Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Brett Howden faced a dilemma before the season when it came to his goaltenders, Garrett Alderman and Cam Keller.
That hasn't changed even as the Golden Bears prepare for the postseason, but Howden considers his two goalies a huge reason why UA has won 23 games and is seeded second in the district tournament.
With Keller, a senior, and Alderman, a sophomore, alternating starts, the Bears are 23-7-2-1 entering their tournament opener Sunday, Feb. 17, against 17th-seeded Watterson or 24th-seeded Cincinnati Sycamore at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
"It's a blessing and a curse because it makes our decisions tough when it comes time for these types of do-or-die games because we truly have two No. 1 goalies," Howden said. "We've explained to each of them all year that if one of them takes the net from the other one, they have to ensure that they don't give it back. They're both technical and they're both gamers. They both love to compete."
Keller and Alderman -- who also split time in net last season -- agree that Keller covers more ground with his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame and has superior glove skills, and that Alderman moves increasingly well from side-to-side and has improved his reaction time.
Their statistics are almost identical.
In 18 games, Alderman has an .890 save percentage, stopping 308 of 346 shots, and an 11-4-2-1 record. Keller has appeared in 16 games and has an .889 save percentage, stopping 248 of 279 shots, and a 12-3 record.
"I've gotten better every day trying to push myself to have that No. 1 spot. Garrett is doing the same," Keller said. "Our playing styles are different, but we both have that potential to do really well."
Alderman, who stands 6-0, 165 pounds, said he has seen considerable improvement from himself throughout this season and thinks of this season as good preparation for next year, when he hopes to be the clear-cut top goalie.
"I'd say my vision is getting better in terms of seeing the puck and where it's going. I feel like moving side to side within the net is more of a strength of mine this year," Alderman said. "Compared to last year, I think I've improved overall. My numbers are better and we're winning more. The guys in front of us are putting in more goals, but on the back end, we have to be strong goalies."
Keller made 20 saves in a 5-2 win over sixth-seeded Olentangy in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 7 at the Ice Haus. Two nights later, Alderman stopped 25 shots as third-seeded UA fell to second-seeded Olentangy Liberty 1-0 in overtime.
The Bears have their most wins since going 23-10-2 in 2015-16 under longtime coach Jay Graham, who now is in his third season at Watterson.
UA defeated the Eagles 7-1 on Dec. 2.
The second-round winner will play seventh-seeded Olentangy, eighth-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier, ninth-seeded Olentangy Orange or 26th-seeded Mason in a district quarterfinal Feb. 23.
"(Our seeding) is an honor from our peers because that's selected by the rest of the coaches," Howden said. "(Dublin) Jerome is a clear-cut No. 1. There are a lot of good teams this year. If you look at the bracket as a whole, our side is definitely the tough side with (sixth-seeded) Moeller, (third-seeded Olentangy) Liberty, Orange and Olentangy. Six of the top nine teams are on our side. It will come down to who wants it more."
Gymnasts finish second in OCC meet
With one of its top competitors out for the season because of an injury, the gymnastics team wrapped up its second consecutive OCC-Central championship despite finishing second at the league meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
Led by Addy Pittenger's runner-up finishes on floor exercise (9.2) and uneven bars (8.175), a fourth-place effort on vault (8.1) and a third-place finish in the all-around (33.1), UA scored 129.1 points to finish just behind Hilliard Davidson (129.8) and ahead of Marysville (126.7), Grove City (114.5), Central Crossing (106.925), Westland (98.7), Dublin Coffman (96.45) and Franklin Heights (47.925).
Sydney Rose was second on balance beam (8.3) and sixth on floor (8.7) and Taylor Shockley was third on floor (8.8) and tied for third on bars (8.05).
UA was missing Mia Tzagournis, who is out for the season after injuring her right foot in January, as well as Paige Lively and Neila Sarkis. Coach Brittany Maynard hopes Lively and Sarkis can return for the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne.
"It's hard with those injured girls out. We've had to make up some points and we've thrown some girls in and had some high expectations for them," Maynard said. "The girls were ecstatic. They felt like this was one of our best meets. We have some work to do for district, but we are proud of where they are."
Despite finishing behind Davidson at the league meet, the Bears still won the overall league title. They went 7-0 in dual meets and finished with 28 points, ahead of the Wildcats (26, 5-2), Marysville (24, 6-1), Grove City (18, 4-3), Central Crossing (14, 3-4), Coffman (8, 2-5), Westland (8, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (2, 0-7).
Swimmers heading to district meet
Thirty swimmers -- 17 girls and 13 boys -- will represent UA in the Division I district meet Friday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State.
Riley Huddleston is the top seed in the 50-yard freestyle (23.66), and her wins in that event and the 100 free (51.95) at the Bears' home sectional Feb. 9 were among 10 overall for both teams.
UA swept the team titles. The girls scored 385.5 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Watterson (206.5) as 16 teams scored and the boys amassed 317 points to finish well ahead of Davidson (171) as 15 teams scored.
Both teams swept all three of their respective relays.
Other winners were Avery Catalano in the girls 100 breaststroke (1:07.87) and Avery Voss in the boys 50 free (21.25).
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 times statewide.
Divers did not compete at sectional. The boys diving district meet is Thursday, Feb. 14, at Ohio State, and the girls district meet will be the next day at OSU.
The top four boys divers at district advance to state Feb. 23, and the top five girls divers advance to state Feb. 21.
Girls team prepares to face Stallions
With his team seeded seventh in the Division I district tournament, girls basketball coach Chris Savage opted not to go after familiar foe Newark and instead enter a bracket in which it could face fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district final.
UA will get another familiar opponent first, as it will play host to 33rd-seeded DeSales in a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 16.
"I didn't think Newark was that good a matchup for us. Not that Reynoldsburg necessarily is, either, but it's a little different path for us," Savage said. "I figured we'd be right around the seventh, eighth or ninth seed. All of our losses are to teams seeded better than us."
UA lost to Newark in a district final last year and 81-49 in its second game this season, on Nov. 28. The Wildcats were ranked eighth in last week's state poll.
The Bears split their final two regular-season games last week, losing to Westerville South 65-35 on Feb. 5 and defeating Marysville 45-33 on Feb. 8 to improve to 16-6 overall and finish 8-2 in the OCC-Central.
Already the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,548 points, Macy Spielman also became its all-time assists leader Feb. 1 against Westland. She had 329 career assists entering last week, two ahead of Tricia Honeycutt, who is one of Savage's assistant coaches.
The Bears opened the season with a 51-39 home win over DeSales on Nov. 26. The Stallions upset UA in a first-round game two weeks ago.
Savage is a 1995 graduate of DeSales who coached the Stallions from 2004-07, winning three CCL titles, before coming to UA.
"When it came their time to pick, I thought they might choose us," Savage said. "They're a good shooting team and they're disciplined. They'll play hard. The key for us (going forward) will be consistency. (Westerville South) was one of the few games we haven't played up to the level of our competition. We have to raise our level of play."
The UA-DeSales winner will play 25th-seeded Licking Heights in the second round Feb. 22.
Athletes announce college decisions
Ten student-athletes annou-nced their college decisions Feb. 6.
Caroline Beery will compete in women's track and field at John Carroll, Josephine Boschert will compete in women's rowing at Central Oklahoma, Nick Fisanick will play football at Capital, Charlie Fleming will play baseball at Denison, Nathan Junk will play football and men's lacrosse at Kenyon, Ben Krimm will play football at Pennsylvania, Sam Schadek will play football at Dayton, Hannah Sharp will play field hockey at Allegheny, Jud Utgard will play football at Brown and Andrew Whetsell will play baseball at Marietta.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 15 -- At Dublin Coffman. The Golden Bears lost to the Shamrocks 58-34 on Jan. 11.
Feb. 22 -- Home vs. 36th-seeded Mount Vernon in first round of Division I district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded eighth of 47 teams.
*Feb. 14 -- At Westland