DeSales boys basketball coach Pat Murphy expected the play of junior forward Desmond Watson to dictate the Stallions' fortunes this season, but Murphy admitted that even he wasn't prepared for the kind of year Watson has enjoyed.

Watson averaged 23.2 points through 20 games, in which the Stallions were 15-5 overall and finished 6-2 in the CCL, and led the team in several statistical categories. DeSales fell to visiting St. Charles 69-59 on Feb. 7 to finish league play but still has a chance to earn a share of its second consecutive league championship.

"Des had a great offseason and everything, but I think maybe only Des and his inner circle knew he was going to be this good," Murphy said. "We thought he'd have a great year, but he's just doing stuff at a different level that we haven't seen. It's one of the biggest improvements I have seen from a sophomore to a junior (season) since I've been coaching."

Watson scored 463 of his 972 career points this season before a Feb. 11 game at Olentangy Liberty and has earned three scholarship offers in the past three weeks from Ohio University, Stetson and Tennessee-Martin.

Watson gave some notice of what was to come when he scored a career-high 39 points in DeSales' season opener, a 75-67 win over Huber Heights Wayne on Nov. 30 in the All-Ohio High School Hoop Showcase at Gahanna.

"I don't think in the summer I missed one day of being in a gym," he said. "I expected this. Sometimes, though, I have to say 'whoa' because I didn't expect this much, but I expected something different than my sophomore year.

"My athleticism has gotten better and my jump shot has gotten better. I think I've opened some eyes. I've opened my own eyes."

Through 19 contests, Watson led the Stallions in scoring, field-goal percentage (.569), rebounds per game (6.9) and assists per game (3.1) and was second in steals (1.6) and blocks (0.7).

"We'd have a morning shootaround and you'd see Des in there 30 minutes beforehand," forward Atticus Schuler said. "He finishes inside great, but his passing ... if you're almost a little open, he can find a window to get the ball to you."

Watson came close to his career high Jan. 3 with 36 points in a 75-64 win at St. Charles that gave DeSales a leg up in the league race.

He had 23 points in the rematch with the Cardinals. Austin Mann added 14 points, Schuler scored 12 and Kobe Righter 10 against St. Charles, which improved to 6-1 in the league. DeSales and Ready are tied for second with two losses each, and the Silver Knights visit St. Charles on Friday, Feb. 14.

Seeded third in the coming 22-team Division II district tournament, DeSales took a first-round bye and will play host to 14th-seeded Centennial or 15th-seeded Licking Valley in a second-round game Feb. 29.

The Stallions finish the regular season Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Worthington Kilbourne.

Watson would be DeSales' seventh 1,000-point scorer and second player to surpass the mark in as many seasons. Kayin Derden, now a freshman at Ohio Dominican, finished with 1,015 career points.

Nick Kellogg, a 2010 graduate who led the Stallions to two state tournaments and went on to play at Ohio University, is the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,654 points.

"Freshman year, I didn't see myself getting (to the 1,000-point milestone as a junior)," Watson said before the game against St. Charles. "By the beginning of this year, I thought I could really do it."

Swimmers head to district meet

Five boys and one girl represented the swimming teams in district meets this week at Ohio State.

Brady McInerney won both the 100-yard backstroke (55.55 seconds) and 200 individual medley (2:03.75) and Reece Hanley finished first in both the 100 breaststroke (1:13.65) and 500 freestyle (1:51.58) in a Division II sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington, leading the boys team to 404 points and first place ahead of runner-up Johnstown (25) as two teams scored.

The Stallions won every event.

McInerney, who was seeded second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 back for district Feb. 12, also was on the district-qualifying 200 free (1:37.52) and 200 medley (1:51.58) relays.

The girls team's only individual qualifier to the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, is Libby Ruff, who advanced in both the 200 free (1:59.93) and 500 free (5:20.95). She placed seventh in both events at the Thomas sectional, leading DeSales to 11th place (28) behind champion New Albany (400) as 13 teams scored.

In Division I, the winner of each sectional event automatically qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.

There were no automatic berths to district in Division II. Twenty-seven at-large berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.

At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Girls basketball team set to open tourney

Seeded 24th in the 48-team Division I district tournament, the girls basketball team will play host to 34th-seeded Licking Heights in a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 15.

That will be a rematch of the Stallions' closest regular-season win through 21 games. DeSales edged the host Hornets 39-37 on Jan. 4 behind 11 points from Erin Burns and eight from Gracie Sabo.

The Stallions were 12-9 overall and 1-4 in the CCL before their regular-season finale Feb. 11 at home against Ready, while Licking Heights is 8-12.

Stephanie Karras' 11 points paced DeSales in a 44-35 home loss to Watterson on Feb. 6. Erin Burns added nine points.

"We didn't think we would get an open spot to grab a home game, so when we were called with one available, we took a hard look at it," coach Erick Herzberg said. "There were some other matchups we were looking at, but ultimately we decided to take the home game and let a lower seed jump on us."

The Stallions-Hornets winner will visit fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman for a second-round game Feb. 21.

Froehlich named girls soccer coach

Chris Froehlich, who helped the boys soccer team to three Division II regional championships and the state title as a junior, is returning to his alma mater as the girls team's next coach.

A 2011 DeSales graduate, Froehlich succeeds Bob McGee, who coached the Stallions on an interim basis last fall.

Froehlich, whose hiring was announced Feb. 5, spent the past three years as New Albany's girls junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant. He previously filled the same roles at Bexley.

Last fall, DeSales went 4-12-2 overall and 2-1 in the CCL, finishing second in the league behind Watterson (3-0) before losing to Olentangy 7-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales bowling and hockey teams:

BOWLING

Feb. 14 -- Boys: Division II sectional at HP Lanes. The top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 20 at HP Lanes.

HOCKEY

Feb. 12 -- Played 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto in opener of Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament. Winner plays ninth-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier in quarterfinal Feb. 14 at OhioHealth Ice Haus. Semifinals and final are Feb. 15 and 16, respectively, at Ice Haus. The Stallions are seeded 18th.