The last five weeks have been a whirlwind for junior Abbi Swank of the Whetstone High School girls bowling team.

It began Dec. 29 when she saved her three younger brothers from an early morning fire that gutted her family's house on Roche Court West. Her parents, Lisa Denbow and Shawn Huntzinger, were delivering The Columbus Dispatch around 4 a.m. that day when the fire started.

"One of my brothers, Tyler, was screaming and that woke me up," Swank said. "I opened my bedroom door, saw the smoke, grabbed a blanket and just ran to the other rooms to get my brothers. We got out just in time. (Firefighters) said we wouldn't have survived a few more minutes."

The family is looking to rebuild the house. In the meantime, Swank has been staying with a neighborhood friend while the rest of the family has been residing in a nearby apartment.

While Swank lost bowling trophies and other personal items in the fire, the family's two dogs perished in the blaze, which fire officials determined was started by a family cat jumping on an electric stove and apparently turning on a burner.

"I think about how close I was to (death) and how close I was to losing my brothers, but that's not something you want to focus on," she said. "I can deal with losing personal items in the fire, so that was never a focus, either. But when you see what's left, it was emotional."

Through it all, Swank has focused on her schoolwork as well as her commitment to the bowling team. Her 188.5 game average through 13 matches led the Braves.

"If there is anyone who can handle this, it's Abbi," senior teammate Bailey Waitkus said. "She has always been a hard worker and she gets real good grades. It's amazing because I don't know many others who could deal with all of those emotions and not really let it affect them all that much."

Since the tragedy, Swank has found solace in bowling.

"I think if I didn't have bowling right now, or anything else to focus on, I'd be constantly thinking about the fire," she said. "It took a few days, but once it happened, it happened. We couldn't change anything, so we had make adjustments and make the best of it.

"We survived (the fire) and my family is so important to me. I'm just thankful we got out and I'm thankful for all of the bowling community and neighbors and others who have made donations to help us."

The Braves were 12-1 overall and 9-0 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division before competing against Centennial on Jan. 31 and International on Feb. 1. They will close the regular season Friday, Feb. 3, against DeSales at Capri Lanes.

Waitkus (171.1) was second on the team in average through 13 matches, followed by Savannah Stuver (168.3).

The boys team was 5-8 overall and 3-7 in the COHSBC-Central before competing against Haugland Learning Center on Jan. 30 and International on Feb. 1. The Braves will face Centennial on Thursday, Feb. 2, at Sequoia Pro Bowl before concluding the regular season Feb. 3 against DeSales.

Alex Johnson led the Braves with a 183.1 average through 13 matches, followed by Christian Jefferson (178.1), Michael Curry (154.6) and Davis Kleen (153.3).

Girls basketball team
preps for City finale

The girls basketball team will close out City League-North Division play Friday, Feb. 3, at home against Linden-McKinley before concluding the regular season Saturday, Feb. 4, at Lexington.

Whetstone was 6-13 overall and 4-9 in the league before playing Centennial on Jan. 31.

The Braves beat East 41-33 in a league contest Jan 27 before losing to Independence 55-16 on Jan. 28.

Whitney Staggs had six points against East.

"Whitney is our most experienced player and it's been a pretty tough season for her," coach Rickie McClanahan said. "With the inexperienced players around her, she has been the focus of our opponents' defenses."

Boys basketball team
looking to end skid

The boys basketball team had lost four games in a row and eight of its previous nine games before playing Centennial on Jan. 31.

Whetstone, which was 4-13 overall and 3-8 in the City-North before facing the Stars, lost to East 82-72 in a league contest Jan. 27 before falling to Independence 65-45 on Jan. 28.

Against East, Tyrese Walker had 20 points, Michael Ray scored 17 and Jack Staggs added nine. Staggs and Rayshon Walker both scored eight points against Independence.

Wrestlers sweep
two City duals

The wrestling team defeated Centennial 51-24 and Africentric 72-0 in City duals Jan. 26.

Justin Rodriguez (120/126 pounds) and Adreon Barrett (132) both went 2-0 with two pins. They earned the only wins on the mat against Africentric, as Whetstone won the rest of the matches by forfeit.

Also winning on the mat against Centennial were Justin McDaniel (192) and Trent Mathews (152).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek