Having secured its second consecutive appearance in the Division I state tournament, the Pickerington High School North boys bowling team now turns its attention to improving on last year's finish.

The Panthers were 14th of 16 teams a year ago, falling well short of the eight-team championship round that follows three regulation games and three Baker games. With much of last year's roster back, coach Mike Rossi has set a clear goal.

Video •The Pickerington North boys bowling team accepts its second-place awards at the Division I district tournament March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.

"Our goal is to get to the roll-off (championship round)," Rossi said. "If we can get to the roll-off, then anything can happen. Last year, we started off good and then we fell off so we didn't quite get there, so we're hoping this year to get to the roll-off and see how we can do."

The state tournament is Saturday, March 11, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

North rides a wave of momentum into state. The Panthers finished second (4,157) in the 20-team district tournament March 3 at Sawmill Lanes behind Westerville Central (4,176).

William Hrivnak rolled a 704 three-game series to finish third of 127 individuals, behind Zanesville's Omar Scott (728) and Whetstone's Josh Roeder (711).

Chris Hoyle tied for sixth (671), followed by Jarrett Powers (16th, 630), Mason Gibson (76th, 529) and Steven Vance (tied for 78th, 526).

The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.

Hoyle, Hrivnak and Powers also were mainstays for the Panthers last year.

"Survive and move on, that's what we need. We're thrilled," Rossi said. "Two straight years we get to go to the state tournament. You can't beat that. We're excited, happy. The kids are thrilled. They did a fantastic job.

"It means a lot because of the kids. The kids are so good. They're just great kids. They practice on their own. They come to practice. Whatever I ask them to do, they do it. I get a lot of compliments from other coaches about how well we behave and that they're gentlemen and (good) sports, and I love that."

The girls team fell short of state, finishing 18th (2,766) of 20 teams at district, behind champion Briggs (3,888). Gahanna (3,611) earned the final berth to the state tournament Friday, March 10, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

Alex Oppenheimer rolled a 451 series and placed 68th among 134 individuals to lead the Panthers. Alayah Robinson (85th, 408) and Liz Arp (93rd, 380) also competed in all three games, while Katie Kezel (tied for 111th, 262) and Emily Mussori (115th, 235) competed in two games.

Boys basketball team
reaches district semi

Ty Wiley's game-high 13 points and five assists helped the ninth-seeded boys basketball team defeat 31st-seeded Logan 44-31 on March 3 at home in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Dondre Palmer added 12 points and eight rebounds and Jerome Hunter had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks for North, which was 18-6 before playing 13th-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal March 8.

The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Newark or 15th-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district final at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Ohio Dominican University. The district champion will advance to a regional semifinal March 16.

The Panthers, who are seeking their first district championship, did not play Newark or Liberty during the regular season.

Hassel falls short
of state wrestling

A week that wrestler Brandon Hassel began by "goofing off" almost ended in a Division I state tournament berth.

Thinking his season was done after a fifth-place finish at sectional, the junior was called up to compete in the district tournament as an alternate and went 2-3 to finish sixth at 126 pounds. A hand injury left Watkins Memorial's Alex Lieb unable to participate.

Hassel erased a late 8-4 deficit against Hilliard Bradley's Zander Ellison in a state-qualifying match March 4 at Hilliard Darby, only to lose 11-9 in overtime. He then lost to Westerville North's Blake Wright 10-3 in the fifth-place match.

"I had a little bit of time to prepare," said Hassel, whose 28-12 record led North. "I was just goofing off in practice (Feb. 27), and then we found out (Feb. 28) that I'd be here, so I took things more seriously the rest of the week.

"I had a nice draw. I listened to my coaches and everybody around me. They motivated me and kept me ready to go."

The Panthers scored 11 points and finished 31st at district behind champion Olentangy Liberty (236.5) as 42 teams scored.

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which runs Thursday, March 9, through Saturday, March 11, at Ohio State.

Also competing at district were sophomore Elliott Mahaffey, who went 0-2 at 152, and freshman Parker Bennett, who went 0-2 at 120.

North went 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Grove City for fourth, behind Lancaster (5-0) and Gahanna and Pickerington Central (both 3-2) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (0-5).

In an 11-team sectional Feb. 25 at Watkins Memorial, Mahaffey and Parker finished fourth in their weight classes and the Panthers placed 10th (45) behind champion Darby (225.5). The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.

Mahaffey finished the season 17-17, while Bennett was 14-15.

Other wrestlers with at least a .500 record were junior Karon Williams (12-8 at 195) and sophomores Elijah Clarke (13-13 at 138/145) and Josiah George (11-11 at 145/152).

"We had an actual team this year," coach Jake Kuhner said. "These guys all cared about each other and supported each other. They worked hard together. They have the work ethic. Now, it's a matter of getting more mat time and working on our strength."

Girls basketball team
falls in district semi

Girls basketball coach Dave Butcher tipped his cap to Westerville South after the 17th-seeded Wildcats defeated the 14th-seeded Panthers 52-30 in a Division I district semifinal March 1 at Olentangy Orange.

"They played awfully well and we did not play very well. We didn't shoot well and we shot ourselves in the foot further by missing easy layups and foul shots," said Butcher, whose team had defeated South 50-38 on Jan. 31. "That is by far the best I have seen (South) play. They distributed well, they were enthusiastic and they played hard. We had it at our tempo and pace for a long time and we could not take advantage."

Senior forward Danielle Bradley had 16 points to lead North, which finished 14-11 overall.

The Panthers led 5-2 less than two minutes into the game, but then went scoreless for more than seven minutes and made only three field goals in the next 19:04 as South took a 32-15 lead. North, which was just 3-for-9 from the free-throw line, got within 35-23 by the end of the third quarter but never closer.

The Panthers went 3-7 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fourth behind Central (10-0), Reynoldsburg (8-2) and Gahanna (6-4) and ahead of Grove City (2-8) and Lancaster (1-9).

North won two home games in the 47-team district tournament, defeating 32nd-seeded Hilliard Davidson 63-44 in the first round Feb. 18 and 37th-seeded Watkins Memorial 62-24 in a second-round game Feb. 24. The win over Davidson was North's first in the postseason since 2014, which also was the last time the Panthers had reached a district semifinal.

Bradley, a Quinnipiac University recruit, averaged 14.9 points and 7.0 rebounds and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Junior forward Kyla Sawyer (7.7 points) was second-team all-league, sophomore guard Mickale Bates (6.4 points) was special mention all-league and senior forward Julia Kopp (6.0 points) was honorable mention all-league.

"We were out of very few games all year," Butcher said. "We hung with a lot of good teams and the kids played good basketball. We are young, and the kids who aren't young were inexperienced. But they responded and played hard."