The Utica and Granville high school boys basketball teams were on a roll at the end of their respective regular seasons. Both teams sustained that momentum to advance to the second round of the Division II district tournament.

The Utica and Granville high school boys basketball teams were on a roll at the end of their respective regular seasons. Both teams sustained that momentum to advance to the second round of the Division II district tournament.

Having won eight out of their last 10 games entering their postseason opener against Licking Heights last Wednesday at Centerburg, the Redskins refused to quietly go into the offseason despite trailing most of the game and by three points late in the fourth quarter. They won 62-60 in overtime to hand second-year coach Eric Sheck his first tournament victory.

"It wasn't anything I did or we did as a staff," said Sheck, whose team had a 2-8 overall record in early January before turning things around. "The kids just never quit believing in themselves."

The Blue Aces, meanwhile, had won three consecutive games and six of their last nine entering their postseason opener against Hilliard Bradley last Tuesday at Thomas Worthington. They won 51-46 as senior David Hettler posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead Granville, which was 2-7 in mid-January. That gave the Blue Aces a tournament victory in four consecutive seasons under sixth-year coach Scott Carpenter, which now is Licking County's longest such streak.

Granville, which also won a non-league game for the first time all year, improved to 10-11 overall while advancing to meet fourth-seeded Canal Winchester in the lower bracket last Saturday. That winner plays in a district semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Friday in the Fairgrounds Coliseum against either fifth-seeded Hartley or Columbus Mifflin.

Utica, which managed only a 1-5 non-league record during the regular season, improved to 11-10 overall while advancing to meet Columbus East in the upper bracket last Friday. That winner plays in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Fairgrounds against either top-seeded DeSales or Caledonia River Valley.

East advanced to the second round by eliminating Licking Valley 64-42 last Wednesday at Centerburg courtesy of a 25-6 second-quarter run that made it 44-20 at the half. The Panthers finished 9-12 overall.

"I'd love to have this game back. We're much better than that score indicated," Licking Valley coach Brian Blume said. "I think we just had a lapse in that second quarter and things got out of control."

The Redskins clearly stayed in control during the key moments last Wednesday against Licking Heights, however.

First, senior Kevin Walton knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner off an inbounds play with 11 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime with the score tied at 54.

"We've run that play all year," Sheck said. "It was a situation where we got Kevin, one of our best shooters, in a position where he could make a shot."

The Redskins never trailed in overtime, but Deonte Holder's 3 with 15.4 seconds remaining allowed the Hornets to pull even at 60. After a timeout, Utica in-bounded from mid-court and Joe Metzger found senior Kyle Walton alone on the left wing. Kyle Walton hesitated for a moment before driving through the lane for a decisive layup with 3 seconds remaining.

"We had a designed play, but it fell apart," Kyle Walton said. "I saw an open seem and took it. It was pretty open. I can't believe how open it was."

Perhaps the most surprising aspect was that senior point guard Justin Dassylva, who is Utica's leading scorer, didn't have any points over the final 6 minutes, 30 seconds playing with four fouls.

He finished with a team-high 22 points, though, and had the inbounds pass to Kevin Walton for the tying 3 in regulation.

"Some of our other kids stepped up," Sheck said. "We challenged all of our kids, and especially the seniors, a few weeks ago when things weren't going so well. They really came through here in the second half."

The Hornets, who got a game-high 26 points and a half-dozen 3s from the junior Holder, finished 11-10 overall. They return a solid nucleus that also includes junior point guard Eyob Tadele and freshman post Ronnie Dawson.

"You always hate to lose, but at least we went out swinging," coach Nathan Clark said. "The experience that some of our younger kids got, that's only going to help us next year."

ELSEWHERE -- Johnstown, which defeated West Jefferson 44-32 in a Division III first-round game last Wednesday at Olentangy Orange, was the only other county team to play its way into the second round.

Newark finished 9-12 overall with a 51-49 overtime loss against seventh-seeded Mount Vernon in a Division I first-round game last Tuesday at Lakewood, and the Lancers finished 6-15 overall with a 54-38 loss to Jonathan Alder in a Division II game last Wednesday at Thomas Worthington. The Wildcats dropped seven games by three or fewer points. Also, Northridge finished 4-16 overall with a 53-39 against Africentric Early College last Wednesday at Gahanna.

Watkins Memorial in Division I, Heath in Division III and Newark Catholic in Division IV all had first-round byes and opened their respective postseasons last Friday or Saturday.

REGULAR-SEASON WRAP -- The Green Wave shared the MSL-Ohio Division title with Bexley at 13-1 each, winning the county's only league championship.

Still, that gives the area at least one league champion in eight consecutive seasons.