The way the Watterson boys basketball team ended January doesn't lend support at first glance to the direction it believes it is heading with the Division II district tournament approaching.
The Eagles were district runners-up last winter but still hadn't cracked the 10-win mark heading into their game Feb. 11 against Dublin Scioto even after it won 44-38 on Feb. 4 at home against Jonathan Alder, a fellow Division II program that is 17-3.
Before beating Springfield Shawnee 47-28 on Feb. 1, Watterson had lost four games in a row, including falling 56-21 to DeSales on Jan. 17 after the teams had split a pair of tight contests last season.
Taken in full context, though, the Eagles' situation isn't nearly as dire.
Watterson blew out Marysville, a Division I team that has been battling for the OCC-Central Division title, 65-42 on Jan. 11. The Eagles also hung with Olentangy Orange -- a Division I district runner-up last season -- on Jan. 18 before falling 56-51.
Then there was the near turnaround against St. Charles, which pounded the Eagles 72-32 on Dec. 13 but squeaked out the rematch 42-38 on Jan. 24.
Watterson was hindered by a slow start in the second loss to the Cardinals as well as in a 45-42 loss to Hilliard Darby on Jan. 28.
"I think we'll be prepared (for the postseason)," coach Vince Lombardo said. "We'd like to get a little bit of positive momentum heading into the tournament. We had hoped to get that started (against Darby). We didn't play hard enough early and they get after it and we dug too deep of a hole for ourselves. I feel like we executed our game plan very well against St. Charles (in the rematch). I feel like, overall, our execution has been OK."
Watterson is seeded ninth in the 22-team district tournament and will play host to 18th-seeded Bexley in the first round Feb. 26.
The Eagles lost to Ready 66-49 on Feb. 7 and were 9-11 overall before facing Scioto. They are 1-6 in the CCL entering their regular-season finale Friday, Feb. 14, at home against Hartley, which they beat 34-28 on Jan. 10.
Senior wing player Mike Bruzzese missed the Darby game because of illness and senior wing player Chris Crane left the game with an ankle injury as junior forward Davis Boone had a team-high 19 points.
Junior guard Gavin Greene is another who has missed time because of injury.
Bruzzese returned to score 12 points and junior guard Noah Gruver scored 11 against Shawnee and Bruzzese had a team-high 11 points against Jonathan Alder.
Junior guards Sam Intihar and Jake Hoying and junior forward Noah Grayem are others who have contributed, according to Lombardo.
"By design, we always play a tough schedule," Lombardo said. "Once again this year, we've had a number of tough losses against good teams, against Division I teams, and we feel like that prepares us for the tournament. But at the same time, we want to get into a positive frame of mind. That'll be something we'll try to develop over the next couple weeks."
Hockey team moves on after loss to Vikings
The hockey team opened the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament Feb. 12 against 16th-seeded Gahanna.
The winner plays 10th-seeded Thomas Worthington in a quarterfinal Friday, Feb. 14, at Chiller North. The semifinals and final are Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16, respectively, at OhioHealth Ice House.
Watterson is seeded 15th.
The Eagles were 10-20-1 overall and 6-9 in the CHC-Blue Division before facing Dublin Scioto on Feb. 9. They lost to Columbus Academy 6-2 on Feb. 7 and fell to Cincinnati Moeller 4-0 on Feb. 8.
Academy wrapped up the CHC-Blue title with its win over Watterson and the Eagles' loss to Moeller.
Junior defenseman Adam Pavliga missed the game against Academy because of illness, but coach Jay Graham was hoping his team would have fared better in the rematch against the Vikings given that Watterson won the previous matchup 8-1 on Jan. 2.
Brandon Trout and Tino Auddino each scored one goal in the loss to Academy.
"That's the worst game we've probably played all year," Graham said. "We were missing Adam Pavliga, who is a huge loss on the defensive end, but it's no excuse. It's a hard thing to say and a hard pill to swallow, but we're playing for the championship of the Blue Division and that's the performance that we give. That's why it's so upsetting. ... We've got to do what we can and try and bounce back."
Swimmers advance to district level
Qualifiers from the boys swimming team competed in the Division II district meet Feb. 12 at Ohio State, while qualifiers from the girls team will compete in the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
The top two finishers and 16 at-large qualifiers in each swimming event at district advance to the state meet Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
On Feb. 8, the Eagles competed in a sectional at Upper Arlington. In Division I, the winner of each event, along with 27 at-large qualifiers in each swimming event from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites, advanced to district. In Division II at UA, 27 at-large qualifiers in each event advanced to district.
The girls team finished second (255 points) of 12 teams at sectional, behind UA (403). Winning were the 200-yard medley relay of Lucia Cherok, Grace Rider, Mia Brown and Olivia Oyster (1 minute, 48.42 seconds), Cherok in the 200 individual medley (2:13.95), Oyster in both the 50 free (23.45) and 100 free (52.16), Rider in the 100 breast (1:05.61) and the 400 free relay of Brown, Rider, Teagan Price and Oyster (3:33.02).
The boys team finished last (154) of four teams at sectional, behind champion Wellington (290), as Michael Vondran won the 100 free (50.87) and Max Latshaw won the 200 IM (2:10.87).
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson girls basketball and wrestling teams:
Feb. 15 -- Home vs. 40th-seeded Westerville Central in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 33rd-seeded Hilliard Darby in second round Feb. 21 at site of better seed. The Eagles are seeded second.
Feb. 15 -- Nye Cardinal Classic at St. Charles