One of its most impressive defensive displays all season came at an opportune time for the Dublin Coffman High School boys basketball team.
Facing 25th-seeded Jerome on March 2 in a second-round Division I district tournament game, the sixth-seeded Shamrocks gave up just 25 points through three quarters on their way to a 58-40 victory.
Coffman improved to 18-6 and faced fifth-seeded Newark in a district semifinal March 7 at Pickerington North.
"Our defensive intensity and our rebounding (were our biggest strengths)," said coach Jamey Collins, whose team also beat Jerome in the second round of last year's district tournament, 59-54. "(The Celtics) did a good job defensively jamming us up, but I thought our defense and defensive rebounding in stretches was outstanding."
The Coffman-Newark winner plays second-seeded Upper Arlington or 23rd-seeded Northland in a district final at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Ohio Dominican.
The Shamrocks could get a third shot at UA after losing to the Golden Bears 44-41 on Feb. 3 at home and 44-42 on Feb. 16 on the road.
The district champion plays Gahanna, Pickerington Central, Canal Winchester or Westerville North in a regional semifinal March 15 at Ohio Dominican.
Derek Van Vlerah had 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots against Jerome. Nick Carlson had 16 points and Dominiq Penn scored 11.
"I thought we rebounded well," Van Vlerah said. "We've had some struggles with letting other teams get offensive rebounds, and I think we controlled them pretty well. It's always fun playing against Jerome. This year having it at home was definitely special."
Wrestling duo set for state tourney
The wrestling team will have two representatives at the Division I state tournament that runs Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Senior Ben Yost (145 pounds) takes a 34-6 record into his state opener against Medina Highland's Brady Linder (40-13) and junior Lennox Wolak (182) is 35-5 as he prepares to face Cincinnati Elder's Charles Sanders (38-8) in the first round.
Last season at state, Yost went 0-2 at 138 and Wolak was 1-2 at 170 as two of the Shamrocks' five competitors.
Coffman scored 80.5 points in the district tournament held March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby to place sixth behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Yost lost to Olentangy's Alexander Gore 6-2 and Wolak lost to Olentangy Liberty's Trevor Lawson 7-0 in district finals.
Freshman Jimmy Baumann (106) and senior Kyle Murray (113) both are state alternates after placing fifth at district.
Baumann lost to Lancaster's Logan Agin, the eventual district champion, 19-3 in a semifinal and then fell to Pickerington Central's Bo Branson 6-4 before pinning Central Crossing's Noah Ross in 4 minutes, 26 seconds in the fifth-place match.
Murray was a state qualifier last season, but lost in the second round at district to Lancaster's Jacob Reed 3-2. After winning his next two matches, he was pinned by Upper Arlington's Mitch Herren in 1:03 before beating Olentangy Orange's Cole Jackson 3-0 in the fifth-place match.
Also competing at district were sophomore R.J. Carpenter (195, 2-2), junior Antonio Gonzalez (138, 1-2), junior Eric Feng (heavyweight, 0-2) and sophomore Nick Copley (160, 0-2).
Girls basketball team falls in district final
The second-seeded girls basketball team lost to fifth-seeded Westerville South 68-58 in a Division I district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican to finish 24-2 overall.
The Shamrocks, who beat the Wildcats 82-80 in overtime on Jan. 3, led 6-5 after one quarter but trailed 26-15 at halftime.
"Early we struggled to find rhythm and that affected us more than it should have," coach Bryan Patton said. "We struggled to get some of the 50-50s and finish possessions, which the first time we played them was an issue also. Their players played better than our players. I thought their girls played well, and from an Xs and Os standpoint, we were forced to try to speed the game up a little bit when we got down. That maybe impacted our legs.
"They've got five Division I (college) players, girls that can dribble, and they made good shots early. Defensively, they've got some length. They're an athletic team that plays in spurts and they played well."
Coffman opened the postseason with wins over 46th-seeded Groveport (90-11 on Feb. 17) and 47th-seeded Centennial (110-37 on Feb. 23) and then beat 20th-seeded Lancaster 60-39 in a district semifinal Feb. 28 behind 24 points from junior guard Jacy Sheldon.
The Shamrocks are losing five seniors, led by guard Dana Axner and post player Lilly Edwards.
Axner averaged 11 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals and was named second-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district.
Edwards, a Baldwin Wallace commit, averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds and made first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Sheldon, who was named district and league Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, averaged 26.3 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. An Ohio State commit, she already has more than 1,600 career points.
Junior forward Kaitlyn Kopyar emerged as another offensive threat, averaging 12.5 points, while junior forward Riley Wagoner averaged five points.
Sophomores Juliana Burris (guard), Ally Machulski (guard/forward) and Kendra Siefker (guard/forward) and freshman Catherine Zugaro were other contributors who are eligible to return.
Coffman won the OCC-Central championship, going 10-0 to finish ahead of UA (8-2), Hilliard Davidson (6-4), Marysville (4-6), Central Crossing (2-8) and Westland (0-10).
"We lose five seniors, but we've got a roster of young kids and three juniors coming back that played a lot," Patton said.
Hurt closes prep career at state
Bethany Hurt capped a strong prep gymnastics career by competing at the individual state meet March 3 at Hilliard Bradley.
The senior recorded a 33.65 in the all-around to finish 34th. Her best finish came on vault, in which she scored a 9.125 to tie for 19th.
"I went for a higher vault than I normally do so it wasn't awful, but they took my first one, which was my normal vault," Hurt said. "I feel like I had a really successful career."
A four-time state competitor, Hurt advanced to state after earning a second consecutive district championship in the all-around.
In the district meet Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne, Hurt scored 37.0 to finish first in the all-around. She also was first on floor exercise (9.45), tied for first on balance beam (9.35), tied for third on uneven bars (9.05) and tied for second on vault (9.15).
"It wasn't her best day (at state), but it's OK," coach Kristen Willms said. "She's had an amazing high school career. Everybody can have an off day. She was district champ two years in a row, OCC champ three years in a row and the list goes on and on. She had goals she was trying to accomplish and it's hard when you know everything is coming to an end. I feel like maybe the pressure got to her a little bit, but I couldn't be more proud of her."
With Hurt as their only experienced gymnast heading into the season, the Shamrocks finished seventh (8 points, 1-6 record) in overall OCC-Central standings, behind UA (32, 7-0), Davidson (28, 6-1), Marysville (24, 5-2), Grove City (18, 3-4), Westland (16, 3-4) and Central Crossing (14, 3-4) and ahead of Franklin Heights (4, 0-7).
In the league meet Feb. 10, Hurt finished first in the all-around (36.225), vault (9.05), bars (9.1) and floor (9.3).
Coffman finished 21st (97.7) of 24 teams at district, behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.425).
Sophomore Claire Connelly also competed in the all-around at district.
Also in the program were junior Lauren Delfunt and sophomore Allexia Dempsey.
"This year we're going to try to get out there early, get into the middle schools and try to talk to those gymnasts and see if we can really start rebuilding this program," Willms said.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: 24-2 overall, 10-0 (first) in OCC-Central
*Seniors lost: Dana Axner, Elizabeth Diamond, Alison John, Kelly Johnson and Lilly Edwards
*Key returnees: Juliana Burris, Kaitlyn Kopyar, Ally Machulski, Jacy Sheldon, Kendra Siefker, Riley Wagoner and Catherine Zugaro
*Finishes: Seventh in OCC-Central, 23rd at district
*Senior lost: Bethany Hurt
*Key returnees: Claire Connelly, Lauren Delfunt and Allexia Dempsey