A slow start by the Bexley High School boys basketball team and the hot hand of Columbus South guard Tre'ohn Watkins were too much to overcome in a 73-41 loss in a Division II district semifinal March 5 at Westerville North.
The ninth-seeded Lions trailed 18-0 before junior guard Damian Davis made a 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first quarter. Conversely, Watkins was 5-for-6 on 3s in the opening eight minutes, and the top-seeded Bulldogs led 21-3 entering the second quarter.
Bexley was making its first appearance in a district semifinal since 2014 and trying to reach its first district final since 2010.
"We went zone (defensively) early because we knew we would have a tough time guarding them off the dribble," said fourth-year coach Todd Phillips, whose team finished 14-10 overall. "We didn't do a very good job of getting to (Watkins) early. After we went man(-to-man), I thought we battled well, and I was proud of the way we got back in it."
The Lions chipped a bit off the South lead, trailing 35-19 at halftime and 51-37 after three quarters. Sophomore guard Will Cordle made a short bucket with 2:49 left in the third to cut the deficit to 11 at 45-34, but Bexley would not come closer.
After senior guard Nasir Tucker scored with 6:23 left in the fourth to make it 53-39, the Bulldogs went on a 22-0 run to put the game away.
"In the first quarter, they were making their shots and we weren't making ours," senior forward Ryan Callahan said. "We had to fight back the entire game. It was a tough start."
Davis and Tucker both finished with 11 points, and Cordle added eight.
The Lions were one of four squads from the five-team MSL-Ohio Division to reach a district semifinal.
In Division III on March 5, Grandview defeated league-foe Worthington Christian 64-52 and Columbus Academy beat Wellington 47-36 to reach district finals. Only Whitehall failed to reach that level, losing to Newark 61-43 on March 1 in the second round in Division I.
Grandview went on to win a district championship.
The Lions finished fifth (2-6) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Academy (6-2).
Callahan was third-team all-district and first-team all-league to lead an 11-player senior class. He averaged 13.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 assists.
The other top seniors were forward Leo Schottenstein (honorable mention all-league), Tucker (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league; 14.4 points, 1.5 assists) and point guard Anthony Welsh (second-team all-league; 6.3 points, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals).
"We made the right decision to have those (11) kids all year long, and it was a great ride," Phillips said. "There was not one day that was a headache. I'm going to miss them a lot."
The top players expected to return are Cordle and Davis, a two-year starter who averaged 11.6 points and 1.6 steals.
"Damian and Will will be coming back for us, and we should have some other good kids coming back as well," Phillips said.