Trailing Wellington by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter, Columbus Academy boys basketball coach Jeff Warstler and his players weren't ready to see their season end.
In an attempt to change momentum, Warstler went to a zone pressure defense. The strategy played a key role in the host Vikings' 77-73 win over the 12th-seeded Jaguars on March 2 in the second round of the Division III district tournament.
"When we changed to a zone press, that's when the run came," Warstler said. "We changed the game. The seniors get a win in their last game on the home floor against a team (from) another private school. We have great respect for what they do over there. It was one heck of a basketball game. We were glad to be a part of it and we're glad we came out on top."
Fourth-seeded Academy was 19-4 before playing seventh-seeded Africentric in a district semifinal March 5, with that winner playing top-seeded Harvest Prep or 11th-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek in a district final Friday, March 8, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The district champion plays Frankfort Adena or Chesapeake in a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 13, at Ohio University. The regional final is March 16 at OU.
Trailing 42-32 at halftime, the Vikings outscored the Jaguars 25-13 in the third quarter to take a 57-55 lead. Academy then opened a double-digit lead in the fourth before holding off a Wellington rally.
Dalyn DeCree led a balanced attack for the Vikings with 23 points. Chris Boyle, Hayden Compton and Dorrian Moultrie each added 15.
"It's all about staying focused and playing good defense and that's what we did," DeCree said. "We all had to be on the same page."
Senior Dallas Patrick, who reached 1,000 career points earlier this season, scored 38 to lead Wellington.
"We've been in close games all year long and there was no way we were going to run away with that thing," Warstler said. "We knew that was going to be a ballgame and we knew that Dallas Patrick was going to be tough to stop. I didn't know he was going to go for 21 in the first half. You have to give credit to Dorrian for manning him up (in the second half)."
Academy opened the postseason with a 71-42 win over 21st-seeded Marion Elgin on Feb. 25 at home. DeCree scored 15 points, Moultrie had 12, Carter Warstler scored 11 and Jared Kass added 10.
Wrestlers close season at district
The wrestling team saw its season end in the Division III district tournament March 1 and 2 at Rayland Buckeye Local.
The Vikings had five wrestlers at district, but did not have anyone finish in the top four to advance to state.
Freshman Gyvnn Mendenhall led Academy, going 2-2 at 195 pounds to finish the season 23-6.
Competing in his second district tournament, sophomore Chris Sugar went 1-2 at 132 to finish 30-8. Last season, he was 0-2 at district.
Sugar was leading Crooks-ville's Garrett Louterbaugh 8-0 in his second consolation match before being caught in a headlock, leading to a pin midway through the second period (2 minutes, 10 seconds) and ending his season.
"It's not what I expected," Sugar said. "Overall, I'm happy. I think I could have made it to state this year, though. I was winning my last match 8-0, but I got caught."
Senior Eric Menq went 1-2 at 170 to finish 18-14. Sophomore Ethan Stall went 0-2 at 182 to finish 21-11, and classmate Keir Gorospe went 0-2 at 126 to finish 24-14.
"We had five district qualifiers this year and only one of them was a senior," Sugar said.
Others eligible to return are juniors Grant Hillman (182) and Sam Lichten (182), sophomore Ethan Halpern (138) and freshmen Chase Chavarria (220), Matt Comisar (152/160) and Zara Syed (120),
Academy finished 36th (11 points) at district behind champion Galion Northmor (114) as 46 teams scored.
Hockey team enjoys success
Playing predominantly a varsity schedule for the first time, the hockey team finished 17-15-1 overall.
The 15th-seeded Vikings lost to 16th-seeded Centerville 5-2 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 16 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
"I thought we had a strong first varsity season," coach Corey Taber said. "The level of play was a step up for many of our guys, but we were fortunate to have a great group of seniors that allowed us to be competitive against some very strong teams."
Senior forward Cole Walker led Academy in scoring during Capital Hockey Conference play with 16 goals and nine assists. Senior defenseman Gunnar Geiger had eight goals and 12 assists, senior forward Jacob Sardo had 11 goals, sophomore forward Campbell Gwin had 10 goals and freshman forward Jake Carlin had 10 assists.
Sophomore Max Crane saw most of the playing time in goal, with freshman Kyle Bernstorf also contributing.
Walker was named first-team all-CHC-Blue and second-team all-CHC, Geiger was first-team all-CHC-Blue and Sardo was honorable mention all-CHC-Blue.
Others eligible to return are junior Philip Soderberg (forward), sophomores Luke Budzik (forward), Patrick Daly (defenseman), Andrew Golden (forward) and Nate Rausch (forward) and freshmen Jack Carlin (forward), Connor Harris (defenseman), Allen Koganov (defenseman), Arden Preza (forward), Alex Sterkowicz (forward), Max Walker (forward) and Andrew Zaki (forward).
"Although Columbus Academy is a smaller school, we've gathered a lot of momentum around the hockey program and have several younger players developing quickly," Taber said. "We're looking forward to another competitive season next year."