Based on team averages alone, Pickerington High School Central bowling coach Jason Roach expects the boys and girls teams to be in serious contention for Division I district tournament berths when they compete in sectionals this weekend at HP Lanes.

The girls team, which went 7-5 overall, 6-5 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-B Division and 5-1 in the OCC-Central to place second to Gahanna (6-0), ranked 25th in the 46-team COHSBC with a 637.9 pins per match average after defeating Hilliard Davidson 1,583-1,490 in their final regular-season match Feb. 14 at Rule 3.

Despite a 3-9 overall record, the boys team was ranked 19th (798.2) of 51 teams in the COHSBC after its 2,073-2,010 win over the Wildcats on Feb. 14.

"They have to bowl a little better than normal to make district, but when you get a group that's tight-knit and likes to bowl, that will pay off," Roach said. "They've improved tremendously. They've practiced hard and that's made them better."

The girls sectional is Friday, Feb. 22, at HP Lanes, followed the next day by the boys sectional at the same facility. From both tournaments, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.

Both teams have thrived with balance, especially the boys, who have knocked down 2,000 or more pins in six matches. Travis Allasi averaged 173.0 during the regular season, followed by Grant Gilkey (164.3), Christian Kirton (161.6), Evan Tailford (157.6) and Jamison Stoniosis (156.6).

"I had no idea I'd be this good," said Allasi, a senior who is in his first season with the team. "I've been bowling for a while, but when I first came out for practice, I saw so much talent that I was intimidated. Working hard got me to where I am, but we've all been amazing.

"We've worked so hard every single day. We've been at (Rule 3) and at other alleys trying to adapt to different conditions. We give everything we have. It doesn't matter if we win or lose. The next day, we'll be right back out there."

Central trailed Davidson by 183 pins after one game Feb. 14 but made up 246 pins over the final game and two Baker games to earn their first OCC-Central win in six contests and finish 3-8 in the COHSBC-B.

"We've done well, but most teams have beaten us in our league since it's just so tough," Roach said. "This team has overachieved all year. They can make the district (tournament) if they bowl well. We've been over 2,000 a lot so (Feb. 14) doesn't totally surprise me. We can put it all together. We'll have to do that at the sectional to get out."

Kate Merkel's 149.7 average leads the girls team, ahead of Jaycie Arnet (142.8), Kiara Kozak (132.0) and Kathy Burgess (118.7).

"We've had some ups and downs, but overall, it's been pretty good," said Arnet, a freshman. "I've focused better all year. I've kept things together and learned from my mistakes. My coaches have helped me a lot with the right place to stand, other little tips, things like that. We thought we'd be pretty balanced. I've known Kate for a while and I knew she was pretty good. But overall, we've all done very well."

Eberhardt returns to state swim meet

Nathen Eberhardt of the boys swimming team could not have missed being a Division I district champion by a smaller margin, but he is just glad to be competing in his second consecutive state meet Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

Eberhardt, a senior, finished second in the 100-yard backstroke in 51.14 seconds Feb. 15 at Ohio State, .01 of a second behind Jimmy Lapsley of New Albany. He also finished fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:42.46) to earn an at-large berth to state in that event.

"It was a fun race. I didn't even see (Lapsley) the whole race," Eberhardt said. "I really wanted that district title. I felt great during the race. I love swimming the 100 back. I always breathe to the left side of the pool and I couldn't see (Lapsley) so it was only when I finished that I realized how close the race was."

The top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Central finished 16th (45) at district behind champion Dublin Jerome (301) as 27 teams scored.

The Tigers are being represented at state for the third consecutive year. Eberhardt's older brother, Trace, finished 21st in the 100 butterfly in 2017 and Nathen placed 16th in the 100 back last season.

Eberhardt is seeded ninth at state in the 100 back and 22nd in the 200 free.

"I have things to improve (in the 200 free)," Eberhardt said. "I have definitely put in the work to do better than a 1:42."

No girls swimmers qualified for state.

Led by 13th-place finishes from Paige Christy in the 100 back (1:00.17) and the 200 free relay of Bella Jones, Kolya Larson, Megan Phillips and Natalie Reed (1:44), the Tigers finished 25th (14) behind champion Upper Arlington (306) as 27 teams scored.

Wrestlers prepare for sectional

The wrestling team will participate in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at UA, and coach Jason Allen expects the Tigers to be in the hunt for the championship.

Central, which went 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio, is seeded 16th of 45 teams in the district. The host Golden Bears are seeded second.

Other teams at the sectional include 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange and 15th-seeded Hilliard Davidson.

"It'll be a tough sectional, probably a three-way race with Upper Arlington, us and Olentangy Orange," Allen said. "If we put things together right, we could very well come out on top. Our goal is just to have our guys place in the top four. If they wrestle to their ability, we have as good shot at getting a lot of guys out."

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.

Central advanced seven wrestlers to district last year from the UA sectional, in which it finished fourth.

Boys basketball team shares league title

The boys basketball team earned its share of the OCC-Ohio championship with a 72-45 rout of visiting Gahanna on Feb. 15, holding the Lions to 10 first-half points on the way to capping a 21-1 overall regular season.

Jahvon Garcia had a game-high 16 points, Coleton Landis scored 13 and Jaidon Lipscomb and Connor Maciag each scored 10 as Central finished 9-1 in the league, tied with Pickerington North.

The Tigers led 18-6 after the first quarter and 43-10 at halftime.

Central, which was ranked third in last week's Division I state poll, is seeded third in the 47-team district tournament and will play host to 45th-seeded Westland in a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 23.

The winner will play 44th-seeded Columbus West in the second round March 2 at the home of the higher seed.

Girls team opens tourney with rout

Jocelyn Tate's career-high 16 points and 16 points from Maliya Perry powered the top-seeded girls basketball team to a 77-29 rout of visiting and 38th-seeded Groveport in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16.

Madison Greene added 12 points and Jada Tate scored 10 for Central, which is 22-1 and will play host to 44th-seeded Hamilton Township in the second round Friday, Feb. 22.

The winner will face 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 19th-seeded Marion Harding in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site. That winner will advance to a district final March 2.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave