The Westerville North High School boys basketball team had its season come to an emotional end March 10, but coach Shan Trusley said that didn't take away from what the program accomplished this season.
The fourth-seeded Warriors finished 21-5 overall, losing to ninth-seeded Pickerington Central 59-57 in a Division I district final at Ohio Dominican. They were trying to win their first district title since 1998.
However, North won its first league championship since 2013, going 8-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to finish ahead of Westerville Central (6-4), Westerville South (5-5), Olentangy Liberty (4-6), Olentangy Orange (4-6) and Olentangy (3-7).
"It's tough, but we have had a great season," said Trusley, who completed his fifth season. "I told the kids in the locker room (after the district loss) that the senior class has won a lot of games. Not too many senior classes can talk about that resume: 21 wins, league champions and district runners-up. That's pretty impressive."
Senior point guard Julius Brown scored 17 points and senior guard Julian Malone had 15 in the district final. Junior guard/forward Philip Alston added 11.
North led 29-25 at halftime, but the Tigers switched to a zone defense that slowed the Warriors' attack.
"They went zone after halftime and we didn't adjust," Trusley said. "We didn't execute the way we had all year."
North trailed 45-41 entering the fourth quarter. Junior guard Jeremiah Keene hit a 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 59-57.
"We talked about bringing our hearts and bringing our guts today and there's no one who watched the game that didn't think we did that," Trusley said. "Their length gave us some problems. They're even long on the perimeter. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we usually do."
On March 7, Keene scored 31 points with three 3s and Brown had 27 points with four 3s as North defeated 30th-seeded Canal Winchester 89-78 in a district semifinal at Olentangy. Malone had 15 points and sophomore post player Charles Perkins added 10.
The Warriors had two home games to start the postseason. They defeated 35th-seeded Groveport 67-56 on Feb. 24 and 39th-seeded New Albany 65-50 on March 2.
Brown was first-team all-district and league Player of the Year, and Malone was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. The other seniors were guard Tyrell Collier, guard/forward J.J. Harvey and guard/forward Noah Voorhies (honorable mention all-league).
"Our seniors had a lot of competitiveness and they had a will to win," Alston said. "I have never seen a group of people who tried so hard and wanted to win so much, and they put in the work every day. They wanted this really bad."
Alston was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league, and Keene was third-team all-district and first-team all-league.
"We're looking forward to what we have coming back," Trusley said. "Our seniors are awesome role models and they have done a great job of mentoring the younger kids. I think the younger kids will reflect that next year. They learned how to work and be good teammates and we're looking forward to it.
"We'll let this settle in a little bit, and then we'll get back to work in April. It's always a grind to go April to November or April to March. It's a 12-month thing now, and the kids are willing to put in the time to get better."
Potterf places seventh at state
Junior Mitch Potterf lost his opening match but rebounded to place seventh at 170 pounds in the Division I state wrestling tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State.
"I would have wanted to go higher, but I'm happy with seventh," said Potterf, who finished 29-9. "I'll definitely go harder next year, but I feel I wrestled well under the conditions I was put in (after losing in the first round)."
Potterf lost to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit's Domenic DiPietro 7-5 before defeating Toledo St. John's A.J. Savona with a 15-0 technical fall in his first consolation match. He defeated Cincinnati Moeller's Sam Wyche -- grandson of the former Cincinnati Bengals coach of the same name -- by a 10-2 major decision in the state-placing match.
Potterf lost to Mason's Eric Vermillion 4-3 to drop to the seventh-place match, in which he defeated Fremont Ross' Garrett Barth in a 13-5 major decision.
"Mitch is always very competitive and he's tough kid," said coach David Grant, who completed his 14th season. "The brackets shake out and you might lose a match and have to pull yourself together in less than 45 minutes and be ready to go. To be able to turn off that disappointment and get back and ready to go is quite a skill."
The Warriors had two other competitors at state in seniors Davis Gaylord (heavyweight) and Lucas Seibert (120), and both went 0-2. North finished 46th (7.5 points) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (170.5) as 70 teams scored.
Gaylord lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier's Jack Heyob in a 12-1 major decision and was pinned by Ashtabula Lakeside's Luciano Cunningham in 2 minutes, 44 seconds to finish 26-12.
Seibert finished 22-5 after losing to Solon's Jake Canitano 11-0 and Vandalia Butler's Logan Hoskins 3-1.
Potterf and Seibert both placed third at district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, and Gaylord was fourth. The Warriors finished ninth (71.5) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Also competing were seniors Body Bien (195, 22-12) and Andrew Scherer (126, 20-12), juniors Caden Crist (152, 22-11) and Jacob Goldsmith (182, 24-10), sophomore Blake Wright (132, 29-6) and freshmen Jake Gooding (113, 16-10) and Gabe Ohle (106, 23-11).
North finished second (4-1) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Liberty (5-0) and ahead of Olentangy (3-2), Orange (2-3), South (1-4) and Central (0-5).
"We lost 12 seniors last year, so we knew coming in that we had some holes to fill," Grant said. "Overall I thought it was a great season. We would have liked to finish higher, but you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Record: 21-5 overall, 8-2 (first) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Julius Brown, Tyrell Collier, J.J. Harvey, Julian Malone and Noah Voorhies
*Key returnees: Philip Alston, Jeremiah Keene and Charles Perkins
*Finishes: Second in OCC-Buckeye, second at sectional, ninth at district, 46th at state
*Seniors lost: Bodi Bien, Davis Gaylord, Cameron Goldsmith, Zach Pryfogle, Andrew Scherer, Nathan Scott, Lucas Seibert, Greg Shehee, Jack Stallings, Brice Wilson and Jacob Woods
*Key returnees: Caden Crist, Jacob Goldsmith, Jake Gooding, Gabe Ohle, Mitch Potterf and Blake Wright