The momentum that helped the Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball team win its third Division I district championship began building after consecutive losses late in the regular season.
The Raiders followed losses to Westerville North (57-46 on Jan. 27) and Pickerington Central (63-58 on Feb. 2) by winning their last four games of the regular season, with one of those victories coming over eventual OCC-Ohio Division champion Pickerington North (53-52 on Feb. 9) and another against eventual Division II district runner-up Hartley (59-52 on Feb. 12).
After beating 11th-seeded Westerville Central 69-48 in a district semifinal March 7 at Worthington Christian Middle School, 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg defeated 16th-seeded Mount Vernon 51-36 in a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
The Yellow Jackets, who upset top-seeded Pickerington North 61-58 on March 7 in a district semifinal, were held to two points in the first quarter and five in the third of the district final.
"Late in the season we did get hot and we started realizing this is really possible," Jamiel Goliday said. "We took our energy, took our fire that we had and just rolled with it. We were just locked in together. We're very dangerous when we're all locked in as a group."
The victory advanced the Raiders to a regional semifinal March 14 against Hilliard Bradley at Ohio Dominican.
The winner plays Dublin Coffman or Pickerington Central in a regional final Saturday, March 17, at Ohio Dominican, with the winner to play Copley, Massillon Jackson, Shaker Heights or Solon in a state semifinal March 23 at Ohio State.
Ben Fort scored 17 points and Goliday had 14 against Mount Vernon. The Raiders led 42-22 after three quarters.
Reynoldsburg's previous district titles came in 2006 and 2012.
"A lot of people were surprised by their game against (Pickerington) North, but we're not surprised by that because they're a good team," coach Scott Davis said of Mount Vernon. "Our guys were locked in and prepared and were not going to overlook this one.
"We've got some length and some nice athletes and were able to extend our pressure. We're really pleased for our kids. We told them this is for all the stuff we do in the offseason and doing things the right way. Our kids deserve this."
Against Westerville Central, the Raiders scored 43 second-half points as Fort finished with 22 and Goliday and Tre Williams each scored 17.
"It feels great," Williams said. "Our team is just coming together at the right time. We've been working hard for this all year."
Most of wrestling team set to return
Of the 13 competitors the wrestling team entered in a Division I sectional Feb. 24 at Upper Arlington, all but three are eligible to return.
Among that group are two who finished with more 30 victories and two others who won more than 20.
It's the type of base that has coach Jon Forgy feeling optimistic entering the offseason.
"With what we have coming back, and having nine sophomores and one freshman who were in our regular lineup, it'll set us up pretty well for next year," Forgy said. "As we improve, hopefully the community will continue to get behind us."
The Raiders finished fifth (1-4) in the OCC-Ohio behind Lancaster (5-0), Gahanna (3-2), Grove City (3-2) and Pickerington Central (3-2) and ahead of Pickerington North (0-5).
At sectional, they scored 93.5 points to place seventh of 10 teams behind champion Coffman (212) as seniors Cameron Simpson (160 pounds) and Thomas Baire (heavyweight), junior Kyle Copas (145) and sophomore Noah Ratliff (145) advanced.
Then at district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, the Raiders scored 13 points to tie for 28th behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored. Simpson and Baire both won two matches, and Copas and Ratliff each won one match.
Simpson finished 40-14, Copas went 38-12 and Ratliff was 36-13. Baire missed the season's first month but finished 23-8.
Junior Jonathan Axel Balmeo (195), sophomores Isaiah Boateng (113), Luke Goeschl (120), David Smiley (132), Gage Chapman (138), Trayton Waite (182) and Colin Harvey (220) and freshmen Tyler DiFilippo (126) and Gaven Miller (170) were the other representatives at sectional. Goeschl was sixth at sectional and finished 26-17, Chapman was sixth and finished 28-17 and DiFilippo and Waite each won one sectional match.
Freshman Dalton Hall (heavyweight) is another eligible to return.
Ratliff and Simpson were first-team all-league, Copas and Baire were second-team all-league, Goeschl and Waite were third-team all-league and Chapman was honorable mention.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: Fifth in OCC-Ohio, seventh at sectional, tied for 28th
*Seniors lost: Thomas Baire, Asher Frederick and Cameron Simpson
*Key returnees: Isaiah Boateng, Gage Chapman, Kyle Copas, Tyler DiFilippo, Luke Goeschl, Noah Ratliff and Trayton Waite