Once the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team hoisted a plaque to commemorate its second consecutive Division I district championship, then cut down the nets in celebration, the Tigers' attitude shifted.

Central entered a regional semifinal March 7 against Dublin Coffman with unfinished business on its mind. The Tigers lost at that stage last year to Newark, which also dealt Central its second-most lopsided loss of this season, 55-41 on Feb. 4.

Video •The Pickerington Central girls basketball team celebrates its Division I district championship.

"It doesn't really feel different (from last year), but every year is special in its own way," guard Maliya Perry said. "To be able to come out and keep playing with your team is a great feeling. It's a bit of a burden off our shoulders. We know what we have to get done this year."

Central improved to 22-4 after defeating sixth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 48-29 in a district final March 4 at Ohio Dominican University. Perry's game-high 16 points and seven rebounds helped the third-seeded Tigers establish an early lead, as they went ahead 14-2 after the first quarter and led by as many as 20 points twice late in the first half.

Madison Greene and Nicole Stephens each had 10 points for Central. Jada Tate added four points and seven rebounds.

"Sometimes we get off to rough starts, and that couldn't happen (March 4)," coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. "If we could get out to a lead, we could dictate the pace and execute our offense. Bradley is a very good ball-control team and patient on offense. We couldn't chase them."

Central's zone defense harassed the Jaguars into 2-for-9 shooting to start the game, and Bradley did not score for more than five minutes to start the second half.

"We wanted to speed them up the whole time," Stephens said. "Once we got started there, we kept making them uncomfortable. We shot the ball really well and we attacked well. Our all-around game was good."

Stephens, a freshman guard who has started about half the season, hit two 3-pointers, one of which gave Central a 26-6 lead late in the second quarter.

"I try to bring energy and defensive intensity," she said. "We knew what we had to do (March 4). Our No. 1 goal was to win the OCC(-Ohio Division) and then district, and then go from there."

The Central-Coffman winner will play Newark or Reynoldsburg in a regional final Friday, March 10, at Otterbein University. The regional champion will advance to a state semifinal March 17 at Ohio State.

Central is 2-0 against Reynoldsburg this season, winning 62-50 on Jan. 6 and 59-56 on Feb. 7 to clinch the outright league championship.

A regional title would be Central's first since 2006 and the program's 11th overall.

"It feels good," Hedgepeth said of winning a district title. "But we hope we aren't done."

Sisco reaches state
wrestling tourney

His high-school career is down to its final weekend, but Shota Sisco of the wrestling team feels like he's right on schedule.

Sisco, a senior at 170 pounds, will compete in his first Division I state tournament, which runs Thursday, March 9, through Saturday, March 11, at Ohio State. He went 3-1 in the district tournament March 3 and 4 at Hilliard Darby, edging Coffman's Lennox Wolak 8-6 in the third-place match.

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.

"I feel like I've accomplished what I've wanted to accomplish so far, and this is a good way to reach the goals I'm looking for overall," Sisco said. "I want to be a state champion, a national champion. Those are the (goals) I always have for myself, but I want to be able to say I am able to compete with anybody at any level."

Sisco, who is 36-6 on the season, will wrestle Cincinnati Elder's Charles Sanders in the first round at state.

No other Tigers advanced to state, although Chance Esmont is a state alternate at 160 after going 3-2 and placing fifth at district.

Also competing at district were Trevor Mangahas (106, sixth, 3-3), Noah Dotson (126, 1-2) and Shiloh Jenkins (182, 1-2).

Central finished 15th (44) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (236.5) as 42 teams scored.

Boys basketball team
rolls into district semi

The boys basketball team played in a Division I district semifinal for the sixth consecutive year when it took on 19th-seeded Mifflin on March 8.

Top-seeded Central was 22-2 and coming off a 112-55 rout of visiting and 47th-seeded Westland in a second-round game March 3. Jeremiah Francis had 16 points to lead the Tigers, who led 33-13 after the first quarter and 55-21 at halftime.

Sterling Manley added 12 points, and Kameron Culp and Adrian Nelson each scored 11.

The semifinal winner plays 17th-seeded Grove City or 18th-seeded Coffman in a district final Saturday, March 11, at Ohio Dominican. The district champion will play Hilliard Davidson, Reynoldsburg, St. Charles or defending state champion Westerville South in a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 15 at Ohio Dominican.

The regional final is March 18 at Ohio Dominican.

The Tigers defeated Reynoldsburg 61-46 on Jan. 6 and 71-58 on Feb. 7 and edged South 62-57 on Jan. 3.

Bowling teams to
lose key contributors

Two of the bowling teams' four Division I district qualifiers will be lost to graduation in girls seniors Molly Federer and Abigail Hill, but the other two, boys sophomore Evan Tailford and girls freshman Kate Merkel, are expected to return.

Neither the boys nor the girls team advanced to district March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.

Hill rolled a 537 three-game series at district to tie for 20th among 134 individuals. Merkel finished 77th (421) and Federer tied for 83rd (410).

On the boys side, Tailford finished 100th (464) of 127 individuals.

The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

The boys team finished 11-8 overall, went 10-5 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division to place fifth behind champion Pickerington North (14-1) and went 1-5 in the OCC-Central to tie Lancaster for sixth behind co-champions Marys-ville and North (both 5-1).

Senior Adrian Jackson's 179.5 game average led Central, ahead of junior Jaret Negron (174.2), sophomore Ethan Fisher (166.1), Tailford (157.5), junior Zach Dewey (154.2) and seniors Jacob Ritzler (151.3) and Dalton Morehart (148.5).

Hill's 163.7 average led the girls, who finished 9-7 overall, went 8-6 in the COHSBC-South to place sixth behind champion Whitehall (14-0) and went 1-4 in the OCC-Central to place fourth behind Gahanna (5-0).

Federer averaged 145.6 and Merkel averaged 140.1.

In sectionals at Sawmill Lanes, the girls finished 27th (2,629) of 38 teams Feb. 24 behind champion Briggs (3,766), while the boys finished 31st (3,165) of 42 teams Feb. 25 behind champion Liberty (4,168).

The top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave