Coach Anthony Calo had his Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team playing for its first district championship in its first district final since 2013.
However, a disappointing shooting night hampered the 13th-seeded Pioneers in a 64-53 loss to ninth-seeded Newark in the finale of four Division I title games March 9 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Orange was just 8-for-24 from the field in the first half and trailed 32-22 at halftime after a 3-pointer at the buzzer by sophomore guard Andre Irvin.
The Pioneers increased their defensive pressure in the second half and improved their shooting, cutting the deficit to 43-42 with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a short jump shot by Irvin. However, Newark was 14-for-17 on free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Orange ended up shooting 18-for-48 from the field.
"We're a good shooting team, but unfortunately we didn't hit it today like we normally do," said Calo, whose team finished 17-8 overall. "Even with a bad shooting night, we were still in the game. I'm very proud of the kids. They are a special group."
Senior point guard Bryson Lane scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to lead Orange. Senior guard/forward Nik Brannon had 10 points and senior guard Luke Ballinger scored nine on three 3-pointers.
"(The Pioneers) spread you out and you have to pick your poison," Newark coach Jeff Quackenbush said. "You try to come out and pressure them and try to get them to go a little faster than they want. That's because (Lane) is going past you no matter what you do. He's just that good. They made some tough shots, and they are a really good shooting team. Anyone who has played them knows that."
The Pioneers reached the final by upsetting top-seeded Dublin Coffman 77-67 in a district semifinal March 6 at Worthington Christian Middle School. Lane scored 29 points, junior guard Ryan Cutler had 18 and Irvin added 16.
The Pioneers finished second (7-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Liberty (9-1).
Ballinger (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league), Brannon (second-team all-league) and Lane (second-team all-district, first-team all-league) led a five-player senior class.
"We had an unbelievable senior class," said Calo, who competed his seventh season. "They were a committed and loyal group. They are some of the hardest workers I have ever been around. We're getting the most out of our kids and our seniors set the tone for us."
Cutler (honorable mention all-league) and Irvin lead the expected returnees. Junior guard/forward Darius Butler was a key player off the bench.
"If you look around our league, you could argue we have the best tandem coming back," Calo said. "First- and second-team all-league were both six seniors. In special mention, three out of the four were seniors. It will come down to whoever is hungrier in the offseason and we could make a run at it."
Broskie gains state wrestling experience
Mitchell Broskie was the lone competitor for the wrestling team in the Division I state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State.
The freshman 160-pounder went 0-2, but fourth-year coach Scott Tressler said the experience would be invaluable.
"The thing for freshmen or first-timers (at state), sometimes they take it for granted and they think it's a vacation, but I don't think Mitchell looked at it that way," Tressler said. "I think that's one of the reasons that he's disappointed. He expected to do well and he did, but not with the results that he wanted."
Broskie lost to Wadsworth's Dom LoParo 12-3 before being pinned by Centerville's Drew Wiechers in 3:49. He finished 28-18.
"I think Mitchell was ready for it. I don't think he was overmatched, Tressler said. "He was there with the (North Canton Hoover) district champion (LoParo) from Wadsworth. That kid gets five points in the final 20 seconds to make it a major (decision), and it was close before that. The kid from Centerville (Wiechers) was a returning state placer (sixth at 152 last year), so I think there are things Mitchell can work on, and he knows that."
Broskie finished fourth at district March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby. Junior Tristan Bluntschly (170) was fifth and a state alternate, and senior Cole Jackson (120) and junior Rocco Torio (132) both finished sixth.
Seniors Matt Hipsher (145; 0-2) and Zach Stevenson (heavyweight; 0-2), junior Alex Lopez (195; 1-2) and sophomore Zach Miller (138; 1-2) also competed.
"Our building has only been open 11 years and we're on the right track," Tressler said. "We should have a solid team next year. We have a lot of great wrestlers coming back and some really good young wrestlers coming up, too. The mix is there for us to have a good stretch next year and the years to come."