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, New Albany finished sixth (3,424) of 38 teams behind champion Westerville Central (3,836). Grant Kresina bowled a 536 series and placed 24th to lead the Eagles, followed by Kenneth Kresina (tied for 29th, 526), Brendan Cohen (tied for 32nd, 520), Thomas Carey (tied for 64th, 469) and Damon Jolly (tied for 126th, 378).
In the girls sectional the next day at the same facility, Hammond was third with a 609 series to qualify for district as an individual. The team narrowly missed out on advancing, finishing 17th (2,806) of 37 teams behind champion Gahanna (3,642).
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
Pickerington North bowled 2,875 as a team and finished 16th.
Also competing for the girls were Mackenzie Halloy (90th, 383), Kaylee Leite (101st, 365) and Chloe Delma (115th, 351).
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state. The boys state tournament is March 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, followed the next day by the girls tournament at the same facility.
New Albany has never qualified for state on a team or individual basis.
Seven wrestlers head to district
Three runner-up finishes, one third-place performance and three fourth-place efforts powered the wrestling team in a 10-team Division I sectional tournament Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial.
Peter Ackley and Jack Wilson each went 2-1 to place second at 170 and 195 pounds, respectively, and David Rodriguez went 1-1 and finished second at heavyweight to lead New Albany to 135.5 points and third place behind champion Olentangy (259.5).
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby.
Other district qualifiers are Daniel Rodriguez (182, third, 3-1), Billy Lee (220, fourth, 2-2), Colin Swincicki (113, fourth, 2-2) and Michael Zusman (138, fourth, 2-2).
New Albany had five district qualifiers a year ago.
Also competing but failing to advance were Nico Candido (152, sixth, 1-3), Brady Conley (120, sixth, 0-3), Jayden Fudge (126, sixth, 1-3), Ryan Conley (160, 1-2), Storm Smitherman (132, 0-2), Brandon Thompson (126, 1-2) and Hunter Thurman (145, 1-2).
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Girls basketball team falls to Liberty
Girls basketball coach Jeff Blunt's postgame chat with his team after a 51-41 home loss to Liberty in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 centered on the contributions of his two seniors, but the Eagles entered the offseason knowing a short stretch in the fourth quarter helped end their season.
Fifteenth-seeded New Albany led 36-31 entering the period, but Sydney Englehart's three-point play with 5:43 to go tied the game. Kelly Levering made two free throws after a technical foul to give the 23rd-seeded Patriots a 40-38 lead and the Eagles never led again.
New Albany, which had a first-round bye, finished 13-10 overall.
"We had command of the game at that point," Blunt said. "There was nothing that they did that we weren't ready for. Some of our girls didn't play their best games. We had to hit more shots, and they started packing in on our key players. They put the pressure on where our strengths are."
Senior forward Micaylah Nash scored 13 points and junior forward Josie Smith added 11.
Nash averaged 9.9 points and 11.6 rebounds and was named first-team all-league. Senior guard Raegen Elwer (8.4 points, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals) and Smith (13.0 points, 7.1 rebounds) were named second-team all-league, and freshman guard Haley Dennis (2.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals) was honorable mention all-league.
Dennis was one of several underclassmen to start or otherwise see considerable time for New Albany. Others included freshmen Kelis Brown (forward), Brooklyn Gammon (guard) and Olivia Gittins (guard).
New Albany went 6-4 in the OCC-Capital to tie Big Walnut and Canal Winchester for second behind Newark (10-0) and ahead of Groveport (2-8) and Franklin Heights (0-10).
"We moved on after the game," Blunt said. "Micaylah and Raegen gave so much to this program. The only thing they care about is the team. I just thanked them for making my job fun."
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
*Record: 13-10 overall, 6-4 (tied for second) in OCC-Capital
*Seniors lost: Raegen Elwer and Micaylah Nash
*Key returnees: Kelis Brown, Haley Dennis, Olivia Gittins and Josie Smith