With 10 days between games, Watterson High School boys basketball coach Vince Lombardo wasn't sure how well his team would respond during its Division II district tournament opener March 3.
He didn't have anything to worry about.
The ninth-seeded Eagles led by 38 points after three quarters and went on to beat 14th-seeded Sparta Highland 58-25 in a second-round game.
"Our kids came out quick and played strong defense," Lombardo said. "We shot it well and kind of kept it rolling. We hadn't played since Feb. 20 so we were a little bit concerned, but Highland had a long layoff as well. I felt good during practice, and the kids executed very well."
Watterson was 13-10 before playing third-seeded Columbus South in a district semifinal March 6. The winner plays second-seeded Eastmoor Academy or 13th-seeded DeSales in a district final at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Africentric.
The district champion plays Dayton Northridge, Trotwood-Madison, Kettering Alter or Dayton Chaminade Julienne in a regional semifinal March 15 at Kettering Fairmont.
Jimmy Patton had 16 points, Stephen Garrett scored 14 and Zach Sawyer added 12 against Highland.
"We were able to control the tempo of the game well by moving in transition and getting the shots we wanted," said senior guard Liam Aman, who scored his six points on two 3-pointers. "We were patient on offense and looked to push when we had the opportunity.
"I feel confident in my team right now. Coming out of the regular season with a piece of the CCL championship, I think every player has confidence in themselves and each other."
Girls team expects to return strong nucleus
During his 17 seasons as girls basketball coach, Tom Woodford can't remember many of his teams showing the kind of growth over the course of the season that his current squad did.
The Eagles opened the season with just two key returnees but still managed to contend for the league title and reach a Division I district semifinal.
"Skill-wise and toughness were probably our biggest areas of growth," Woodford said. "I didn't know how we'd be on the ball and with help (defense), but man-to-man was actually our best defense. We had a lot of kids do things they've never done before and do roles that were different than in the past. Having to deal with some of the bigger issues in life, I'm really close to this team and I'm extremely proud of them."
The Eagles are losing three seniors, including two of their top four scorers in guards Lainey Billing (10.5 points per game) and Gretchen Glanzman (6.0 ppg), from a team that finished 16-9 overall.
Billing has committed to play for Lake Erie College.
Watterson went 5-2 in the CCL to place second behind Hartley (6-1) and ahead of DeSales (3-4), Ready (2-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-4).
Sophomore guard Paige Woodford averaged 10.5 points and was named honorable mention all-district. Junior forward Grace Jenkins averaged 7.7 points and junior guard Julianna DiSabato averaged 4.2.
Others eligible to return include junior guards Lauren Lucki and Elizabeth Rabold, sophomore guard Emily Dixon and freshmen guards Danielle Grim and Kilyn McGuff.
Watterson was seeded 13th for the district tournament and beat 40th-seeded Delaware 66-22 on Feb. 17 and 29th-seeded Olentangy 52-36 on Feb. 22 in home games before falling to top-seeded Newark 33-16 in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Westerville Central.
"They know what they want to work on skill-wise coming into next year," coach Woodford said. "I'm going to miss those three seniors and what they contributed to make this team be a team."
Bowling season ends at district
The boys and girls bowling teams ended their seasons at the Division I district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes.
The girls team followed a 10th-place finish (2,961) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes by finishing 14th (2,667) of 16 teams at district, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Saturday, March 10, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
After the boys team placed 30th (2,919) in the 38-team sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, senior Jesse Pulsinelli competed at district individually, tying for 14th (563 three-game series) of 105 competitors. He missed advancing to state Friday, March 9, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl by 33 pins.
Pulsinelli was the sectional champion (592).
"He kind of (struggled at district) in his last game after having a 405 going into (his third game)," coach Jerry Wagner said. "Being here is exciting and they all promised me they'll bowl in leagues in the summer."
Also competing in three games at sectional for the boys were senior Danny Callaghan (95th, 437) and junior Seth Payton (131st, 361), while senior Lane McVey, junior Conor Smith and sophomore Jacob Garland also competed.
Sophomores Evan Donahue and Liam Lenzotti were others on the boys team, which finished 11-6 overall and tied St. Charles for third in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division at 9-3 behind champion Whitehall (12-0). In the CCL, the Eagles tied Hartley for third at 4-4, behind co-champions St. Charles and DeSales (6-2) and ahead of Ready (0-8).
Junior Mary Pulsinelli led the girls team at district, tying for 40th (434) of 102 competitors. Freshman Rachel Reuter tied for 56th (410), while juniors Ella Riedinger and Anna Rose, sophomore Isabelle Payton and freshmen Kristin Fisher, Christine Rose and Madison Shaw also competed.
At sectional, Payton placed 20th (495) to lead the Eagles.
Watterson finished 13-3 overall and placed second in the COHSBC-D at 9-1, behind Whitehall (10-0). In the CCL, the Eagles went 5-1 to tie Ready for the title, ahead of Hartley (2-4) and DeSales (0-6).
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: 16-9 overall, 5-2 (second) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Lainey Billing, Gretchen Glanzman and Elizabeth Van Paepeghen
*Key returnees: Julianna DiSabato, Danielle Grim, Grace Jenkins, Lauren Lucki, Elizabeth Rabold and Paige Woodford
*Record: Boys -- 11-6 overall, 9-3 (tied for third) in COHSBC-D, 4-4 (tied for third) in CCL; Girls -- 13-3 overall, 9-1 (second) in COHSBC-D, 5-1 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Danny Callaghan, Lane McVey and Jesse Pulsinelli; Girls -- Grace Lombardo
*Key returnees: Boys -- Evan Donahue, Jacob Garland, Liam Lenzotti, Seth Payton and Conor Smith; Girls -- Isabelle Payton, Mary Pulsinelli, Rachel Reuter, Ella Riedinger, Anna Rose, Christine Rose and Madison Shaw