Much of what Bilal Sow brings to the Canal Winchester boys basketball team was on display in the final seconds of the Indians' 58-54 win at Chillicothe on Jan. 28.
Trailing 54-53 with about 10 seconds left, Cole Metzler was double-teamed but managed a pass to Sow in the corner. Sow, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, promptly drained a 3-pointer with four seconds left to give the Indians a 56-54 lead.
Following after a Chillicothe timeout, Sow forced a five-second call on the inbound and was fouled after the turnover. He then made two free throws to account for the final score.
"Five points in four seconds. On the road against a Chillicothe team that could beat a lot of teams up here, that showed everything he means to this team," coach Lyndell Snyder said. "You couldn't tell whether he made the 3 or missed the 3, but the kids knew. They were jumping on his back and he was just like 'whatever, let's move on to the next play.'"
Sow also had been 1-for-9 on 3-pointers that night before making the game-winning shot.
"Coach never wants me to stop shooting because eventually, I'll get in a rhythm," Sow said. "He always tells me if that I miss 10 shots, take that 11th."
After being a second option his junior season behind 2019 graduate Brady Snyder, who scored 1,367 career points, Sow was averaging 19.1 points through 17 games this season to lead the Indians, who were 13-4 overall before playing Pickerington North on Feb. 4 and are 5-3 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a Friday, Feb. 7, game at New Albany.
"Our offense goes through him. Every play that we run has him in mind," coach Snyder said. "He's taken on the pressure that comes with knowing it's his team. He wants to run with it and has that attitude that we'll win or lose with him.
"What I really wanted him to do (coming into this year) was have some confidence in himself with his outside shot. He's grabbed that mindset. He is much more confident in himself. I really wanted him to grow as a leader, too, because the guys know he's the best player on the team and he needs to play like that, he needs to act like that and he needs to lead like that."
Sow, who made his varsity debut as a sophomore and averaged 18.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as a junior, also hit the game-winning shot Jan. 3 with one second left in a 62-61 victory over New Albany.
Sow scored a career-high 35 points in a 67-59 home win over Teays Valley on Feb. 1, eclipsing his previous best of 32 points in a Division I district tournament second-round win over Dresden Tri-Valley last year.
"Anything and everything he does, I believe it," guard Tre'Von Robinson said. "We wanted Bilal to be the main focus and I think every team sees that now. We feed off his energy. With Cole being in the post and having (Sow) inside and outside, it opens up the lane for me and Avery (Musick) and it can get open shots for Zach (Miles) and Jack (Beeler)."
Sow said he emphasized working on his outside shot last summer, when he played AAU basketball for the Miller Factory organization. He made 36 3-pointers through 17 games, one more than his total from all of last season.
"Whatever happens, happens. If coach needs me to score, I can do that, but we'll have off nights sometimes," said Sow, who is drawing interest from several Division III colleges. "I wasn't that good in middle school. I needed time to develop. I didn't see myself being at this level, honestly."
Wrestlers refocus during long break
After improving to 2-2 in the OCC-Capital with a 37-36 win at Newark on Jan. 30, the wrestling team has another week off before finishing league competition Feb. 13 at Franklin Heights.
That is the first of three meets in nine days to end the regular season. The Indians have a long break because they are not participating in the Division I team dual tournament, and coach Harrison Rosch hopes the team uses this time to refocus before the stretch run.
"It's nice to get some time off to refuel our tank and work on some things before the postseason," Rosch said. "It's a good time to rest and recover. You're going to get those bumps and bruises during the season and it's a chance for us to make sure we're healed up and in a good place before the end of the season. That's when we're going to need to be at our best."
According to Rosch, the Indians' win at Newark was the team's first in a road league dual since joining the OCC in 2013.
Canal Winchester dropped two close duals to begin its OCC-Capital schedule, falling 42-35 at home to Groveport on Jan. 9 and 37-35 at Big Walnut on Jan. 16 before routing visiting New Albany 60-24 on Jan. 23.
"We split our matches 7-7 against Groveport and Big Walnut. Those were frustrating losses, but we were close and we were learning from those losses," Rosch said. "We needed (the New Albany win). I think we came out frustrated and took it out on them. We were confident. We had a big crowd behind us and I think that helped the guys, too."
Swimmers getting ready for sectional
The boys and girls swimming teams will participate in a Division I sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 8, at Upper Arlington.
It will be the Indians' first competition since the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 25 at Kenyon College, when both teams finished third behind champion New Albany.
Cleveland State recruit Blake Fry will try to defend his sectional title in the 100-yard breaststroke, an event in which he has advanced to state each of the past three years. He also was sectional runner-up in the 500 freestyle as a junior.
Eleven boys teams and 12 girls teams will compete at the UA sectional.
The winner of each event automatically qualifies for the district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys basketball and girls basketball teams:
*Feb. 7 -- At New Albany. The Indians defeated the Eagles 62-61 on Jan. 3.
Feb. 11 -- At Hilliard Darby
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. New Albany. The Indians defeated the Eagles 57-35 on Jan. 3.
Feb. 8 -- At Jonathan Alder
Feb. 17 -- Home vs. 36th-seeded Teays Valley in first round of Division I district tournament. The Indians are seeded 14th.