As he reflected on his team winning a Division I district championship March 10 at Ohio Dominican, Dublin Coffman High School senior boys basketball player Trevor Grady didn't take for granted how special it was to hold a piece of fabric he would be keeping as a souvenir.
Standing on a ladder rarely had felt so good, either.
For Grady and the sixth-seeded Shamrocks, beating second-seeded Upper Arlington 68-51 to avenge a pair of regular-season losses is part of a journey that they hope continues this week when they play Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Ohio Dominican.
"This is our third time in a row being in the district championship (game)," Grady said. "I remember seeing that ladder (for the net-cutting ceremony) these past two years and it wasn't for us, so it's pretty cool to get up on top of there and (cut down a piece of) this net.
"We're not done yet. It should be fun."
Coffman takes a 20-6 record into the regional, where it last competed in 2014.
The past two seasons, the Shamrocks had their seasons end in district final losses to Central - 60-43 in 2016 and 65-57 last season.
Although the Tigers are 16-8, were seeded ninth for the district tournament and have played the entire season without junior guard and North Carolina-recruit Jeremiah Francis, they've won nine games in a row, including a 59-57 victory over fourth-seeded Westerville North in a district final March 10.
Central won its third consecutive district title and reached a state semifinal last season.
Adrian Nelson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who has committed to Detroit Mercy, averages 14 points and junior guard Javohn Garcia and sophomore guard Josiah Fulcher both average 11 to lead the Tigers.
In last year's district final loss, Dominiq Penn scored 24 points and Nick Carlson scored 11 for the Shamrocks.
Both are among a group of returnees who have an opportunity to avenge that loss.
Penn, a sophomore guard, had 30 points against UA to lead Coffman, which had lost to the Golden Bears 44-41 on Feb. 3 and 44-42 on Feb. 16. Junior forward Will Hunter added 12 points and Carlson, a senior forward, scored 11.
The Shamrocks edged fifth-seeded Newark 56-53 in a district semifinal March 7 at Pickerington North as Penn and junior wing player Derek Van Vlerah both scored 14.
"(Winning a district title) means a lot," Penn said. "It's something we've been looking forward to all year. We've gotten really close as a team. We hang out and work together every day. I felt like we'd be able to come and do this the whole time. I had confidence."
The Coffman-Central winner plays Hilliard Bradley or Reynoldsburg in the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Ohio Dominican.
The regional champion plays Copley, Massillon Jackson, Shaker Heights or Solon in a state semifinal at 8:30 p.m. March 23 at Ohio State.
"I'm really pleased with the way we handled ourselves with an environment down (at Ohio Dominican) that's no joke," coach Jamey Collins said. "These guys do a great job of preparation. (Penn) had a huge game. That's probably his biggest array of shots. He had all kinds of things going, but the reason he did is because they had to stay out on our shooters like Trevor and Nick, so he was isolated one on one for a good portion of the game.
"I know (Central) is good and they've won a lot of games in a row. They've got quite a few guys that can play a little bit, but fortunately we do, too, so hopefully it'll be a good game for us."
Wolak places fourth at state in wrestling
Junior wrestler Lennox Wolak knew what he was up against in a quarterfinal at 182 pounds in the Division I state tournament held March 8-10 at Ohio State against Barberton's Gary Wokojance.
A year ago at state when both were competing at 170, Wolak lost 7-4 to Wokojance in the second round of the consolation bracket to finish 1-2 while Wokojance went on to place sixth.
After Wolak opened state this season by pinning Cincinnati Elder's Charles Sanders in 2 minutes, 49 seconds, he couldn't hang on to an early lead in the rematch against Wokojance and lost 10-6 in the second round.
Unlike last year, though, Wolak won three matches in the backdraw and ended up placing fourth while Wokojance again finished sixth.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Wolak, who went 4-2 at state to finish the season 39-7. "I definitely wish I (placed) higher, but overall I felt like I was doing pretty well and I saw a whole season's work come together. It's really cool, an honor to wrestle here with the best kids in the state, the best kids in the nation and a ton of fans.
"I was (beating Wokojance) and I made a couple dumb mistakes. He's just a good kid, a returning state placer who beat me last year and he beat me again this year, so I ended up dropping (to the consolation bracket). I hope to be on the podium (again) next year."
In the consolation bracket, Wolak beat Vandalia Butler's Jansen Love 10-3, pinned Scioto's Deron Pulliam in 4:57 and beat Cincinnati LaSalle's Blake Wilson 6-3 to reach the third-place match. He then lost 3-0 to Wadsworth's Joey Baughman, who was state runner-up a year ago at 170.
Senior Ben Yost also competed at state, going 0-2 at 145 to finish 34-8.
"(Wolak) showed a lot of grit," coach Chance Van Gundy said. "He lost in a quarterfinal but then he wrestled well, and he's only a junior. Ben Yost had a great career."
Coffman scored 16 points at state to tie Solon for 28th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (170.5) as 70 teams scored.
Yost also went 0-2 at state last season at 138 and entered this year's state tournament after both he and Wolak were runners-up in the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, where Coffman finished sixth (80.5) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
"It feels really, really great this year to have made it back to state," Yost said. "I really feel like I belong this year."
Coffman won the OCC-Central Division title, going 5-0 to finish ahead of Marysville (4-1), Hilliard Davidson (3-2), UA (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4) and Westland (0-5).
The Shamrocks then had eight district qualifiers from the 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at UA, where they scored 212 points to finish first ahead of the runner-up and host Bears (205).
At the sectional, Wolak, Yost, freshman Jimmy Baumann (106, 36-4) and junior Antonio Gonzalez (138, 28-12) won titles, senior Kyle Murray (113, 32-9) and sophomore R.J. Carpenter (195, 23-13) were runners-up, sophomore Nick Copley (160, 20-16) placed third and junior Eric Feng (heavyweight, 19-9) took fourth.
Murray, who was a state qualifier last season, and Baumann both placed fifth at district and were state alternates.
Also eligible to return after placing at sectional are sophomores Leo Alvarez (152) and Davante Cooper (120), both of whom were fifth, and junior Morgan Adams (126), who took sixth.
The other sectional placer was senior Parker Bauman (170), who finished fifth.
Also competing at sectional were junior Patrick Kennedy (132) and sophomore Nick Hoskinson (220).
In the team dual tournament, Coffman beat Columbus West 69-12 and Davidson 41-19 on Jan. 24 but lost to Teays Valley 59-12 on Jan. 31 in a regional semifinal.
"I thought our regular season was good," Van Gundy said. "Jimmy Baumann will be really tough next year and Antonio Gonzalez was starting to come around. I think we'll be back strong next year."
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: First in OCC-Central, first at sectional, sixth at district, tied for 28th at state
*Seniors lost: Parker Bauman, Danny DeLaCruz, Lugman Mohamud, Kyle Murray, Julian Porter, Jacob Rinehardt and Ben Yost
*Key returnees: Morgan Adams, Leo Alvarez, Jimmy Baumann, R.J. Carpenter, Davante Cooper, Nick Copley, Eric Feng, Antonio Gonzalez and Lennox Wolak