As if winning its third consecutive OCC-Buckeye Division championship was not enough, the way the Olentangy High School gymnastics team pulled it off served notice that the Braves don't plan to take a step back anytime soon.

Freshman Lillian Towles won uneven bars (9.025) and the all-around (34.75), the Braves placed three in the top five on bars and five in the top seven on vault and junior Ellie McIntyre made a solid season debut by finishing third on bars (8.725). It all helped lead Olentangy to 136.3 points in the league meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington, ahead of Orange (134.25), Liberty (122.75), Westerville Central (111.45) and Big Walnut (110.8).

"Our freshmen are so strong and we rely on them a lot," said senior Madeline Vouis, who won floor exercise (9.2) and was second on vault (8.875) and fourth in the all-around (33.15). "They are just as strong as any other class on our team. It's nice for them to come out in a meet like this and have the experience to get ready for district and showcase how strong we can be. I want them to continue that all four years of high school."

Another freshman, Jaedyn Tucker, was fifth on bars (8.1). Sophomore Caroline Hise was third on vault (8.725).

"They held their own and gave us great performances," coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said. "We mixed things up a little bit to get some girls in and see what they have. We want to keep everybody healthy, too, and we're fortunate to have the strength in our team that we can do that. They're confident in themselves."

Olentangy went 4-0 in league duals and finished with 20 points, ahead of Orange (16, 3-1), Liberty (12, 2-2), Central (8, 1-3) and Big Walnut (4, 0-4).

McIntyre made her season debut after breaking both ankles during club competition last fall and was limited to one event.

"It's such a relief and it's the best feeling for me because I've been held back for so long," said McIntyre, who was cleared to return Feb. 8. "I've been in casts and physical therapy for three or four months now. It's good to get back into everything. I was able to land well (Feb. 9) and I was comfortable. It was more excitement for me than nerves."

Vouis' score on floor was her second highest of the year. She set a school record of 9.35 in the McGee Invitational on Jan. 12 at Dublin Coffman.

"I don't really care about my result as long as I am having fun on the floor. I do get excited when I break 9.0 because I've stayed above that mark the whole year, but I don't focus on that," Vouis said. "I don't need to enjoy my score. I want to make sure this team does well and we did."

Girls basketball team prepares for Patriots

With her team seeded 32nd in the 45-team Division I district tournament, girls basketball coach Kate Cummings had few spots left on the bracket by the time she got her pick during the draw Feb. 3.

As a result, the Braves will begin the postseason with a short road trip to a familiar foe when they visit 10th-seeded Liberty for a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 16.

Olentangy lost to Liberty 54-31 on Dec. 4 and 46-39 on Jan. 11 and will try to snap a three-game losing streak against the Patriots.

"There were about five spots we'd picked out (on the bracket) and they slowly got taken. We picked a familiar opponent and went from there," Cummings said. "We showed progression from the first time to the second time. We aren't intimidated. We came out against them (the second time) with intensity and confident. It's an OK matchup from the standpoint that there is some familiarity and our kids will be excited."

The winner will play 29th-seeded Delaware in a second-round game Feb. 22.

Olentangy split two games last week, losing to Hilliard Davidson 52-40 on Feb. 5 and beating Orange 62-33 on Feb. 8 to finish OCC-Buckeye play at 4-6. Meg Spohn had 13 points and Kennedie Doup added 11 against Orange.

Olentangy is 9-11 overall entering its regular-season finale Thursday, Feb. 14, at Licking Valley. The game was added to the schedule after a Jan. 29 game at Grandview was canceled because of multiple injuries for the Bobcats.

Swimmers tune up for district meet

While no boys or girls swimmers earned automatic berths to the Division I district meet Friday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State, Olentangy will be represented by six girls, three boys and all six relays.

Led by Martina Peroni's second-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 7.9 seconds) and 500 freestyle (5:07.17), both of which qualified the freshman for district, the girls scored 172 points in a sectional Feb. 9 at Kenyon College to finish third behind champion Coffman (266) as nine teams scored. Five Olentangy girls qualified in two individual events.

Other top finishes went to Anna McGrath, who was third in the 100 free (53.94) and 200 free (1:56.19); Bridget Parker, who was third in the 500 free (5:17.9) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:12.18); and Cameron Kuriger, who placed third in the 100 butterfly (56.94) and fifth in the 200 free (1:58.1).

Preston Kuriger was third in the 100 backstroke (54.7) to lead the boys team to 63 points and sixth place behind champion St. Charles (299) as 10 teams scored. The 400 free relay was fifth (3:29.29).

At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 22 and 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.

Divers did not compete at sectional. The boys district meet is Thursday, Feb. 14, at Ohio State, followed the next day by the girls. The top four boys advance to state Feb. 23, and the top five girls advance to state Feb. 21.

Hockey team to face Pioneers

After a first-round loss in the Blue Jackets Cup, the hockey team refocused for the district tournament, which it will open Saturday, Feb. 16, against Orange at Chiller North.

Olentangy is seeded seventh of 26 teams. Orange, against which the Braves split two games during the regular season, is ninth.

The Braves lost to the Pioneers 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 2 and won 5-2 on Jan. 12.

The winner will play eighth-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier or 26th-seeded Mason in the second round Sunday, Feb. 17, at OhioHealth Ice Haus. That winner will face second-seeded Upper Arlington, 17th-seeded Watterson or 24th-seeded Cincinnati Sycamore in a district quarterfinal Feb. 23.

That means a potential rematch with the Golden Bears, who defeated the Braves 5-2 in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 7 at the Ice Haus. Noah English scored on two of Olentangy's first three shots, but UA tied the game by the end of the first period and took the lead for good on a shorthanded goal with 4.8 seconds left in the second.

Goaltender Dominik Rusnak made 24 saves as the Braves fell to 17-12-0-3.

Drummond signs with Elon

Football player Ian Drummond announced Feb. 6 that he will play at Elon.

Drummond, a tight end, caught 38 passes for 566 yards and seven touchdowns last season as the Braves went 5-6 and advanced to the Division II, Region 5 playoffs.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball and gymnastics teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 15 -- Home vs. Liberty. The Braves lost to the Patriots 64-53 on Jan. 11.

Feb. 19 -- At Marysville

March 1 -- Home vs. 19th-seeded Northland in second round of Division I district tournament. The Braves are seeded 16th.

GYMNASTICS

Feb. 14 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Orange

*League contest