The Big Walnut High School boys basketball team closed the regular season with three consecutive victories to secure its highest win total in 16 years.
Now the Golden Eagles are preparing to open the Division I district tournament against 15th-seeded Gahanna or 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a second-round game Friday, March 1, at the home of the higher seed.
Seeded 26th, Big Walnut will have had 12 days off between games, as it last played Feb. 16, when it defeated Mount Vernon 46-36 to improve to 14-8 overall. The Golden Eagles last won 14 games in the 2002-03 season, when they finished 14-7.
Big Walnut hasn't won 15 games in a season since 1999-2000, when it finished 15-6.
"We took a bye, and that's going to give us some extra practice time, and we'll take a couple days off," coach Brett Bartlett said. "We kind of worked on fundamentals that first week back, then we'll have a week to prepare (for Gahanna or Scioto)."
Gahanna would be a familiar postseason opponent. The Lions, who were 14-8 before playing Scioto on Feb. 23, ended Big Walnut's season a year ago in the first round of the district tournament, winning 77-55.
"They just jumped on us early and we didn't really play well until the second half," Bartlett said. "They lost a lot (of players) from last year. They only have one senior on the roster who plays. But anything can happen in the tournament."
A win would give Big Walnut its first tournament victory under Bartlett in his four seasons leading the program.
The second-round winner will face third-seeded Pickerington Central, 44th-seeded Columbus West or 45th-seeded Westland in a district semifinal March 6.
Against Mount Vernon, Kegan Hienton had 16 points and Jagger Barnett and Jordan Koebel each scored eight for the Golden Eagles, who led 25-18 at halftime.
Brody Lawhun led all scorers with 18 points in Big Walnut's 53-40 win over visiting Groveport in its OCC-Capital Division finale Feb. 15. Hienton added 11 points and Carson Becker scored 10.
The Golden Eagles finished third in the OCC-Capital at 6-4, behind Newark (8-2) and Canal Winchester (7-3) and ahead of Groveport (5-5), New Albany (4-6) and Franklin Heights (0-10).
Girls team cruises in tourney opener
Payton Carter had 12 points to lead 11 scorers for the girls basketball team in a 61-4 victory over 23rd-seeded Horizon Science Academy in the first round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 19.
Erin Boehm and Avery Schone added nine points apiece for the third-seeded Golden Eagles.
Big Walnut was 17-5 before playing 24th-seeded Columbus International in the second round Feb. 22, with the winner facing sixth-seeded Beechcroft or 14th-seeded Bloom-Carroll in a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the home of the higher seed.
That winner plays fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder, fifth-seeded London, 10th-seeded Whitehall or 18th-seeded Lakewood in a district final Friday, March 1.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 5 at Springfield.
Postseason underway for bowling teams
After closing the regular season at 15-2 overall, the girls bowling team expects even more success in the postseason.
"This group of girls as freshmen went 1-13," coach Scott Morrison said. "They've set all kinds of school records and team records. I got a hold of some athletes. ... They're competitive, and they don't like losing."
Senior Kaitlyn Morrison, a University of Louisville signee, had a team-high 182.1 average during the regular season, with a series high of 448.
Anna Turner (166.4, 399), Caitlyn Lambert (153.2, 493) and Ashleigh Westervelt (155.8, 418) also were among the top contributors for Big Walnut, which finished 5-2 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Westerville South for second behind Westerville Central (6-1) and went 9-2 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division Central to tie Delaware for second behind Central (10-1).
The girls and boys teams competed in the Division I sectional Feb. 22 and 23, respectively, at HP Lanes, where the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district tournament Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 8 and 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The boys team closed the regular season at 10-6 overall, 7-4 in the COHSBC-A and 3-4 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Johnny Lemaster had a team-high 189.4 average with a series high of 480, followed by Jacob Bowens (183.5, 439), Bryan Mengel (183, 459) and Erin Hoover (181, 454).
Postseason begins for wrestling team
The wrestling team competed in a 10-team Division I sectional Feb. 23 at Watkins Memorial, where the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Hilliard Darby.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.
Gymnasts compete at district meet
The gymnastics team competed in the district meet Feb 23 at Worthington Kilbourne.
The top three teams advanced to the state team meet Friday, March 1, at Hilliard Bradley, and top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to state individual meet Saturday, March 2, at Bradley.
Swim teams end season at district
Freshman Gabe Charles of the boys swimming and diving team closed out the season by setting personal-best times in two individual events at the Division I district meet held Feb. 14 and 15 at Ohio State.
Charles finished 25th in the 500-yard freestyle (5 minutes, 4.07 seconds) and 28th in the 100 butterfly (56.19). He also teamed with freshman Nathan Wion and sophomores Charlie Jaeger and Braden Buckler to finish 27th in the 400 free relay (season-best 3:44.29).
Also for the boys team, freshman Micah Tillar finished 14th (296.55 points) and senior Trevor Ambrose finished 30th (108.1) in diving.
The girls team was represented at district by two divers in sophomore Mackenna Ames (21st, 137.75) and freshman Eva Lane (23rd, 133.55).
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event, the top five boys divers and the top four girls divers automatically qualified for the state meet held Feb. 21-23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
In addition, 16 at-large berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times statewide.
Other expected returnees for the boys team include juniors Camden Andrian, John Grumney and Grady Hemingway and freshmen Bryan Vance, Jameson Welker and Shane White. Among the other expected returnees for the girls team are junior Kate VandeKieft, sophomore Jordan May and freshmen Samantha Blackburn.