Through two rounds of the Division I district tournament, Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball coach Brett Norris was looking for more from his team.
The second-seeded Jaguars reached a district semifinal for the third consecutive season and hoped to advance to a third consecutive district championship game.
Standing in the way was 17th-seeded Thomas Worthington. The OCC-Cardinal Division foes met March 6 at Dublin Jerome, with the winner facing fifth-seeded Pickerington North or 10th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district final Saturday, March 9, at Great Columbus Convention Center.
"We had two (district tournament games) at home from the (successful) regular season we had, and now the fun starts," said Norris, whose team was 22-1 before playing Thomas. "The same things that were the key to our success in the regular season will still be important. We have to defend as a team and we have to play through tough stretches better than we did in the first two games. It's never going to be perfect, but with each step we take, the opponents are going to be better and we have to be a little bit better."
Last season, the Jaguars won their first district championship, defeating Westerville South 59-46 in a district final. They then defeated Reynoldsburg 56-44 in a regional semifinal before losing to Pickerington Central 43-39 in a regional final.
"Every team is going to give us their best and we have been everyone's target for the last couple of years," sophomore guard A.J. Mirgon said. "We have to continue playing together and having a lot of energy. We have to be ready to play."
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 13, at Ohio Dominican, where it will face against sixth-ranked Dublin Coffman, Newark, Olentangy Orange or Walnut Ridge. The fifth-ranked Jaguars defeated Walnut Ridge 54-44 in The Challenge on Jan. 5 at Africentric and beat Newark 43-42 in the Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic on Jan. 26 at Pickerington Central.
The regional final is March 16 at ODU.
The host Jaguars defeated 37th-seeded Lancaster 57-39 in the second round Feb. 28. Keaton Norris had 17 points, including five 3-pointers, and Mirgon and Matt Allocco both scored 12.
"We got off to a great start and we didn't sustain things defensively," coach Norris said. "There were a lot of possessions when we were really close.
"The thing with the tournament is, how you play is way less important than any other time of the year. It's about winning and getting on to the next one. We did what we needed to do."
Sawchuk qualifies for state wrestling
Deacon Sawchuk will represent the wrestling team in the Division I state tournament, which begins Thursday, March 7, and concludes Saturday, March 9, at Ohio State.
The sophomore finished fourth at 126 pounds in the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Darby, losing to Coffman's Ismael Ayoub 10--3 in the third-place match.
Sawchuk, who went 3-2 at district, lost 6-0 to eventual champion Lucas Uliano of Olentangy Liberty in a semifinal. He then defeated Pickerington Central's Trevor Mangahas 7-1 to earn his second consecutive state berth before falling to Ayoub.
Last season, Sawchuk went 0-2 at state at 106.
"It's really important to be able to go back (to state) with experience," said coach John Riggs, whose team finished 21st (29 points) at district behind champion Coffman (170) as 36 teams scored. "It's tough and this sport always leaves the coaches and the wrestlers wanting more."
Also at district, senior Zander Ellison went 3-2 and placed fifth at 138 and is a state alternate, junior Jacob Noble went 1-2 at heavyweight and junior Logan Germaine (160) and freshmen Matthew Cooper (195) and Evan Corea (113) all went 0-2. Corea advanced to district as an alternate.
Girls bowlers fall short of state
The girls bowling team finished 31 pins shy of reaching their first state berth.
The Jaguars finished fifth in the Division I district tournament March 2 at HP Lanes with 3,434 pins as Westerville Central (3,785), Big Walnut (3,629) and Westerville South (3,465) qualified for state Friday, March 8, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
"We had a couple of bad Baker games that shot us in the foot," 10th-year coach John Thompson said. "We won a league (OCC-Cardinal) title, but their ultimate goal was to go to state.
"We gave up 220 pins in spares in the second game, which you can't give up. It was so close. It was about 1.5 pins per game. If we had had that, we would have been in."
Callie Hribar (564 three-game series) was eighth overall of 104 bowlers to lead Bradley. The sophomore finished 16 pins behind Dela-ware's Kelsey Rohrer (580), who was the third and final individual state qualifier.
Sophomore Olivia Johnson (528, 20th) and senior Christy Hribar (503, 26th) both rolled three games.
The Jaguars won their first OCC-Cardinal title since 2016, going 7-0 to finish ahead of runner-up Delaware (6-1).
Christy Hribar (174.9) led the team in average, followed by Callie Hribar (167.2), Johnson (161.6), senior Ava Miller (157.2), junior Marisabel Aguilar (144.2) and sophomore Katie Yabroff (141.2).
The boys team ended its season at sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
Sophomore Brandon Dever (175.6) led the Jaguars in average, followed by freshman Zander Dietz (161.1), sophomore Nick Curran (153.0), senior Will Liberto (143.4) and junior Ben Jenkins (140.6).