Jacob Foster, a 6-foot-2 senior forward for the Hilliard Darby boys basketball team, weighed approximately 220 pounds when he was an offensive lineman for the football team during the 2018 season.

However, he decided that weight was hampering him from excelling at his favorite sport: basketball. So Foster decided to forego his senior season with the football team, partially because of injuries and the sport "taking a toll on his body," and focus on being the best basketball player he could be.

Foster lost approximately 30 pounds in the months leading up to this season and currently weighs about 180.

"I feel a lot quicker," he said. "My vertical has improved."

His vertical jump has improved to the point that Foster, a starting post player, has contributed on the tip-off this season.

"I've done the jump ball this year, which isn't something most people take pride in," he said. "I've actually won some jump balls where you didn't think I would win against some taller, more-athletic people. I feel bouncier."

Coach Chris Maul said Foster has improved in multiple ways on both sides of the ball because of his weight loss.

"This year we've been able to do some things defensively to take advantage of his athleticism," said Maul, whose team was 5-12 overall and 4-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Olentangy Berlin on Feb. 4. "On the defensive side, he always guards the other team's post player, and he's usually undersized and a little bit shorter, but he's done a great job all year."

Foster's stamina on the floor also has improved, Maul said, as well as his ability to finish around the rim.

"He can play longer stretches of time. ... From a condition standpoint, he's dramatically improved," Maul said. "But he's also really good around the rim. He finishes very well and he's worked hard at that.

"(Offensively, he has improved at) his ability to step out and shoot a 3-pointer, and second of all is his ability to finish around the rim. He's probably our best finisher."

Through 17 games, Foster averaged 4.4 points, led the team in field-goal percentage (45.2) and shot 30.8 percent from 3-point range. He also was averaging 3.9 rebounds, which ranked second on the team.

Foster, who lost the first 30 pounds in about six months, said losing weight didn't require "a whole lot." He ate healthier, started going on runs and incorporated high-rep, high-intensity weight lifting into his workouts.

"I used to, after football, after two-a-days and a lot of sweating, you'd go out and get two, three McDoubles or two Quarter Pounders or whatever. I stopped doing that," Foster said. "And I used to eat like a dessert every day. I pushed that down to two, three times a week, maybe."

He received help from his sister in terms of developing healthy eating habits.

"My sister is a vegan. She likes to pay attention to what she's eating, so she actually kind of helped me with my diet and stuff," he said.

According to Maul, in addition to his impressive weight loss and dedication to becoming a better player on the court, Foster has been nothing but a model teammate and member of the Darby community.

"He's just a guy that we never worry about decisions he makes off the court. We never worry about him in the locker room," Maul said. "... He's almost a perfect senior. He really is."

Through 16 games, senior guard Parker Hambel was averaging a team-high 7.9 points, followed by sophomore guard Gio Roberts (6.8) and junior guard Mekhi Evans (6.7).

Girls team looking ahead to postseason

The regular season has not gone as expected for the girls basketball team, but coach Tay Tufts said the Panthers are focusing on the Division I district tournament, which begins Feb. 15.

Darby is seeded 33rd of 48 teams and has a first-round bye. The Panthers will play at second-seeded Watterson or at home against 40th-seeded Westerville Central in the second round Feb. 21.

"Everyone in the tournament is 0-0. I never lose hope," Tufts said. "I've got good coaches around me. I've got players that if they lock in and play with energy and effort, we'll be OK."

The Panthers were 6-14 overall and 1-11 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Berlin on Feb. 4.

"We started with two goals," Tufts said. "The first goal is to win the conference, and the second goal is to try to win districts. To try to get as far as we can in the (postseason). So now that the conference title is out of the way, now we have to focus on getting better... so now we can go into the tournament and do some crazy things."

Tufts said advancing in the postseason is going to require energy and effort from his players.

"We've been saying it all year. I tell the girls all the time, the last couple teams that have won here, the last teams that have done really well, it's because of their energy and effort," he said.

"We just have to finish games as well. Now we're just at a point where we just have to put the energy behind it and play hard."

Among the key players for the Panthers are junior guard Ashley Derenzo and Sophie Williams, junior center Sofia Gentile, freshman center Ashley Powers and senior forward Jenna Rasul, Tufts said.

Regular season winding down for bowlers

The bowling teams will conclude the regular season Tuesday, Feb. 11, with a match against Big Walnut at Ten Pin Alley.

The boys team, which is 11-4 overall, defeated Whitehall 2,128-1,892 on Jan. 31 to finish 9-3 in the COHSBC-B, tying Gahanna and Groveport for second behind Reynoldsburg (11-1). The Panthers also tied Groveport for second in the OCC-Cardinal at 5-2, behind Worthington Kilbourne (6-1).

Entering action Feb. 3, senior Josh Larsen ranked ninth in the COHSBC with a 202.6 average. Junior Zach Brandewie is second on the team with a 199 average.

The girls team is 1-15 overall and finished 1-11 in the COHSBC-B and 0-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.

Junior Lyndsey Seagraves leads the Panthers with a 156.3 average, followed closely by junior Sarah Leming (155.2).

After the match against Big Walnut, Darby will prepare for the Division I sectional at HP Lanes. The boys compete on Feb. 21, followed by the girls the next day.

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@ThisWeekSteve

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 7 -- At Thomas Worthington. The Panthers lost to the Cardinals 64-40 on Jan. 7.

Feb. 11 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Thomas. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 37-22 on Jan. 7.

GYMNASTICS

Feb. 6 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Worthington Kilbourne

Feb. 10 -- Home vs. Bradley, Davidson and Washington Court House Miami Trace

SWIMMING & DIVING

Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Thomas. Winner of each swimming event, along with 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites, advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.

WRESTLING

Feb. 8 -- 11th-seeded Whetstone in Division I, Region 6 team dual tournament at home. Winner faces third-seeded Teays Valley in a quarterfinal. Semifinals and final will be later that day. Regional champion advances to state Feb. 16 at Ohio State's St. John Arena. The Panthers are seeded sixth.

*League contest