The Hartley High School boys basketball team ran into a tough matchup in top-seeded Beechcroft in a Division II district final March 10 at Africentric.
In addition to having the district Player of the Year in senior Jelani Simmons, the Cougars have five players who score in double figures and average 81.5 points.
Beechcroft's fifth-leading scorer, Elijah Bishop, made six of eight free throws during the final two minutes to help his team ice a 70-56 victory and improve to 25-1.
"For us to beat a good team, we usually have to have four (players) in double figures," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "We don't really have the overall speed to go out and give them full-court (pressure). They're a good team. We needed all seven in our rotation to play well for us to win. With their overall speed, it's tough for us. They play together well and it's hard to find a lot of weaknesses with them."
Hartley, which lost in the second round of last year's district tournament, was seeded fourth and opened the postseason with wins over 12th-seeded Centennial 67-46 on March 3 at home and 10th-seeded Columbus East 71-44 in a district semifinal March 6 at Watkins Memorial before falling to Beechcroft.
Hartley finished 19-6 overall and went 6-2 in the CCL to tie Ready and Watterson for first, ahead of DeSales (1-7) and St. Charles (1-7).
The Hawks are losing five seniors, led by guards Major Lowe and Mac Wieging and forward Garrett Tipton.
Tipton, who has committed to Bellarmine, averaged 16 points this season and finished with 1,078 career points. Wieging averaged six points and Lowe averaged 3.5.
"The senior class did a good job, with Garrett leading this team," Kortokrax said. "He had over 1,000 points, we had 19 wins, got to a district final and won a share of the league (title). We started out a little shaky and at the end we kind of rolled. It's never an easy journey."
Junior forward Morgan Safford had 29 points against Beechcroft and junior post player Payton Collins had 20 points and 19 rebounds against East.
That duo figures to lead the way next season.
Freshman guard P.J. Daniels averaged four points, while junior forward Chase Albanese and junior guard Ryan Heuser also were key contributors.
Others eligible to return include juniors Sijuan Johnson (guard) and Braylon Mitchell (forward), sophomore Kylan Kortokrax (forward) and freshmen Braden Blanchard (guard/forward) and Will Miller (forward).
"(We) came out hard and tried to compete," Safford said. "It gives us a learning experience so we can try to win this thing next year."
Petrella, Rathburn make state podium
Immediately falling into the backdraw didn't derail the hopes junior Griffin Rathburn and sophomore Michael Petrella (106) had of reaching the podium at the Division II state wrestling tournament.
On March 8 at Ohio State, Rathburn lost his opening match at 195 pounds to Norton's C.J. Williams 3-0 but bounced back to defeat Wapakoneta's Zac Miller 3-1 in the first round of consolation, while Petrella followed a 10-6 loss to Goshen's Chase Huff in his opener at 106 by beating Sandusky's Rico Cunningham 10-7.
The next day, both did enough to secure placing, with Petrella going on to finish seventh and Rathburn finishing eighth as Hartley scored seven points to tie for 47th behind champion St. Paris Graham (231) as 81 teams scored.
"The biggest thing I'm proud of is that in our matches to place, we had to beat people that beat us the week before at district," coach Kevin Petrella said. "That shows their work ethic.
"If you'd have told me at the beginning of the season that we'd have two state placers, I would have thought it was possible, but none of these guys had been here. They did an excellent job and (Petrella and Rathburn) deserved it."
After beating Cunningham, Petrella defeated East Liverpool's Howard Williams 5-4 to secure placement and avenge a 2-0 loss in the third-place match at the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Uhrichsville Claymont.
He then lost to Millersburg West Holmes' Cael Woods 9-0 before avenging the first-round loss to Huff with a 3-0 victory in the seventh-place match that gave him a final record of 50-7.
"It was a fun, good experience to beat two guys I'd lost to," Michael Petrella said. "(After the opening loss) I just wanted to make it to the next day and try to go on from there."
Rathburn beat Thornville Sheridan's Owen Loughman 7-5 to secure state placement and avenge a 5-0 loss to Loughman in the district championship match.
He then lost to Canfield's Nick Crawford 6-4 and was edged by Williams 2-1 in the seventh-place match to finish the season 45-12.
"I was really happy about (making the state podium)," Rathburn said. "I didn't even make it out of the sectional last year and my record was 20-19. I did a lot of stuff in the offseason and got 62 matches in."
The Hawks followed a runner-up finish (132) in the sectional Feb. 23 and 24 at Licking Valley behind Caledonia River Valley (169) as 20 teams scored by placing 10th (59) at district behind champion Steubenville (159) as 46 teams scored.
Junior Nate Jackson (220) placed fifth at district and finished 38-12, while sophomore Joe Petrella (152) placed sixth at district and finished 35-15 and junior Keegan Moran (145) went 2-2 at district to finish 30-11.
At sectional, freshman Michael Dawkins (120) went 2-3 and placed sixth, freshman Brody Halenar (138) went 2-2 and sophomore Kenyon Davis (182) and freshman Noah Houchins (113) both went 1-2.
Davis and Houchins finished 18-19 and 14-7, respectively.
Other sectional competitors were freshmen De'Andre Hodge (170), Cody Ihm (126), Jared Miller (132) and Tony Thivener (160).
At the CCL dual tournament Feb. 15, the host Hawks beat DeSales 57-20 and St. Charles 44-27 to capture its sixth league title in seven seasons, including its fifth in a row.
There were no seniors in Hartley's program.
"Everyone's coming back," Michael Petrella said.
"(We're excited about the returnees), especially our freshmen. Michael Dawkins is one of our freshmen who's going to do well next season."
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 19-6 overall, 6-2 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Major Lowe, Joseph Matuska, Garrett Tipton, Daniel Trainer and Mac Wieging
*Key returnees: Chase Albanese, Payton Collins, P.J. Daniels and Morgan Safford
*Finishes: First in CCL, second at sectional, 10th at district, tied for 47th at state
*Seniors lost: None
*Key returnees: Michael Dawkins, Nate Jackson, Keegan Moran, Joe Petrella, Michael Petrella and Griffin Rathburn