The Thomas Worthington girls basketball team has endured a difficult season, but it plans to put its best foot forward in the Division I district tournament.
The Cardinals were 5-16 overall before playing Beechcroft on Feb. 11 in their regular-season finale. They finished 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Thomas is seeded 35th for the district tournament and opens Friday, Feb. 14, at 19th-seeded Dublin Jerome. The winner plays at 11th-seeded Big Walnut in the second round Feb. 21.
In OCC-Cardinal play, Jerome beat the Cardinals 42-22 on Dec. 10 and 60-35 on Jan. 24.
Coach Bill Sperlazza said despite being the underdog, Thomas plans to put up a fight.
"Jerome's got a couple of seniors, they've got a lot of experience and senior leadership and they're the favorites, but we're going to give them everything we can give them," he said. "Whether we win or lose, what I ask these kids is: 'You play as hard as you can.' And whether we win or lose I want Jerome to feel: 'We played Thomas Worthington yesterday and it was not easy.' "
Among the players the Cardinals will rely on are junior guards Reid Dunbar and Lauren Gerber and junior forward Kaniya Boyer. Dunbar and Gerber averaged 10.1 and 8.9 points, respectively, through 21 games, while Boyer was shooting 40.7 percent from the field.
Dunbar and Boyer both have become strong contributors, according to Sperlazza.
"They've been playing a lot better," he said. "Reid has been putting the ball in the hoop for us. Kaniya has been doing a little bit of everything for us -- she's scoring, she's rebounding, she's blocking shots. Those are two kids that have really come a long way from the beginning of the season."
Gerber has done a little bit of everything for the Cardinals.
"And Lauren, she doesn't always score a ton of points, but if she's not scoring she's doing everything else: steals, assists, rebounds," Sperlazza said. "She's an all-around contributor -- she's always got something in each statistical column -- and she knows every play for every position."
Sperlazza also said he likes what he's seen from freshman guard Ladan Elmi, who was in the starting lineup in a 55-35 loss to Dublin Scioto on Feb. 4.
"We brought her up and she started for us at point guard versus Scioto, who presses the entire game, and she handled herself fantastic," Sperlazza said. "She handled the pressure, dealt with the pressure, got the ball up the court, even hit a 3 for us. We have high hopes for her in the future."
Sperlazza said while the Cardinals have played good defense, the offense is in need of some improvement.
"We're working on executing those offensive concepts so we can get those good shots, and we're working on making sure the kids understand it takes excellent execution in our offense to get those nice shots," he said.
"We are really breaking down our offense and looking to score more," Gerber said. "We've been doing a better job of that recently, but against Jerome, who's a little bit of a tougher opponent, we have to really make sure that's solid."
One thing Sperlazza can't fault the players on is their effort.
"In every game our kids play so hard, and it's been really fun to coach them even in losing efforts, because overwhelmingly we play so hard," he said. "I can promise when we go to Jerome, we are going to play as hard as we can play and let the chips fall where they may."
Gymnasts place eighth in OCC meet
The gymnastics team finished eighth (120.075) behind champion Olentangy Berlin (139.725) in the OCC-Cardinal meet Feb. 6 at Kilbourne.
Sophomore Haley Burkett led the Cardinals, placing 28th by scoring 30.0 in the all-around, ahead of freshman Caroline Ludwig (29th, 29.675) and junior Macy Patton (30th, 29.575).
Coach Marci Skeen said the Cardinals were down several athletes because of illness and injury, including Regan Macerollo, the team's best all-around senior.
"We did the best we could with the team that we had," Skeen said. "The girls we did have, they did a great job pulling together."
Skeen said the Cardinals will work on their routines for the uneven bars leading into the district meet Feb. 22 at Kilbourne.
Junior Audrey Maxwell, who suffered a fractured ankle earlier in the season, competed on bars during the league meet and scored 6.4.
Swimmers ready for district meet
The swimming and diving program will be well represented in the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
Eli Short (50-yard freestyle, 100 free), Matt Fralic (100 backstroke, 100 butterfly), Sam Steele (200 individual medley, 100 fly), Zach Barnes (200 free), Connor Florence (100 fly), Derek Taylor (200 free, 500 free), Sloane Antonetz (100 fly, 100 back) and Audrey Taylor (50 free, 100 free) advanced from a sectional Feb. 8 at home.
The boys and girls teams also advanced all of their relays to district.
For the boys, Steele finished second in the 200 IM (2 minutes, 0.54 of a second) and fourth in the 100 fly (54.07). Fralic was third in the 100 fly (53.79) and 100 back (54.24).
Derek Taylor finished third in the 500 free (5:06.73) and Eli Short finished fourth in the 100 free (49.81).
The 400 free relay of Barnes, Steele, Short and Fralic finished second (3:21.64), while the 200 medley relay of Fralic, Steele, Short and Jacob Carver finished third (1:40.61).
For the girls, Antonetz finished fourth in the 100 back (58.93), while the 400 free relay of Audrey Taylor, Lily Bower, Charlotte Helm and Antonetz also was fourth (3:50.64).
The boys finished fourth (170) behind champion New Albany (257) and the girls finished sixth (82) behind champion New Albany (400).
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded in each event based on district times statewide.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 14 -- At Kilbourne. The Cardinals defeated the Wolves 66-35 on Jan. 10.
Feb. 22 -- Home vs. 36th-seeded Marion Harding in the first round of the Division I district tournament. The Cardinals are seeded seventh.
Feb. 14 -- 15th-seeded Watterson or 16th-seeded Gahanna in first round of Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament at Chiller North. The semifinals are Feb. 15 at OhioHealth Ice Haus and the final is Feb. 16 at the Ice Haus. The Cardinals are seeded 10th.
*Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
Feb. 15 -- Nye Cardinal Classic at St. Charles