Losing two of its four seniors to season-ending injuries late in the regular season didn't keep the Watterson High School girls basketball team from reaching one of its major goals.
For the fifth time in coach Tom Woodford's 18 seasons as coach, the Eagles played in a district final.
The emergence of sophomore guard Danielle Grim and sophomore forward Kilyn McGuff was instrumental in making that happen, particularly with their defensive performances in the Eagles' 52-26 victory over 13th-seeded Hilliard Darby in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 27 at Franklin Heights.
Fourth-seeded Watterson lost to second-seeded Newark 58-34 in a district final March 2 at Ohio Dominican to finish 23-3 overall.
"Danielle Grim and Kilyn McGuff were two huge players," senior forward Grace Jenkins said. "They both had an amazing game (against Darby), and it gave us a lot of confidence and energy. For our team to make it to (a district final) means everything. Our goal throughout the first rounds of the tournament was to get a shot at districts. We stayed focused on our goal."
Newark built a 21-11 first-quarter lead and outscored Watterson 19-4 in the third quarter. McGuff led the Eagles with 10 points.
Watterson won a district championship under Woodford in 2004 and also reached district finals in 2017, '09 and '03 before its latest run.
After losing senior guard Lauren Lucki to an injury in late January, the Eagles lost senior forward Julianna DiSabato to a season-ending injury in early February.
Watterson won its first five games after DiSabato's injury, with McGuff and Grim taking on more extensive roles both offensively and defensively.
Against Darby, Grim had 15 points and McGuff scored 12.
Woodford switched his defense to a 1-3-1 zone against Darby, limiting the Panthers to four points in the second quarter and six in the fourth.
"We needed Danielle and Kilyn," Woodford said. "As I was walking into the locker room, we've got two other seniors (Jenkins and wing player/guard Elizabeth Rabold) on the floor and they're praising the two sophomores for doing what they needed to do. They're self-motivated, every single one of them. They truly like each other and joke with each other. For all of our coaches, it's fun to be around them."
In addition to Grim and McGuff, the Eagles expect to return junior guard Paige Woodford and junior guard Emily Dixon. Woodford and Jenkins both averaged 10 points.
Woodford was named third-team all-district and Jenkins was honorable mention all-district.
"I feel good about (the future)," said coach Woodford, whose junior varsity went 20-1.
Boys basketball team begins postseason
The seventh-seeded boys basketball team opened the Division II district tournament March 2 by beating 24th-seeded Lakewood 48-42 in a second-round home game.
The Eagles improved to 14-8 and advanced to play sixth-seeded Beechcroft in a district semifinal March 5, with the winner facing top-seeded Columbus South or ninth-seeded Bexley in a district final Saturday, March 9, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 14 at Bowling Green.
Against Lakewood, Zach Sawyer scored 17 points and Jimmy Patton had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Girls bowlers end season at district
The girls bowling team finished 11th (3,008) in the 16-team Division I district tournament March 2 at HP Lanes, as the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
The Eagles competed at district after winning championships in both the CCL and the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division and then finished 12th at the sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes to advance to district.
The Eagles are losing two seniors, including Mary Pulsinelli, who was 21st in the COHSBC with a 169.9 average and finished 18th (523 three-game series) at sectional before tying for 17th (533) at district.
Also at district, senior Anna Rose bowled a 468 and sophomore Rachel Reuter rolled a 406 while juniors Isabelle Payton and Madison Shaw, sophomore Christina Rose and freshman Joy Packard were other competitors.
"We had Anna do a 195 (in her second game) and Mary had a 196 first game (at district)," coach Jerry Wagner said. "They all had a great time. Next year will be a team that's even stronger."
The boys team ended its season at sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
Senior Seth Payton led the Eagles with a 162.9 average in COHSBC action but didn't compete at sectional.
Juniors Evan Donahue and Jacob Garland and freshmen Peter Assaf, Patrick Carpenter and Jack Kish were others on the team.
Wrestlers enjoy return of program
After not having a varsity program the past two seasons, the wrestling team had 13 competitors this winter, including eight who competed at the Division II sectional Feb. 22 and 23 at Licking Valley.
"It was a great year," coach Felix Catheline said. "It would have been nice to get a kid through to districts, but we had just a tremendous season and I'm really proud of the kids. We're going to talk to the kids about different wrestling clubs they can participate in that are in the areas close to where they live since we're so spread out with some kids who live in Hilliard, some from Dublin and some as far out as Delaware."
The Eagles are losing two seniors in Max Balyeat (220 pounds), who won one sectional match and placed sixth, and Mike Ritzenthaler (152).
Also placing sixth at sectional were sophomores Kurvin Azor (145) and Matthew Johnson (195) and freshman Brady White (170). White went 11-5 in varsity matches and totaled with more than 20 victories when including matches he won against junior varsity opponents.
Sophomore Nick Youell (182) went 9-5, including winning one sectional match. Also competing at sectional were freshman Danny Siegel (160), who finished with eight wins, and freshman Leo Pavell (132).
Rounding out the program were sophomores Santino Auddino (126), Matthew Blank (145) and Charlie McAdow (220) and freshmen Patrick Randall (195) and Theo Foley (182). Auddino missed the season's second half because of injury.
"We had four kids take sixth at the sectional," Catheline said. "The last two rounds are difficult and they gave it their best effort.
"The biggest thing is that of the 11 kids I have coming back, 10 are football players and a couple will be starting on defense. This wrestling season is going to affect how they do in football. We're really excited about that. (Football) coach (Brian) Kennedy has been a big supporter of getting kids out (for wrestling)."