It was a night of celebration for the Westerville South High School girls basketball team March 2 at Ohio Dominican.
In a game in which senior Sommer Pitzer and junior Anyssa Jones reached milestones, the sixth-seeded Wildcats captured their second consecutive Division I district title by defeating eighth-seeded Gahanna 70-58.
"This is incredible," senior Peyton Guice said. "Last year we beat (Dublin) Coffman, so we had the monkey off our back. Coming back here was so amazing, getting our second district title in a row. (Winning) back-to-back, it's amazing."
South played in its third consecutive district title game, having defeated Coffman 68-58 last season to avenge a 65-38 loss to the Shamrocks in 2017.
The Wildcats were 19-5 before playing defending state champion Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal March 5 at Otterbein, with the winner playing Newark or Reynoldsburg in the regional final Friday, March 8, at Otterbein.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal March 15 at Ohio State.
Last season, South defeated Newark 62-57 in a regional semifinal before losing to Central 60-52 in the final.
The Wildcats lost to Reynoldsburg 68-37 on Jan. 23.
South was in control for most of the game against Gahanna, leading by as many as 17 points in the second half.
"It feels great," first-year coach Erick Herzberg said. "We didn't want to jump the gun. We wanted to focus on (winning) the (OCC-Buckeye Division) first, but once we got that done, we were eying the district. We had a great week of practice."
Gabby Hutcherson led the Wildcats with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. Aja Austin had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Guice and Pitzer had 12 points apiece and Jones scored 11.
Pitzer became the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,147 points, surpassing 2015 graduate Chenelle Moore, who finished with 1,142. Moore is a senior forward at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Jones reached 1,000 career points with a first-quarter basket. She entered the game four points shy of the mark and entered the regional semifinal with 1,007.
"Last year we brought the same amount of intensity, if not more," Jones said. "We played really well together (in the district final) and I'm proud of that. We've been working towards a goal all year and we played really well ... It's tough going back-to-back."
With Pitzer in foul trouble, Guice took over at point guard and helped her team maintain control.
"That's what I do," said Guice, who scored the first six points of the second half for a 42-27 lead. "If my teammate goes down, I have to help her out. I have her back, she has mine."
The Wildcats advanced to the district final with a 56-54 win over 14th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley on Feb. 27 at Heath. Jones scored 24 points and Hutcherson added eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Morton to wrestle at state tourney
In only his third year in the sport, junior wrestler Aaron Morton earned a Division I state berth by placing second at district March 2 at Hilliard Darby.
Morton reached the final at 160 pounds before losing to Olentangy Liberty's Connor Brady 14-2. Brady, a Virginia Tech recruit, is ranked first nationally in the weight class by InterMat Wrestling.
"I'm happy with the way I wrestled," Morton said. "I'm obviously not happy that I lost, but I know where I stand and where to get better."
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Thursday, March 7, through Saturday, March 9, at Ohio State.
Morton originally was expected to miss the postseason because of a suspension but was reinstated Feb. 20.
"I was super pumped," he said after qualifying for state. "It was like a weight off my chest that I achieved one of my goals. ... I'm surprised, but I always knew if I worked hard this was possible. My coaches believe in me."
Morton is 37-3 and will face Medina's Ethan Silvis (43-8) in the first round at state.
Senior Jacob Shalvey (182) and sophomore Brian Tennant (113) also competed at district, with Shalvey going 2-2 to finish 27-23 and Tennant going 1-2 to finish 15-24.
The Wildcats tied Hilliard Davidson for 23rd (26 points) behind champion Coffman (170) as 36 teams scored.
Bowling teams qualify for state
The boys and girls bowling teams both qualified for the Division I state tournament by placing third at district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Both teams earned the final berths from district to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The girls compete Friday, March 8, and the boys compete Saturday, March 9.
The teams last qualified together for state in 2014.
"Our goal is to improve throughout the year," coach Jamie West said. "The regular season is important, but it's just the work up to the postseason. We knew that the kids had it in them, it's just getting it out of them at the right time. Both teams bowled really well in the team portion and were brutally average in the Baker games."
In the 16-team district tournament, the boys had a 4,015 to finish behind Westerville Central (4,243) and Marion Harding (4,216). Tristan Mathis was eighth (628) of 106 bowlers to lead the Wildcats, followed by Callan Van Scyoc (616), Colton Rice (597), Montana Svoboda (586) and Cameron Voigt (536).
The girls had a 3,465 to finish behind Central (3,785) and Big Walnut (3,629). Maggie Van Scyoc was fourth (626) of 104 bowlers to lead South.
Taylor Hughes (556), Emily Grise (445), Kenzie Gearheart (330, two games), Katie Ball (272, two games) and Brenda Diaz (151, one game) rounded out the effort.
Boys basketball team puts up fight in finale
The boys basketball team closed a disappointing season, but not before battling a top Division I contender into overtime.
The 27th-seeed Wildcats led seventh-seeded Reynoldsburg for most of their district tournament second-round game March 1 before the host Raiders won 65-63.
South closed the season on a 12-game losing streak to finish 6-17 overall.
Senior guard Jordan McMillian had 23 points, senior guard Jacob Singleton scored 12 and sophomore guard Peter Pedrozo added 11.
Singleton's 3-pointer late in the third quarter gave the Wildcats their largest lead at 40-29.
"Our kids battled," coach Ed Calo said. "We had more than our share of opportunities. We could have walked away from this game with a win. We let some plays get away from us that we shouldn't have. I don't think our kids panicked, we just didn't finish. We played really well."
South played the second half of the season without senior post player Manny Sunnyway, who suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in a 69-45 win over Westerville Central on Jan. 11.
The Wildcats were 6-5 with Sunnyway in the lineup. He was special mention all-league.
McMillian, who averaged a team-best 20.1 points, was first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Senior Ryan Greggs was special mention all-league and Singleton was honorable mention all-league.
"It's always tough to say goodbye to the seniors," said Calo, whose team loses six players to graduation. "They worked really hard and focused on what they should do."
Others eligible to return are junior guards Keyton Kowalski and Stephan Saint-Cyr and sophomore guards Jesse DeVore, Jaden Guice and Tabari Howard.
South went 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Westerville North for fifth behind champion Liberty (9-1).