The Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team missed its opportunity to post its second consecutive undefeated regular season as well as win the OCC-Central Division championship outright for the second year in a row.

The Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team missed its opportunity to post its second consecutive undefeated regular season as well as win the OCC-Central Division championship outright for the second year in a row.

But instead of dwelling on their 55-49 overtime loss to visiting Dublin Coffman on Feb. 18, the Golden Bears are focusing on what they need to do to make a deep run in the Division I district tournament.

UA, seeded third behind Westerville South and Northland, had a first-round bye and plays Briggs or Thomas Worthington in the second round at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, at Hilliard Bradley.

"I told the guys that we can turn this into a positive," coach Tim Casey said after the loss to Coffman, which tied UA for first in the OCC-Central at 13-1. "We need to let it strengthen us and make us realize how we need to play. If it does that then I will take a loss now with a win down the road. (The postseason) is the season that really matters."

UA went 19-0 in the regular season last year, its first undefeated regular season since 1946-47. Then, after a first-round bye in the district tournament, the Bears defeated Pickerington Central 34-33 in the second round as the fourth seed before losing to fifth-seeded Coffman 50-48 in a district semifinal.

The Bears had won 38 consecutive regular-season games before the latest loss to Coffman.

"One game is not going to make or break a season," senior guard Brian Sullivan said. "I know last year we got into the hype of the regular season too much. We decided this year that we're not going to get too up or too down about the regular season. We're just going to keep our eyes on the target."

That target is a district championship. If UA advances, it likely would play 10th-seeded Olentangy Orange or 12th-seeded Mount Vernon in a district semifinal March 5 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum and likely would face second-seeded Northland in a district final March 11 at the Fairgrounds.

UA could've been the first team into one of the three district brackets at the tournament draw Feb. 13 but opted to go into the same bracket as Northland, which was ranked third in the state poll last week.

"There's a strategy behind it," Sullivan said. "We just felt that teams are going to stay away from Northland and we think that we can match up with any team in the Central District."

"I'm pretty optimistic, but there's no easy draw," Casey said. "When you're in Division I in the Central District, everybody is pretty good. I think (the draw) worked out about as well as it could for us. We just have to play well."

UA, which last won a district title in 2007, has not played Briggs this season but swept Thomas in OCC-Central play, winning 65-39 on Dec. 7 and 45-43 on Jan. 21. The Cardinals improved to 14-6 with a 62-32 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Feb. 18. Briggs fell to 8-12 with a 62-57 loss to Whetstone on Feb. 15 despite having four players score in double figures, including Deangelo Gray (12), Keevon Pitman (12) and Julien Muse (11).

"Briggs has got some guys who can do some things," Casey said. "They've got some athletes. But I anticipate that we'll probably play Thomas."

In the latter contest against Thomas, UA trailed 27-15 at halftime before rallying in the second half. Sullivan had 25 points, including the winning basket with less than three seconds left, and senior post player Wes Richter scored 10.

Jordan Cowgill, a 6-foot-10 junior post player, and Julian Henderson each scored 13 points to pace Thomas.

"Playing a team three times is never easy, but I think we're hungrier (to be successful in the tournament) than we were last year," Sullivan said. "We're ready to go."

UA, which defeated Coffman 53-52 on Jan. 14, trailed the Shamrocks 32-24 at halftime in the rematch, which was played in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The Bears trailed by 12 points early in the third quarter before going on a 19-7 run to tie the game at 43 with 4:03 left. With the score tied at 48, Coffman guard Christian Heine missed a shot with three seconds left, sending the game to overtime.

In overtime, UA missed all eight shots from the field, including five taken by Sullivan, and was outscored 7-1.

"We were getting the looks we wanted (in overtime)," Sullivan said. "I got three or four open shots, but I didn't knock them down. It's basketball. What are you going to do?"

"We couldn't get the shots to go," Casey said. "But (Sullivan) has taken us on his back all year. We certainly want the ball in his hands making plays at the end of a game. I have no problem with him trying to make plays."

Sullivan had 23 points to lead the Bears. Richter had 11 and junior guard Carter Smith scored seven. Heine led Coffman with 20 points, while guards Zack Riddle and Matt DiThomas added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

"Give credit where credit is due," said Sullivan, who scored 29 points in the first meeting with Coffman. "They shot the ball better, and in the first half we were a little disoriented on defense. But we still put ourselves in position to win."

"We've got to do a better job guarding the basketball," Casey said. "That was our biggest downfall."


Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington boys basketball team:

*Feb. 18 - Lost to Dublin Coffman 55-49 (OT)

Feb. 25 - Briggs or Thomas Worthington in first round of Division I district tournament, 6 p.m. at Hilliard Bradley. Winner plays in district semifinal, 2:30 p.m. March 5 at Fairgrounds Coliseum. UA is the third seed.

Of note: The Bears are 19-1 overall and finished 13-1 (tied for first with Coffman) in the OCC-Central. Thomas Worthington finished third in the league at 9-5, followed by Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (5-9), Worthington Kilbourne (5-9), Central Crossing (2-12) and Westland (2-12).

*OCC-Central game