With a 50-44 victory over seventh-seeded Watterson on March 9 at Ohio Dominican, the Columbus South High School boys basketball team earned its third Division II district championship in five seasons.
The Bulldogs are hoping a different regional path will help them end a long drought.
Although South has been to the state tournament six times, its last state appearance came in 1986 when it lost in the Class AAA state championship game.
The Bulldogs, who won their only state title in 1965, will face Norwalk in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Bowling Green. The winner plays Cleveland Central Catholic or Ada in a regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the same site.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 21 at Ohio State.
In both 2015 and last season, the Bulldogs lost in regional semifinals at Kettering Fairmont.
"We're going to Bowling Green for the first time," coach Ramon Spears said. "We've been to Dayton, so we're going to Bowling Green, which is close to where I'm from originally."
South, which was the district's No. 1 seed and is 25-1, ended Watterson's season for the fourth consecutive year. Last season, the teams met in a district semifinal.
After defeating ninth-seeded Bexley 73-41 in a district semifinal March 5 at Westerville North, the Bulldogs trailed Watterson 39-32 with 5 minutes, 37 seconds remaining before rallying for the victory.
"We couldn't give up," senior guard Tre'ohn Watkins said. "You've just got to leave it all on the court and we left it all on the court. We started putting the pressure on them and started getting the lead. It feels really good. This is four years in a row (being in a district final) and it feels great."
Against Bexley, Watkins made six 3-pointers and finished with 23 points as South led 21-3 after the first quarter.
Against Watterson, Watkins had 17 points and Trevell Adams scored 13.
"Our defense, which has kind of been the staple of our program, kind of came alive the last two to three minutes (against Watterson)," Spears said. "Being down seven (points) to Watterson is like being down 27 and we just had to get more active."
Nubians girls head back to state tourney
For the fourth consecutive year and the 10th time in program history, the Africentric girls basketball team is headed to the state tournament.
The defending Division III state champion Nubians, who have won six state titles overall, take a 26-0 record into a state semifinal against Berlin Hiland at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Ohio State.
The winner will face Waynesville or Doylestown Chippewa in the state final at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, March 16, at the same site.
Africentric, which has won 35 games in a row dating to last season, beat Castalia Margaretta 66-35 in a regional semifinal March 6 at Lexington and Findlay Liberty-Benton 56-35 in a regional final March 9 at the same site.
Jordan Horston had 16 points and Arianna Smith scored 10 in the regional final, as the Nubians held Liberty-Benton's Caitlin Elseser -- a 6-foot-4 junior post player with more than 1,000 career points -- to just two points.
"It's always a great feeling winning with the girls, adding to the history of Africentric," Horston said. "We never take it for granted."
In a Division II regional semifinal March 5 at Zanesville, the Eastmoor Academy girls team lost to Thornville Sheridan 59-44 to finish 20-6.
Senior guard Samaria Rodgers-Gossett scored 15 points and senior center Mallory Barnes had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Warriors, who trailed 32-18 at halftime.
Rodgers-Gossett, who was named district Player of the Year, and Barnes led a senior class that also included guard/forward Hailey Jordan, forward Kahlani Pack and guards Teresa Craig and Elise Pryor.
Honesty Wilson, a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward, and junior forward Azure Lewis should be the top returnees next season for the Warriors, who were the No. 1 seed for the district tournament and beat second-seeded Granville 48-40 in a district final March 1.
"Samaria stepped up and so (did) Hailey Jordan, who transferred (to Eastmoor) last year," Warriors coach Charity Martin-King said. "I've (had) a lot of kids stepping up."
Two Briggs bowlers place fourth at state
The Briggs bowling program produced a pair of first-team all-state honorees this winter in juniors James Pappas and Dakota Fink.
In the Division I girls state tournament March 8 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Fink bowled a 605 three-game series to finish fourth behind champion Jillian Martin of Stow-Munroe Falls (668). That performance came after she rolled a 708 to win district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Fink was the state champion as a freshman and finished 47th last season.
"It was pretty good," Fink said. "Last year, I stressed myself out a lot because I came back expecting more than I got. Getting first-team (all-state) is amazing. Winning is not always what the sport is about."
Pappas placed fourth at district with a 658 and rolled a 686 at state March 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl to finish fourth and lead all area competitors as Vandalia Butler's Drew Sacks won the title (752).
"It was wonderful," Pappas said. "I happened to find something here. It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm very happy with the way I bowled today. I missed one makeable spare, but other than that, I did exactly what I wanted to do."
Three boys teams fall in district semis
The season came to an end for the Africentric, Beechcroft and Walnut Ridge boys basketball teams in district semifinals.
In a Division III district semifinal March 5 at Westerville Central, seventh-seeded Africentric lost to fourth-seeded Columbus Academy 47-36 to finish 13-11.
The Nubians trailed 15-4 after one quarter and 30-15 at halftime against the Vikings, who were the MSL-Ohio Division champions.
Junior guard Calijha'won Davis, who was a key player last season when Africentric was the state runner-up, averaged 17.5 points. Junior guard Austin Morris, sophomore guard Eli Burke and freshman guard Dan Wagner are among others eligible to return for the Nubians.
Sixth-seeded Beechcroft lost to seventh-seeded Watterson 41-32 in a Division II district semifinal March 5 at Hamilton Township to finish 19-5.
Beechcroft, which tied Northland for first in the City League-North Division at 12-2 but lost the tiebreaker to advance to the City title game, has one of the area's top freshmen in point guard J.J. Simmons to build around next season. Simmons had 13 points against the Eagles.
Junior guard Devon Wooden also is eligible to return for the Cougars, who will lose a seven-member senior class led by forwards Na'Elle Simmons and Elijah Hairston and guards Jovaughn Hill and James Delaney. Na'Elle Simmons averaged 15 points and was first-team all-district.
In a Division I district semifinal March 6 at Watkins Memorial, 12th-seeded Walnut Ridge's rally came up short in a 62-55 loss to ninth-seeded Newark to finish 19-5.
The Scots trailed 44-25 after three quarters before rallying to within 56-53 with 1:08 left.
Junior forward VonCameron Davis, a first-team all-district honoree with more than 1,400 career points, had 24 points. Junior forward Kaveon Ross scored 16 and junior guard Qian Magwood added 11 for the Scots.
That trio helped Walnut Ridge win seven more games than a season ago. The Scots were led by first-year coach Chuck Jefferson.