The Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team is awaiting the start of its play in the Division I district tournament.
The 17th-seeded Cardinals, who are 15-7, will play host to 21st-seeded Groveport in the second round Friday, March 1, after having a first-round bye. The Cruisers improved to 14-9 by beating 23rd-seeded St. Charles 50-40 in the first round Feb. 23.
"The kids are excited to get started," said coach Sean Luzader, whose team hasn't played since defeating Westerville South 72-70 on Feb. 19 to close the regular season. "But we'll have our hands full. Groveport is a scary team and they've beaten some of the top teams in the district, so we know they're capable of beating anyone in central Ohio. They're pretty athletic, but I think they play better at home, so that's one advantage we have."
The Cardinals have played without 6-foot-9 center Ben Wight since Jan. 25, when he suffered a foot injury in a game against Dublin Jerome.
"He's still a question mark, but we're hoping to have him because he can be a difference-maker," Luzader said. "If he plays, he gives us an advantage in size and experience and that makes the guys around him more confident and passionate."
The winner plays second-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 37th-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 6, at a site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final March 9 at Greater Columbus Convention Center.
"Groveport has a guard, (Nakhi) Taylor, who averages about 14 points per game and is an all-star," Luzader said. "He seems to be their spark plug. But they have some good perimeter shooters (in Javon Miller, Martez Knight and Scotty Lomax) around him and they shot it better (against St. Charles) than I thought they would."
Against South, Jalen Sullinger had 33 points and Charlie Mamlin scored 13, making four of the team's eight 3-pointers. Isaac Settles added 11 points.
"We played very well against South and had a strong support cast for Jalen," Luzader said. "Jamare Razor has been playing very well since Ben went down. Jamare had 12 rebounds against South and had nine in the game before that. He's done so well on the boards."
Season ends for girls basketball team
The girls basketball team lost at sixth-seeded Westerville South 56-33 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 to finish 15-9 overall.
The 15th-seeded Cardinals had beaten 23rd-seeded Kilbourne 50-38 in a first-round home game Feb. 16.
Thomas played South without its second-leading scorer in senior Sarah Charley, who was playing in a national field hockey tournament.
Senior Breanne Beatty had 18 points, surpassing 1,000 for her career midway through the first quarter. South took a 10-9 lead on a 3-pointer by Gabby Hutcherson in the final minute of the quarter and led the rest of the way.
"We were missing makeable shots and (South) had (Hutcherson) catch fire behind the 3-point line and (Aja Austin) really hurt us on the offensive boards," coach Bill Sperlazza said. "But tip your hat to South. They're one of the best teams in the area, if not the state. They have balance and a lot of good weapons."
Besides Beatty, who finished with 1,025 career points and also set the program's single-season scoring record with 412, the Cardinals had no other players score more than four points against South.
Thomas finished 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place third behind Hilliard Darby (12-2) and Dublin Scioto (10-4).
"It was an awesome season," Sperlazza said. "We won 15 games. When I took this job, everyone told me, you're losing (2018 graduate) Jazzlynn Gaiters so it's going to be a tough season. I understood that, but we had a great group here. Breanne Beatty is the best player I've ever coached and one of the finest people I've ever coached. She is a warrior who plays through pain and adversity. When you have someone like her to lead the group, you always have a chance."
Beatty was named first-team all-league and Charley was second-team all-league.
"Sarah is the finest pure athlete I have coached," Sperlazza said. "She's the fastest and the best jumper. She's 5-foot-5 and led us in total defensive rebounds. Missing her was a disadvantage, but as a coach, my concern is the well-being of a player. I encourage our kids to play as many sports as possible. With that in mind, her future is field hockey. We knew this was coming back in like August.
"If you told me I could have her for a whole season, but not on Feb. 22, I'd say, 'Give me Sarah Charley.'"
Thomas also is losing seniors Haley Byrnes and Amia Samuels.
Among the expected returnees are juniors Brooke Ackley and Emma Wince and sophomores Reid Dunbar and Lauren Gerber. Ackley, a guard, was honorable mention all-league.
Five wrestlers headed to district
Five members of the wrestling team will compete in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Mentor after qualifying from a 10-team sectional Feb. 23 at Marysville.
Sophomore Mason Gates (220 pounds) and freshman Michael Blain (120) both finished second at sectional, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district. Freshman Channing Thornton (113) placed third and sophomore Majed Ahmad (170) and freshman Charlie Erickson (126) both placed fourth.
Gates is 24-18 entering district, from where the top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State. Blain is 16-24, Thornton is 11-15, Ahmad is 13-27 and Erickson is 2-16.
Xavier Braden (132) finished fifth at sectional and is a district alternate. He is 8-2.
Nick Harris (138) placed sixth and finished 14-22 for the Cardinals, who scored 87 points to place sixth behind champion Ashland (315).
Matthews-Napper leads girls bowling team
Junior Ruby Matthews-Napper rolled a 506 three-game series in the Division I sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes to help the girls bowling team advance to the district tournament Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.
The Cardinals totaled 3,097 pins to place 10th of 37 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (3,777), as the top 16 teams qualified for district.
Matthews-Napper placed 31st of 222 competitors and was followed by Hannah Innes (36th, 498), Ohana Trevino (66th, 441), McKenzie Barritt (67th, 439) and Paige Stephens (109th, 374).
The boys team will be represented at district by sophomore Luka Srsic and junior Nate Johnson.
At the sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, Srsic rolled a 570 to place 43rd of 242 competitors and earn the 11th district-qualifying spot. Johnson rolled a 558 to finish 53rd and secure the final individual district berth.
Also competing in three games for the Cardinals were Taven Holcomb (tied for 87th, 507) and Dominic Marsh (tied for 179th, 305). Jacob Filipkowski (210) competed in two games and Jacob Litten (84) competed in one.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 8 (girls) and March 9 (boys) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Gymnasts conclude season at district
The gymnastics team placed 15th (125.1) of 24 teams in the district meet Feb. 23 at Kilbourne.
Thornville Sheridan (145.205) won its third consecutive district title and will be joined in the team state meet Friday, March 1, at Bradley by Jerome (139.8) and Olentangy (139.65) as the top three teams advanced.
None of the Cardinals finished in the top eight in any event or the all-around to qualify for the state individual meet Saturday, March 2 at Bradley.
Sophomore Audrey Maxwell led the Cardinals in the all-around, placing 43rd of 92 competitors with a 31.625. She was followed by junior Regan Macerollo (31.0) and freshman Haley Burkett (30.725).
Maxwell also had team-best finishes on vault (8.25, 26th) and uneven bars (7.45, 57th) and tied senior Emma Zedeker for 42nd on balance beam (8.2). Macerollo led the team on floor exercise (8.425, tied for 50th) and tied for 61st (7.3) of 143 competitors on bars.
Burkett tied for 54th (8.075) of 149 competitors on beam and tied for 70th (7.9) of 144 competitors on vault. Sophomore Macy Patton tied for 67th (8.25) of 147 competitors on floor.
Zedeker was the lone senior on the roster.