Coach Megan Beidelman said the Olentangy Berlin High School girls basketball team was hitting its stride at the most important time of the season, but she wanted to make sure her players weren't losing their edge.
As the final regular-season games approached and with the Division II district tournament looming, Beidelman called in reinforcements to help get the Bears ready for the road ahead. She brought in members of the boys junior varsity and freshman teams to prepare her players for the coming schedule.
"It's a good matchup (against the boys) because they are athletic, taller and stronger," said Jess Nation, a junior post player. "Coach does that every so often because it better prepares us to go up against teams that are bigger, stronger and more athletic."
The Bears improved to 12-9 overall and finished 6-8 in the OCC-Cardinal Division by defeating Worthington Kilbourne 67-55 on Feb. 8, and the victory guaranteed the first-year program would finish with a winning record. The Bears close the regular season Saturday, Feb. 16, at Cardington, the third seed in the Division III district tournament.
Berlin enters the postseason having played 18 Division I opponents. Seeded 12th, it plays host to 14th-seeded Bloom-Carroll on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the first round.
"I think we are starting to hit our stride, and I definitely think our schedule gives us an advantage," Beidelman said. "Anytime you play a good schedule in the regular season and play against good teams like (Hilliard) Darby, (Dublin) Scioto, (Dublin) Jerome, Thomas (Worthington) or Watterson, it helps. Whether or not you win those games, they are going to make you better. We're always talking about it not being whether we win or lose, but if we're learning."
Bloom-Carroll was 11-10 before playing Watkins Memorial on Feb. 13. Chloe Davis, a 6-2 senior post player, has surpassed 1,000 career points.
"Bloom-Carroll is a good team," Beidelman said. "I saw them play on (Feb. 4) and I have seen some film on them. They have talented players and a good post player. It should be a good first-round game."
The winner visits sixth-seeded Beechcroft on Feb. 22 for a second-round game.
The Bears had a four-game winning streak snapped against Darby on Feb. 5, losing 67-49 with a roster of only five players because of illness.
"Everybody stayed on the floor and played really, really hard," said Nation, who scored 20 points.
Through 20 games, Nation was averaging team highs of 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Maddie Goodman was averaging 9.3 points and shooting a team-best 44.3 percent (54-for-122) from the floor. Sophomore guard/forward Courtney Suchan was averaging 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds and leading the Bears in assists (3.2), steals (3.1) and blocks (1.2).
"We're playing pretty well and doing a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season," Goodman said. "We have improved defensively and communication helps everyone. ... It makes sure everyone is on the same page and it helps increase our energy level."
Beidelman believes Berlin still has to prove itself.
"Going into this postseason our record is (12-9) and it's average, so some people aren't going to take us seriously," she said. "That's fine. I've told (our players) that they have to earn respect."
Robinson wins lead swimmers at sectional
Brogan Robinson won two events in a Division II sectional Feb. 9 to lead the boys swimming team to a runner-up finish (192 points) behind host Columbus Academy (247).
Robinson finished first in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 2.02 seconds) and 500 freestyle (4:51.67). He is seeded first in both events at district Thursday, Feb. 14, at Ohio State.
Robinson also was on a pair of runner-up relays with Garrett Graybill, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull: the 200 medley (1:45.95) and 200 free (1:33.65).
The sixth-place 400 free relay (3:59.85) advanced with Pietro Pozzi, Chenxi Zhang, Ethan Harsh and Zach Lambert.
Graybill won the 100 butterfly (57.73) and was fourth in the 200 IM (2:11.27), and Lambert was second in the 200 free (1:55.72) and third in the 500 free (5:15.61). Paull placed second in the 50 free (22.8) and third in the 100 free (51.66), and Nebraska was fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.8).
The girls finished fourth (101) of 22 teams behind champion Academy (244) as Grace Butcher won the 100 breast (1:06.07) and placed fourth in the 100 fly (1:00.63).
Two girls relays advanced to district: the third-place 200 medley relay (1:56.94) of Callista Rousher, Butcher, Lauren Delligatti and Staci Nation and the fifth-place 200 free relay (1:48.64) of Butcher, Julia Ritzler, Nation and Rousher.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to state Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded in each event based on district times statewide.
Sophomore diver Graham Reed also will compete district. The top three boys divers advance to state Feb. 20.
Gymnasts finish second in league meet
Madison Nietfeld led the gymnastics team to a second-place finish in the OCC-Cardinal meet Feb. 9 at Thomas.
She was fourth in the all-around (34.55) behind champion Raegan Ernst (36.925) of Jerome, which finished first with a score of 138.9 as the Bears scored 136.55.
Nietfeld scored 8.525 on uneven bars (sixth), 8.725 on vault (eighth), 8.625 on balance beam (ninth) and 8.675 on floor exercise (16th).
Olivia Boone was 10th in the all-around (34.025) led by her 8.775 on vault (seventh) and 8.65 on beam (tied for seventh). Meghan McGuire was 11th in the all-around (33.475) with a top performance of 9.0 on vault (third), and Elise Hedrick was 13th in the all-around (33.225) with an 8.2 on bars (tied for ninth).
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 15 -- Home vs. Delaware. The Bears lost to the Pacers 59-39 on Jan. 11.
Feb. 25 -- At top-seeded Columbus South in first round of Division II district tournament. The Bears are seeded 23rd.
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. 19 -- Liberty, Olentangy and Orange at Sawmill Lanes
Feb. 14 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Orange
Feb. 16 -- 22nd-seeded Troy in first round of district tournament at Chiller North. Winner plays third-seeded Liberty in second round Feb. 17 at OhioHealth Ice Haus. Winner plays sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller, 18th-seeded Kettering Alter or 21st-seeded Gahanna in quarterfinal Feb. 23. The Bears are seeded 19th.
*Feb. 14 -- At Delaware