As the Westerville South High School girls basketball team prepared for the season, coach Silas Williams sensed it was on the verge of something special.
He was right.
The Wildcats captured their first Division I district championship with a 68-58 win over second-seeded Dublin Coffman on March 3 at Ohio Dominican.
"I told them at the beginning of the season (that) we had a chance to make history," Williams said. "I knew with this group we could do it. It was just about coming together and having our talents match each other's talents and playing together."
The fifth-seeded Wildcats outscored the Shamrocks 21-9 in the second quarter for a 26-15 halftime lead. South maintained the lead throughout the second half despite playing most of the third quarter without Peyton Guice and Gabby Hutcherson because of foul trouble.
Anyssa Jones scored 23 points and Sommer Pitzer added 11.
"This feels great," Jones said. "We have so much talent and we work so hard, we really do deserve this. They're a great team so for us to win against them, it's huge."
Coffman junior guard Jacy Sheldon, the district Player of the Year, scored a game-high 34 points to keep her team within striking distance in the second half.
South and Coffman met during the regular season, with the host Shamrocks winning 82-80 in overtime Jan. 3. The Wildcats played without Hutcherson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore post player who was sitting out the 10th of 11 required games because of OHSAA transfer rules. Hutcherson transferred from Westerville North.
The competitive game in the regular season, along with Hutcherson's strong play in the second half of the season, provided added confidence for South heading into the rematch.
"Once we got Gabby back we knew we had a better chance of winning," Jones said. "If we would have had her the first time we played them, we would have won that game. For her to come back and we pulled it out and won by 10, we're all happy about it."
South was 20-5 before playing Newark in a regional semifinal March 6 at Otterbein. Newark advanced with a 48-28 win over Upper Arlington in another district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican.
The South-Newark winner plays Pickerington Central or Gahanna in a regional final Friday, March 9, at Otterbein.
Central is the top-ranked team in the state and Newark is fourth.
South won at Gahanna 65-43 on Dec. 19 and lost to Central 59-40 on Jan. 9 at home.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 16 at Ohio State.
"This is probably one of the greatest teams I've ever coached," Williams said. "I put an expression on the board, 'anybody can fight, but can you win,' and this team answered the bell every game night in and night out. ... This a special group because they don't back down from challenges."
Boys basketball team reaches district semi
The boys basketball team was 14-8 before playing 12th-seeded Logan in a Division I district semifinal March 7.
The winner plays third-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 17th-seeded Chillicothe in a district final Saturday, March 10, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion plays Mount Vernon, Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg or Westerville Central in a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 14, at Ohio Dominican. The regional final is March 17 at Ohio Dominican.
South split two OCC-Buckeye Division games with Westerville Central, winning 59-45 on Jan. 13 and losing 49-45 on Feb. 16. South defeated Pickerington Central 54-52 on Jan. 9 and lost to Reynoldsburg 61-52 on Jan. 23.
After defeating 36th-seeded Marysville 92-63 in the first round Feb. 24, the eighth-seeded Wildcats defeated 28th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 79-67 in the second round March 2, both at home.
Trailing Kilbourne 40-39 midway through the third quarter, South went on a 15-0 run to take control.
Jordan McMillian scored a career-high 29 points and Ryan Greggs added 15.
Bowling teams cap seasons at district
The boys and girls bowling teams closed their seasons in the Division I district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes.
The boys finished 14th (3,168) of 16 teams behind state-qualifiers Westerville Central (3,907), Marion Harding (3,645) and Whitehall (3,580).
Junior Cameron Voigt was 35th (504 series) of 105 bowlers to lead South. Junior Colton Rice tied for 46th (481), followed by sophomores Craden Kelley (324, two games, tied for 76th) and Tristan Mathis (162, one game, 96th) and junior Callan Van Scyoc (147, one game, 100th).
At sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, South finished ninth (3,344) of 38 teams behind champion Central (3,836) as the top 16 teams advanced to district. Rice tied for ninth (566) of 220 bowlers.
The boys finished 10-4 overall, went 8-4 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division to tie Marysville and Olentangy Orange for third behind champion Central (12-0) and were 4-3 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish in a five-way tie for second behind Central (7-0).
Rice led South with a 194.7 average, followed by Voigt (187.3), senior Ryan Loggins (184.3) and juniors Callan Van Scyoc (180.2) and Tanner Van Scyoc (171.7).
The girls finished eighth (2,965) of 16 teams at district behind state-qualifiers Gahanna (3,596), Whitehall (3,438) and Central (3,360).
Junior Maggie Van Scyoc was eighth of 102 bowlers with a 512 series. Freshman Taylor Hughes was 46th (422), followed by senior Taylor Knox (418, 48th), junior Emily Grise (416, 50th) and senior Rachael Bielby (413, tied for 54th).
South was 14th (2,901) of 37 teams at sectional behind champion Gahanna (3,642) as Knox finished 19th (496) of 208 bowlers.
The girls finished 8-6 overall, went 7-5 in the COHSBC-A to finish fifth behind champion Gahanna (12-0) and were 4-3 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish third behind champion Olentangy (7-0).
Knox led South with a 173.6 average, followed by Maggie Van Scyoc (156.6), Grise (147.3) and Bielby (143.6).
Sophomore wrestler competes at district
Sophomore wrestler Aaron Morton competed in the Division I district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, going 1-2 at 152 pounds to finish the season 36-12.
Morton scored three points as South's only qualifier. The Wildcats finished 37th behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
"Sometimes you get fooled by a little bit of success and forget how hard it is to make it to the state tournament and how big of a deal it is," coach George Crooks said. "Aaron will learn a lot from this. He'll work hard to get better."
Morton earned his first district berth by finishing second in a sectional Feb. 24 at Newark. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.
Freshmen Fuanyi Fobellah (106, 14-18) and Nick Ifju (120, 24-18) were fifth, and junior Bobby Henderson (138, 17-24) was sixth.
South was 10th (42) in the 10-team sectional behind champion Lancaster (223).
Other key wrestlers eligible to return are juniors Seth Chrisman (126) and Jacob Shalvey (145).
South went 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish fifth behind Olentangy Liberty (5-0), North (4-1), Olentangy (3-2) and Orange (2-3) and ahead of Central (0-5).
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: Boys -- 10-4 overall, 8-4 (tied for third) in COHSBC-A, 4-3 (tied for second) in OCC-Buckeye; Girls -- 8-6 overall, 7-5 (fifth) in COHSBC-A, 4-3 (third) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Ryan Loggins; Girls -- Rachael Bielby and Taylor Knox
*Key returnees: Boys -- Colton Rice, Callan Van Scyoc, Tanner Van Scyoc and Cameron Voigt; Girls -- Emily Grise and Maggie Van Scyoc
*Finishes: Fifth in OCC-Buckeye, 10th at sectional, 37th at district
*Seniors lost: Coleman Bates, Wesley Easterlin, Jed Peren and Justin Sams
*Key returnees: Fuanyi Fobellah, Bobby Henderson, Nick Ifju, Aaron Morton and Jacob Shalvey