Since going 1-19 in 2016-17, the Columbus Academy girls basketball team has continued to move in a positive direction.
The Vikings finished 11-13 last season and have been flirting with a .500 record again this winter. They were 8-10 overall before playing Harvest Prep on Feb. 11 and are 1-6 in the MSL-Ohio Division.
Ron McClendon and JoAnne Adams, who are sharing coaching duties for the third season, credit the ascension to hard work.
"It's an interesting group," McClendon said. "We're trending upward. We're working hard in practice. We're just trying to convert it to a game for four quarters. ... Each year we've improved (and) the girls have gotten better."
Academy has been led by freshman point guard Sophie Spolter, who was averaging a team-high 11.5 points through 18 games.
"We're playing better than we did at the beginning of the season," Spolter said. "We're learning how to play together better. I'm happy with the way I'm playing."
McClendon and Adams have been impressed by Spolter's play and believe she'll give the Vikings a solid leader for the next three seasons.
"You're always surprised just because it's a freshman coming in as a point guard," McClendon said. "You just never know coming in as a freshman and playing against very seasoned players, but she's a very hard worker and it's great to see. Her maturity level for us has been the most astonishing thing."
"She's such a pleasant surprise," Adams said. "She's so coachable. She's just a gritty kid. As a freshman, she's earned the respect of every player because she never gives up and people have rallied around her."
Senior Shelemiah Crockett was averaging 7.1 points and her sister, freshman Aniah Crockett, was averaging 5.2.
Academy has played all season without sophomore forward Charlotte Adams, who suffered a bone bruise to her left foot during the field hockey season and has not fully recovered. Adams, who is the coach's daughter, will miss the entire season.
"That hurt us bad," McClendon said. "It's a huge blow as an enforcer, rebounder, finisher around the rim (and a) great defender. She's one of the hardest-working kids in the program."
The Vikings are seeded 15th of 24 teams in the Division III district tournament and will play host to 17th-seeded Columbus School for Girls in the first round Tuesday, Feb. 19. Academy defeated the Unicorns 40-29 on Feb. 5 behind Spolter's 14 points.
The winner plays at second-seeded Worthington Christian on Feb. 23. Academy lost to the Warriors 43-21 on Dec. 7 in league play and closes the regular season at Worthington Christian on Saturday, Feb. 16, in a makeup from Jan. 19.
In the first meeting, Academy trailed 16-10 at halftime and by just three points early the third quarter before the Warriors pulled away.
"Our coaches want to win (at least) two conference games and we want to do well in the tournament," Spolter said.
In the first round last year, Academy defeated Mount Gilead 45-30 for its first postseason win since 2009.
McClendon and Adams said earning a home postseason game this season is another highlight in the turnaround.
The future also looks bright, as the junior varsity team was 9-6 before playing Whitehall. Last season, the j.v. team finished 1-19.
"Two of our top scorers are freshmen," coach Adams said. "We're young so we make some young mistakes, but it's fun."
Boys team seeks outright league title
The boys basketball team will look to clinch the outright MSL-Ohio championship when it plays host to Whitehall on Friday, Feb. 15.
The Vikings are 5-2 in the league, ahead of Worthington Christian (4-3) and Whitehall (3-3), and have secured at least a share of the title. Academy beat Whitehall 42-40 on Jan. 23 in the first round of league play.
Chris Boyle scored 19 points, Hayden Compton had 12 and Dorrian Moultrie added 10 in a 48-43 league win at Grandview on Feb. 8.
Moultrie scored 14 points and Compton had 10 in a 48-44 win over visiting Ready on Feb. 5.
The Vikings are seeded fourth of 26 teams in the Division III district tournament and play host to 21st-seeded Marion Elgin in the first round Feb. 25.
Swimming teams win sectional titles
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams each won Division II sectional titles Feb. 9 at home.
The boys finished first of 18 teams with 247 points, ahead of second-place Olentangy Berlin (192), as Jacob Eismann won the 50-yard freestyle (22.33 seconds) and 100 backstroke (54.39).
Other individual winners were Mike DeAscentis in the 100 free (49.3) and James Cao in the 200 free (1:53). Eismann, DeAscentis, Jack Campbell and Eric DeVore won the 200 free relay (1:29.4) and 400 free relay (3:14.66), and Campbell, Cao, DeAscentis and DeVore won the 200 medley relay (1:42.11).
The girls finished first (244) of 22 teams, ahead of runner-up CSG (217).
Samantha Kass won the 100 free (55.56) and joined Sarah Cabre, Annalise Grammel and Lauren Klinefelter on the first-place 200 free relay (1:39.94).
Cabre, Grammel, Alexandra Butnariu and Mary Kate Prall won the 400 free relay (3:46.86).
The winner of each event, along with 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites, advanced to district Thursday, Feb. 14, at Ohio State.
At district, the top two finishers in each event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on district times statewide.
Hockey team splits two games in CBJ Cup
The hockey team split a pair of games in the Blue Jackets Cup, which is the league tournament for the Capital Hockey Conference.
Competing in the consolation bracket, the 14th-seeded Vikings defeated 11th-seeded Watterson 4-2 on Feb. 8 at OhioHealth Ice Haus and lost to 10th-seeded Springboro 6-4 on Feb. 9 at Chiller Dublin.
Jake Carlin scored two goals and Campbell Gwin and Luke Budzik each had one against Watterson.
Gwin scored two goals and Budzik and Jacob Sardo each had one against Springboro.
Academy is 17-14-1 overall and finished third in the CHC-Blue at 8-7 with 16 points, behind first-place Thomas Worthington (21, 9-3-2-1).
The Vikings are seeded 15th of 26 teams in the district tournament and play 16th-seeded Centerville in the first round Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Ice Haus. The winner plays fifth-seeded St. Charles in the second round the next day at Chiller North.
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus Academy bowling and wrestling teams:
Feb. 15 -- Division II girls sectional at HP Lanes. The top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 21 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 16 -- Division II boys sectional at HP Lanes. The top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 21 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 16 -- MSL-Ohio tournament at Whitehall