The season came to an abrupt halt for the Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball team, as the second-seeded Jaguars were upended by 17th-seeded Thomas Worthington 46-41 in a Division I district semifinal March 6 at Dublin Jerome.
However, that's not what coach Brett Norris will remember about his team. Instead, he will recall a resilient group that left a lasting legacy on the program.
"We lost a key guy in our fifth game (sophomore forward Jack Pugh to a foot injury), and we still had another great season and won another (OCC-Cardinal Division) title," said Norris, whose team finished 22-2 overall and was ranked fifth in the final state poll. "We were the No. 2 seed in the district and played well all year. One game shouldn't have a bearing on how we think the season went."
Scoring was at a premium early in the district semifinal, as league rival Thomas slowed the pace of play. The game was tied at 4 after one quarter and the Cardinals led 14-12 at halftime.
"We wanted to play deliberate this time, just like they do," said Thomas coach Sean Luzader, whose team lost to Bradley 57-32 on Dec. 7 and 47-31 on Jan. 18 in league play. "But still, we went into the game more aggressive than in the past, and we didn't lose that mentality.
"We respect (Bradley) tremendously. Not only are they good, (but) they've got very good quality (players) and coaches over there, too. They're class. That's why this is so special."
Sophomore guard Keaton Norris hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the third of which pulled the Jaguars within one point at 35-34 with about two minutes remaining. However, Bradley was unable to take the lead.
"I expected it to be a difficult game because I knew the past results only served to motivate (Thomas)," coach Norris said. "I felt like they were able to dictate the pace of the game from start to finish. Every time we tried to take control, they made big shots."
Norris finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead Bradley and junior guard Matt Allocco added 10 points.
The Jaguars won their third consecutive OCC-Cardinal championship, going 14-0 to finish three games ahead of runner-up Jerome (11-3). They have won 43 consecutive league contests.
Bradley is losing four seniors in forwards Zach Hummel and Drew Keep and guards Colin Forman and Winston Stone.
Hummel averaged 3.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Stone averaged 4.0 points.
"Your team's and your program's culture comes from your seniors, and I'm proud to have had an opportunity to coach them," coach Norris said. "Zach has been a winner and a big part of our last four teams.
"Winston, Colin and Drew stuck with it and helped us be a better team. A lot of kids don't stick around and wait their turn as a senior when playing j.v. as juniors. That shows what kind of character they have and it will suit them well later in life."
Allocco led the team in scoring (15.2 points per game) and assists (5.2) and was named first-team all-district and league Player of the Year.
Junior forward Chris Mayfield averaged 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds and was honorable mention all-district, sophomore guard A.J. Mirgon averaged 9.0 points and was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league and Norris averaged 9.2 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Pugh averaged 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds before being injured during a 60--51 league win over Jerome on Dec. 21.
"You hope that you build something that the ebb and flow won't change," coach Norris said. "We have a balance of young players and real experience. There is no reason we won't go into next season with the same high expectations."
Sawchuk gains more experience at state
Deacon Sawchuk represented the wrestling team in the Division I state tournament held March 7-9 at Ohio State.
The sophomore went 0-2 at 126 pounds to finish the season 33-12. He lost to Brecksville-Broadview Heights' Jimmy Carmany 16-1 in the opening round March 7 before falling to Fairfield's Jabari Thomas 9-2 in a consolation match later that day.
Last season, Sawchuk went 0-2 at state at 106.
"You come down here (to state) to advance and place," 10th-year coach John Riggs said. "We had a good warmup and attack, but there are no easy matches at state. Things didn't work out the way we had hoped, but we got some more experience here."
Sawchuk went 3-2 and placed fourth in a district tournament March 1 and 2 at Darby to advance to state.
Also at district, senior Zander Ellison went 3-2 and placed fifth at 138 and was 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.
"We had a lot of new faces in the lineup and they were adjusting to the bigger, faster and stronger level of varsity wrestling," Riggs said. "We continued to progress throughout the season. We competed well and I didn't feel like we had a lack of preparation or effort."