The Worthington Christian High School boys basketball team didn't buckle during its first tough moments of the postseason.
Facing 12th-seeded Fairbanks in the second round of the Division III district tournament March 4 at home, the top-seeded Warriors hit five of six free-throw attempts in the final minute and "weathered the storm" according to senior guard Jay Joseph during a 47-41 victory.
The win sent the Warriors into a district semifinal against eighth-seeded Centerburg on March 7 at Olentangy Orange.
"To me, some of the keys to the victory were defensive pressure, sticking to the game plan and the team not giving up when things got tough," senior guard Jayden Turner said.
The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Columbus Academy or fourth-seeded Galion Northmor in a district final at 7 p.m. Friday, March 10, at Ohio Dominican University.
The Warriors beat Academy 51-48 on Dec. 17 and 60-49 on Feb. 3 and defeated Northmor 73-57 on Dec. 30.
The district champion plays Brookville or Cincinnati Summit Country Day in a regional semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at Kettering Fairmont. The regional final is at 7 p.m. March 18 at Fairmont.
Joseph and junior forward Kyle Smith both scored 11 points and Turner and senior guard Mark Shoemaker scored 10 apiece against Fairbanks as the Warriors improved to 19-5.
"Kyle Smith on the offensive glass was huge for us," Shoemaker said.
Worthington Christian opened the district tournament with an 85-34 win over 18th-seeded Columbus International on March 1 behind 19 points from Shoemaker, 13 from Joseph and 11 apiece from Turner and junior forward Collin Kimbrough.
"We're getting better and better every game," Joseph said. "Our chemistry has been clicking a lot and the scoring is really spread out, which is really positive."
Season ends for
girls basketball team
The girls basketball team expects to return all but one player next season, but the Warriors likely will take on a decidedly different look.
Bridgette Rettstatt, a 6-foot-1 guard, was the only senior, but she leaves as the leading scorer -- girls or boys -- in school history.
The Liberty University recruit had 20 points in eighth-seeded Worthington Christian's 54-40 loss to seventh-seeded Cardington in a Division III district semifinal Feb. 28 at Sparta Highland and closed her prep career with 1,716 points.
She was named Division III district Player of the Year last season and was MSL-Ohio Division Player of the Year this season for the Warriors, who finished 17-7 overall and placed second in the league at 9-3, behind London (11-1) and ahead of West Jefferson (8-4), Grandview (7-5), Bexley (5-7), Whitehall (2-10) and Columbus Academy (0-12).
Rettstatt averaged 23 points this season for Worthington Christian, which beat 14th-seeded Ready 48-47 in a second-round game Feb. 25 after a first-round bye.
"We're going to miss her next year," coach Tammi Evans said. "She was our only senior, so we've got a big group of juniors coming back and we've got some good sophomores and freshmen, too."
The Warriors' performance during the second half against Cardington is something Evans believes her program can build on.
The Pirates led 25-10 at halftime before Worthington Christian rallied and pulled within seven points in the second half.
"I don't know if it was nerves or what, but we didn't get off to a great start and, in the tournament, that's a must," Evans said. "We were only five of 22 from the floor in the first half. In the second half, we shot 53 percent from the field, and I'm just really proud of how they fought back and showed tenaciousness."
Junior guard Alex Evans, the coach's daughter, and junior post player Emma Linehan should be the top returnees next season after both made second-team all-league. Junior guard Emily Hall was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Ellie Bowers (forward), sophomores CeCi Dalton (forward), Caroline Cole (guard) and Ellie Montgomery (guard) and freshman Mianna Hartings (guard) are others eligible to return.
eligible to return
After making his second consecutive Division II state meet appearance, junior Jeremy Baggs is expected to lead the swimming and diving program's group of returnees next season.
Baggs finished 15th in the 200-yard individual medley (1 minute, 59.62 seconds) at the state meet Feb. 22 and 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, scoring two points as the Warriors placed 54th behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (230) as 59 teams scored. He also finished 19th in the 500 freestyle (4:54.92).
Baggs was the only state qualifier for the Warriors, who are eligible to return all eight members of their program.
"Overall, the season had ups and downs, but it was overall a successful year," Baggs said. "My club coach is more proud of my hard work these past (few weeks) than my performances themselves."
In the MSL-Ohio meet Jan. 28 at Columbus Academy, the boys team was sixth (72) behind the host Vikings (421), Teays Valley (177), Liberty Union (165), Grandview (156) and Bexley (117) and ahead of Fairfield Union (51).
Also competing at district along with Baggs was junior Brian Kray, who took seventh in the 100 backstroke (1:02.4) and 17th in the 100 free (52.42) on Feb. 17 at Ohio State.
The other two boys in the program were junior Andrew Lawrence and sophomore Josh Stanfield, both of whom are divers.
The girls team placed eighth (31) in the MSL-Ohio meet behind Academy (398), Grandview (275), Bexley (151), Liberty Union (151), Teays Valley (112), Fairfield Union (69) and Logan Elm (47) and ahead of Grove City Christian (19).
The girls team, which did not have any district qualifiers, was comprised of freshmen Jacklyn Hamilton, Jamie McCree, Anna Stathulis and Amanda Strohmeyer.
"For the team, I think (the season) was pretty successful," Baggs said. "Some of the freshmen girls will make districts next year and hopefully Brian will make states next year."