The Hilliard Darby High School girls basketball team is well-positioned to at least share the OCC-Cardinal Division championship, thanks in large part to a 63-60 overtime win over visiting Dublin Scioto on Jan. 22.
The Panthers and Irish both are 9-2 in the league and Thomas Worthington is 8-3 entering play Friday, Feb. 1. That night, Darby plays host to Dublin Jerome, Scioto plays host to Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas faces Olentangy Berlin at home.
The Panthers have three league games remaining. They visit Berlin on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before concluding league play Feb. 8 at Thomas.
"That was a huge win for us because it kept our hopes alive, whereas if we fell two games behind, it would almost be insurmountable," said coach Tay Tufts, whose team is 13-5 overall. "Plus, the way we battled was incredible. The girls never gave up.
"We were down by eight points with just under two minutes left in regulation and we were down six with 40 seconds left. We also trailed by six with just over two minutes left in overtime. We went into foul mode in regulation and after the first trip, we scored on a three-point play to cut our deficit in half and we kept fouling and forced overtime. In overtime, Annie Rauch took over down the stretch and we kept feeding her."
Rauch led the Panthers with 23 points. Sydney Wyngarden scored 12, Sophia Iosue scored 10 and Sofia Gentile and Tayen Brown added seven points apiece.
Brown's two free throws gave Darby the lead in overtime -- a lead the Panthers wouldn't relinquish.
"While Annie took over down the stretch, our freshmen, Tayen Brown and Alexis Finnegan, really stepped up to the challenge," Tufts said. "(Sophomore) Sophia Iosue scored 10 points in the first half before getting into foul trouble in the second half and she was definitely a spark on both ends of the floor. (Sophomore) Sofia Gentile gave us some big points, too.
"That's very exciting and encouraging because it was a total team effort and we got to see that we'll be just fine in the future after Annie and Syd graduate this year. Everyone believes in the team and they're all playing their roles."
The Panthers defeated Kilbourne 44-25 in a league game Jan. 25, outscoring the host Wolves 27-9 in the second half. Kilbourne was held scoreless in the third quarter.
Rauch had 13 points and Wyngarden scored 12 to lead Darby.
Wrestlers prep for dual team tourney
The wrestling team will carry some momentum into the Division I, Region 6 dual team tournament Saturday, Feb. 2, at home, where it is the top seed in a 15-team field and will have a first-round bye.
The Panthers are coming off a tournament win, having totaled 218.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up New Carlisle Tecumseh (179.5) in the 20-team Raider Invitational held Jan. 25 and 26 at Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan.
"Everything about that (tournament) was successful," coach Brendan Moody said. "We won but we let three or four matches slip through our fingers because we didn't execute on the second day. It's always nice to win and be able to find things to work on. It also was a good bonding weekend and a good mental and physical test for us.
"We knew the weather was going to be bad and we knew we'd get back in Hilliard late and we didn't want the kids out driving, so we had them bring air mattresses and sleeping bags and we spent the night in the school library. We had taped the Ohio State-Michigan match and we watched that when we got back for the slumber party, then got up the next day and headed back to Logan."
Last week marked the first time this season that the Panthers had competed on three consecutive days, as they defeated Thomas 82-0 on Jan. 24 to improve to 5-0 in OCC-Cardinal duals with two league matches remaining.
"We celebrated (senior) Ben Brown's 100th career victory that night," Moody said. "Then the tournament was a mental and physical grind because of the weather, travel and just three straight days of competition. But the kids handled it well, so it was a good time."
Senior Rodney Beneker (heavyweight) and freshman Nathan Morris (120 pounds) won titles in the Raider Invitational and Brown (138) and senior Isaac Richards (126) placed second.
Finishing third were freshman Cade Mills (113), senior Cade Ryan (132) and sophomore Sam Pence (152). Sophomores Daoud Saadeh (106) and Blayne Barnes (220) and senior Justen Shaw (182) finished fourth and senior Muneeb Ajlouni (145) placed fifth.
"We haven't wrestled in that tournament since 2000 when I was a sophomore (at Darby) and assistant coach Matt Burgei was a junior," Moody said. "It brought back a lot of great memories."
Entering a home match against Utica on Thursday, Jan. 31, Beneker is 23-4, Brown is 19-8 and sophomore Bradley Weaver (195) is 18-6. Others with strong records are Ryan (18-8), Pence (20-10), Richards (14-3) and Barnes (16-7).
Maruniak wins title for boys swim team
Freshmen Casey Maruniak and Mason Peck led the boys swimming and diving team in the OCC-Cardinal meet Jan. 26 at Thomas.
Maruniak earned Darby's lone title, finishing first in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 2.72 seconds. Peck was runner-up in the 100 butterfly (54.04) and 500 freestyle (4:59.31).
Braden Bower placed third in the 200 free (1:52.34) and fifth in the 500 free (5:05.14) as the Panthers finished fourth (169) behind Jerome (398.5), Delaware (183) and Kilbourne (180.5) and ahead of Berlin (145.5), Thomas (139), Scioto (79) and Bradley (40).
The 400 free relay of Bower, Maaz Baig, Chase Ellis and Peck placed fourth (3:30.98) and the 200 free relay of Maruniak, Baig, Luke Snider and Bower (1:39.65) and the 200 medley relay of Peck, Maruniak, Snider and Ellis (1:47.89) both finished fifth. Also placing fifth was Jared Hopkins in the 100 breast (1:05.96).
The girls team finished seventh (72) in the league meet behind Jerome (282.5), Delaware (262), Kilbourne (212), Berlin (181.5), Thomas (122) and Bradley (101) and ahead of Scioto (70).
The 400 free relay of Isabel Quimba, Morgan Morcher-Thaller, Mackenzie Stellrecht and Natalie Wood turned in the Panthers' best finish, placing fifth (4:08.74). Wood finished seventh in the 100 fly (1:07.64).
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 1 -- At Dublin Jerome. The Panthers lost to the Celtics 64-50 on Jan. 4.
*Feb. 5 -- At Olentangy Berlin. The Panthers beat the Bears 47-45 on Dec. 21.
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome. The Panthers lost to the Celtics 43-38 on Jan. 4.
*Feb. 5 -- At Olentangy Berlin. The Panthers beat the Bears 55-46 on Dec. 21.
*Feb. 4 -- Pickerington North at Ten Pin Alley
Feb. 4 -- At Davidson with Bradley, *Delaware, *Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy Liberty
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 2 -- Upper Arlington Invitational
Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Utica
Feb. 2 -- Division I, Region 6 team dual tournament at home. The Panthers are seeded first of 15 teams and will face eighth-seeded Grove City or ninth-seeded Westland in second round. The quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds will be held, with the regional champion advancing to the state team tournament Feb. 10 at Ohio State's St. John Arena.