Nikki Watters did not consider herself the favorite in the Division I district girls diving meet, nor will she think of herself as such in the state meet Thursday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

At the very least, central Ohio again is likely to produce a state champion.

Video •Watch an interview with New Albany divers Georgina Milne and Nikki Watters.

Coming off winning the district championship with 580.5 points Feb. 18 at Ohio State, not only is Watters is the top seed at state, but the area's five qualifiers hold the top five spots. Among them is Eagles teammate Georgina Milne, who finished fifth (541.35).

"I really think that your slate is wiped clean (in the postseason)," said Watters, who is competing in her fourth state meet and is the defending champion. "We dive with each other every day. We see each other pretty much every day. We know anybody could win. I wouldn't say there is any favorite. It just depends on the kind of day you have."

Milne and Watters, who are seniors, played a large part in the Eagles' second-place finish at district. New Albany scored 283 points, finishing behind Upper Arlington (433.5) as 25 teams scored.

Watters provided the Eagles their only win, but New Albany padded its point total with three runner-up finishes and five third-place efforts.

"I felt pretty consistent throughout the meet," said Milne, who was 23rd at state as a sophomore. "Around the seventh round, I felt like I was doing even better than I was. But it's all about consistency. That's what really helps. As long as you are consistent, you don't have to do the best dives all the time."

The top two placers in each swimming event at district, and the top four boys divers and top five girls, advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.

At state, the swimming preliminaries are Friday, Feb. 24, and the finals are Saturday, Feb. 25.

Powered by wins from Carson Barnes in the 100-yard butterfly (49.87 seconds) and Noah Duperre in diving (580.9), the boys team finished sixth (146) at district behind champion St. Charles (302) as 30 teams scored.

The boys diving finals were Feb. 17 at Ohio State.

Like Watters, Duperre is the top-seeded diver entering state.

Runners-up for the girls team were Abbie Linek in the 500 freestyle (5:01.15), the 200 free relay (1:35.99) and the 400 free relay (3:29.43).

Mia Lachey was third in the 500 free (5:02.08) and fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:05.96) to earn at-large state berths in both events.

Other at-large qualifiers were McKayla Moffat in the 100 free (51.58, third) and 200 free (1:51.64, third), the 200 medley relay (1:47.29, third), Lauren Sadler in the 50 free (24.0, seventh) and Jessica Zaper in the 50 free (23.94, fourth).

Barnes, who also was fourth in the 100 backstroke (52.18) to earn an at-large berth to state, broke 50 seconds in the 100 fly for the first time.

"Backstroke is still so fresh in my mind because I haven't swum it as a main event before," Barnes said. "I've always done freestyle and butterfly. Going that time and being new to it, I feel like I have so much room to improve."

Pearson Spychalski advanced to state in the 100 free (47.53, sixth) and 200 free (1:42.23, third), as did the 200 free relay (1:28.76, fifth).

Boys basketball coach
earns 500th victory

The boys basketball team ended its OCC-Capital Division season with a celebration of coach Sam Davis' 500th career win, and it hopes to carry those good vibes into the Division I district tournament.

Davis earned his milestone win Feb. 17 as the Eagles pulled away to defeat visiting Franklin Heights 76-59. Jalin Jackson had a game-high 21 points to pace New Albany, and Tommy McDonald and Jordan Nash added 17 each as the Eagles led 13-8 after a quarter but increased the lead to 36-24 by halftime.

Davis, whose head coaching career dates to 1980, was 500-295 before a Feb. 21 game against Westerville Central and had 250 wins at New Albany, where he is in his 17th season.

The Eagles were 9-12 overall before Feb. 21 and finished 5-5 in the OCC-Capital.

Davis won his 499th game Feb. 3 at Big Walnut, but New Albany dropped its next three in a row.

Seeded 21st for the 47-team district tournament, the Eagles will play host to 23rd-seeded Zanesville in a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 25.

New Albany and Zanesville did not play during the regular season.

The winner will visit 15th-seeded Olentangy Liberty for a second-round game March 3.

Wrestlers gear for
loaded sectional

Coming off a second-place finish in the OCC-Capital, the wrestling team is focusing on a Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 25, at Watkins Memorial that, at least on paper, should be competitive.

The Eagles are seeded 19th of 45 teams in the district.

Top teams in the sectional include the fifth-seeded and host Warriors, seventh-seeded Lancaster, eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby and ninth-seeded Olentangy. None of the other three sectional sites has more than three of the top 10 teams.

"I think we will do all right there," coach Larry Reichard said. "We are with some highly ranked teams, but we have seen most of those teams. We know what we are walking into, and I think that will help us a lot and it will help the guys' confidence."

New Albany went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, wrapping up its league season with a 45-21 win over Big Walnut on Feb. 16. The Eagles finished second behind Groveport (5-0).

At sectional, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 3 and 4 at Darby.

Bowlers prepare
for sectionals

The bowling teams will have their first competition since Feb. 12 when they participate in Division I sectional tournaments this weekend.

The 41-team girls sectional is Friday, Feb. 24, at Sawmill Lanes, and the 45-team boys sectional is the next day at the same site.

From both sectionals, the top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.

Girls basketball team
loses tourney opener

The girls basketball team's comeback fell just short in a 52-49 loss at 19th-seeded Darby in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 18.

The 24th-seeded Eagles trailed 27-19 at halftime but took the lead on Nicole Donahue's 3-pointer with 1:45 to go. Darby's Jessica Cox made two free throws with 3 seconds to go, and Brooke Isabel missed a long heave as time expired.

Isabel had 20 points and seven assists, and Josie Smith added 13 points and 11 rebounds as New Albany finished 10-13.

Hockey team's season
ends in second round

Despite outshooting Springboro 31-19, the fifth-seeded hockey team gave up two third-period goals and lost to the ninth-seeded Panthers 3-1 in the second round of the district tournament Feb. 19 at Chiller North.

Brocke Ellis scored in the second period for the Eagles, who finished 20-10-1-3.

Springboro took the lead for good with a 5-on-3 goal with about 10 minutes to play, and added an insurance goal in the final two minutes.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave