Three Whitehall-Yearling High School senior girls are preparing to close what has been an impressive four-year run on the lanes.
Makayla Barber, Alexis Stiffler and Madison Stiffler, along with their teammates, will compete in their fourth consecutive Division I state tournament Saturday, March 10, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Whitehall earned the berth by finishing second (3,438) in the 16-team district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes behind Gahanna (3,596) and ahead of Westerville Central (3,360). The top three teams qualified for state.
"Going four years back-to-back-to-back-to-back is a good accomplishment, especially for me, Madi and Lexi being so close," Barber said. "It's better going as a team than as an individual because they have your back."
Madison Stiffler, who won the individual state title as a sophomore and finished second last season, led the Rams at district by finishing fourth of 102 bowlers with a 546 three-game series.
Barber had a 501 to finish 13th, followed by Khylie Hardy (484, 22nd), Alexis Stiffler (458, 31st), Shyanne Reese (140, one game, 96th) and Sydney Weatherby (126, one game, 97th).
In addition to the state tournament being the last prep competition for Barber and the Stifflers, the Rams hope to celebrate Jess Biller's final event as coach with a strong showing. Biller previously announced that he was stepping down after the season.
"It was definitely a goal to get back to state," Biller said. "It's our fourth consecutive time at state. It's been the goal every year and to make it four years, I couldn't be more proud of these girls and how hard they've worked. We're not done yet. We're going to make a showing and do our best to bring home another trophy."
The Rams are hoping to better their performance from last season when they finished 13th (2,956) of 16 teams as the top eight advanced to championship round play.
They finished ninth (3,204) in 2016 and 16th (2,692) in 2015.
"It's definitely a goal to do better as a team, especially in Baker games," Barber said. "We always have each other's back. We have each other's backs in singles games, but (when) we get to Bakers, it's completely different."
Boys bowling team earns state berth
The boys bowling team also earned a state berth by finishing third (3,580) of 16 teams in the Division I district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes behind Westerville Central (3,907) and Marion Harding (3,645) and ahead of fourth-place Gahanna (3,529).
The Rams will compete at state Friday, March 9, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Whitehall finished 15th (3,076) at state last season. It was 15th (2,983) in 2013 and 16th (2,981) in 2012.
"It's great, back-to-back again," coach Tavi Netotian said. "It's twice now we've gone back-to-back. They've been working on this since last year. They felt bad how they bowled at state last year. They have to concentrate and just be relaxed and try to have a good time. We've been there before, (so) let's just have a good time and go at it and see what happens."
Jason Kefauver led the Rams at district, finishing third (606) of 105 bowlers. A.J. Stiffler tied for 39th (495), followed by Charles Clark (487, 43rd), Brandon Shaw (453, 58th) and Austin Gilbreath (178, one game, 90th).
Whitehall led after the first game with a 937 but had a series-low 720 in the third game. It bounced back with a 1,075 in the six Baker games to secure the state berth.
"I thought we were goners," Netotian said. "As bad as we shot that (third) game, you don't know what type of Bakers we're going to get and we came out and shot really well in the Bakers."
Boys basketball team falls to Warhawks
The boys basketball team lost its postseason opener, ending a season in which it won its fourth MSL-Ohio Division championship in five years.
"I'm happy, but I'm a little disappointed I couldn't get them over the hump," said coach Drew Williams, whose team finished 13-10 overall and shared the league title with Grandview at 8-2.
"I feel like we underachieved. They're a much better team."
After moving from Division II to Division I for the postseason, the 24th-seeded Rams lost at 11th-seeded Westerville Central 68-61 in the second round of the district tournament March 1. Whitehall had a first-round bye.
The Rams rallied from a 49-40 deficit for a 50-49 lead late in the third quarter and took their final lead at 53-52 early in the fourth before Central regained control.
"Close games always come down to free throws, turnovers and layups and you saw all three out there," Williams said. "Opportunities were there to win it. We were good enough to win this game."
Senior forward Reiko Bagley led Whitehall with 24 points and senior center/forward Tyjaun Childers added 20.
"We played hard, we just didn't play hard enough," Childers said. "Everything comes to an end. We just didn't want it to come to an end now."
Bagley averaged 19 points and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Childers averaged nine points and 10 rebounds and was second-team all-league, and junior guard Taylon Cofer averaged seven points and was honorable mention all-league.
"It was a fun year, but it didn't end the way I wanted it to," Bagley said. "We knew it could be our last game so we had to give it our all."
In the MSL-Ohio, Whitehall and Grandview finished ahead of Bexley (6-4), Columbus Academy (6-4), Worthington Christian (2-8) and London (0-10).
Other players eligible to return are juniors Roshean Bagley (guard/forward), Michael Bivens (forward), Manny Hilton (guard), J.V. Hoover (forward) and Jonathon Walker (guard/forward) and sophomores Amir Dallas (guard) and Charles Miller (guard).
"I'm really excited about the young kids I have coming up," Williams said.
Wresters compete in district tourney
The wrestling team closed its season by competing in the Division I district tournament March 2 and 3 at Perrysburg.
Jace Peck (113 pounds), Luke Gibson (138) and Assante Ndongo (heavyweight) all went 1-2, and Steven Fancelli (106) and Andrew Dickens (195) both went 0-2.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Whitehall tied for 31st (4 points) at district behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (284.5) as 36 teams scored.
Girls basketball players recognized
Two girls basketball players recently received postseason MSL-Ohio honors.
Sophomore guard Kiara Bagley was named second-team all-league and freshman guard Desira Henderson was named honorable mention all-league.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 13-10 overall, 8-2 (tied for first) in MSL-Ohio
*Seniors lost: Reiko Bagley, Darius Butler, Tyjaun Childers, Marcus Harris and Martez Johnson
*Key returnees: Roshean Bagley and Taylon Cofer