It isn't lost on Wellington School boys basketball coach Artie Taylor how many high-profile games his current group of key players have been involved in over the last three seasons.
The Jaguars followed a Division IV state semifinal appearance in 2016 by finishing as state runners-up last season, and they did enough during the regular season this winter to earn the fourth seed in their move up to the Division III district tournament.
Wellington's latest hopes of having its season end with a championship at the district level or beyond ended March 6 with a 59-57 loss to ninth-seeded Johnstown in a district semifinal at Westerville Central.
The Jaguars finished 19-5 overall after going 24-4 in 2016 and 22-8 last season.
"I'm proud of the way that they fought," Taylor said. "It's a testament to the senior class. It's the most storied class to come through this school. They've played in a lot of big games."
The Jaguars led 21-12 after the first quarter but were outscored 34-14 during the middle quarters.
After the Johnnies took a 59-57 lead with seven seconds left, Wellington missed what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.
"We started off the game doing well and were making shots from the perimeter," Taylor said. "Johnstown crowds the lane, so we were making some deep shots early. Then we came out in the second quarter and the same shots weren't falling. We tried to put some pressure on them and got back in the game, but we couldn't get any rhythm offensively and they ended up stretching it out to a nice-sized margin.
"We had the final shot of the game, and if it goes in, we're talking about how we came back."
Wellington is losing five seniors, led by guards Bob Faller and Solomon Pierre-Louis and forward John Faller. The Faller brothers have been key players in the program since their freshman seasons while Pierre-Louis joined the program last winter.
Another senior, forward Noah Berry, was a key player for the Jaguars since his freshman season but didn't play in this year's postseason.
Wellington opened the district tournament with a 61-46 win over 21st-seeded Heath on Feb. 26 and beat 19th-seeded Fredericktown 74-37 in a second-round game March 3 before falling to Johnstown.
Against the Johnnies, junior guard Dallas Patrick had 23 points, Pierre-Louis scored eight and John Faller and freshman guard Marcus Stewart both scored six.
"I felt like we played hard to the end," Patrick said. "I look at these guys as my brothers and I'm going to miss playing with (the seniors). (They) showed me what being a leader actually is."
The 6-foot-1 Patrick figures to lead the way for the Jaguars next season. He averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists and was named second-team all-MSL-Cardinal Division and third-team all-district.
Wellington finished second in the league at 12-2, behind Harvest Prep (14-0) and ahead of Fisher Catholic (9-5), Zanesville Rosecrans (6-8), Berne Union and Grove City Christian (both 5-9), Fairfield Christian (4-10) and Millersport (1-13).
Although the Jaguars lost twice to Harvest Prep and once apiece to area powers Upper Arlington and Hartley, they beat two teams that reached district finals in Westerville North (49-47 on Dec. 30), which is a Division I program, and Ready (61-52 on Jan. 23), which competes in Division III.
An Air Force commit, Pierre-Louis averaged 16 points, 7.5 rebounds and three assists and was first-team all-league and all-district, and Berry averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Bob Faller averaged 15 points, shot 45 percent from 3-point range and was second-team all-league, and John Faller averaged 10 points and five rebounds and was third-team all-league.
Stewart, who is 6-1 and averaged 4.5 points, figures to play a key role again next season.
Taylor also is high on sophomore guards Connor Herrick, who sat out the first 11 games after transferring from Upper Arlington, and Noah Jones-Beyene.
"Connor had a back ailment and was trying to learn a new system, but he played well the past few games," Taylor said. "Noah Jones-Beyene is going to be really special for us. Those guys will be juniors next year. And Dallas is going to be the man."