The Delaware Hayes boys basketball team has come a long way since starting the season 0-5.
The Pacers have orchestrated a second-half turnaround, rallying to take a 12-9 overall record and a 7-6 mark in the OCC-Cardinal Division into their regular-season finale Feb. 14 against visiting Olentangy Berlin.
"It's a credit to the kids," first-year coach Adam Vincenzo said. "We have a lot of seniors that knew the adversity that we were going through, but we're a pretty senior-led team that knew we had to get things going and take care of business when we needed to, and you saw that in a lot of our post games and especially down the stretch, too."
"We got our identity back and we had a chip on our shoulder," senior guard Nate Griggs said. "At first, it didn't seem like we cared that we lost, and now we swing first."
The Pacers are seeded 18th in the 49-team Division I district tournament and have a first-round bye. They will play at 12th-seeded St. Charles or at home against 25th-seeded Big Walnut in the second round Feb. 28.
"Considering where we were at the beginning of the year, we're happy with 18," Vincenzo said. "We felt if we would have taken care of business in a couple of games, especially (in a 56-53 loss to Dublin Jerome on Feb. 7), we probably could have potentially been higher ... but this district is tough. Forty-nine teams and for us to be in that top half is something that we're proud of, but we want to take the next step, for sure."
Vincenzo said he's pleased with how the team's execution has progressed over the course of the season. He said early in the season the Pacers weren't executing at the offensive end of the court and weren't finishing games.
The Pacers could stand to improve in its defensive scheme prior to postseason action, he said.
"The difference has been turnovers and second-chance opportunities," Vincenzo said. "If we could value the basketball and rebound it and win the rebounding margin, we like our chances."
"We just need to tighten down and work on our defense, because we're letting up a lot of points," Griggs said. "We need to play more physically and not back down. And communication is probably the biggest thing."
Big Walnut was 12-9 entering a game against Groveport on Feb. 14, while St. Charles was 16-5 before playing Ready on Feb. 14.
"Both are great teams. And in this district, you can't avoid anybody," Vincenzo said. "You're going up against good teams. And if you want to advance, you have to be playing your best basketball. It's going to be a battle each step along the way."
The Pacers will rely on its usual core in the district tournament, with Griggs and senior forward Paul Burris providing offense and other contributions up and down the floor and senior guards Addison Harvey and Sihr Sumner, senior forward Nabil Abdus-salaam and junior guard Ryan Smudz complementing with defense, rebounding and scoring.
Griggs and Burris were averaging 15 and 14 points, respectively, before Feb. 14.
Suleks heading to state in diving
Senior diver Sam Sulek is heading back to the Division I state meet, which runs Thursday, Feb. 20, through Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Sulek, who finished 14th at state last season with 384.85 points, qualified for this year's meet by placing fourth (516.25) in the district meet Feb. 12 at Ohio State behind New Albany teammates Jordan Rzepka (state-record 684.15) and Noah Duperee (674.2) and Olentangy Liberty's Jack Matthews (659.8).
Matthews was runner-up and Rzepka placed third at state last year, but neither will compete this season because they will be participating in an international diving meet in Germany. According to district meet director Frank Croft, the seventh and eighth placers at district will take their spots at state.
As a result, sophomore Mark Sulek also is heading to state after placing eighth (409.45) at district.
Girls diving and the swimming events at district were held Feb. 13.
For the girls team, advancing to district from a sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington were Mackenzie Carter in the 100-yard freestyle (53.08 seconds) and 50 free (24.48), Elizabeth Abahazi in the 200 free (2:03.67) and 500 free (5:35.85), Kailyn Smith in the 50 free (25.29), the 200 free relay (1:40.97), the 200 medley relay (1:53.11) and the 400 free relay (4:00.21).
For the boys team, qualifying for district were Caleb Bucher in the 200 free (1:51.21) and 100 free (50.56), Aidan Stojkov in the 50 free (22.93) and 100 backstroke (56.97), the 200 free relay (1:34.02), the 200 medley relay (1:51.27) and the 400 free relay (3:33.87).
The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically qualified for state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths in each event based on district times statewide will be announced Sunday, Feb. 16.
In girls diving, the top four finishers advanced to state.
Wrestlers fall in team tourney
The wrestling team reached a semifinal in the Division I, Region 5 team dual tournament Feb. 8 at Marysville before losing to the host Monarchs 37-28.
The second-seeded Pacers opened the 14-team tournament with a 51-24 win over seventh-seeded Big Walnut in a quarterfinal before falling to third-seeded Marysville. The Monarchs then lost to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 52-9 in the final.
Posting victories against Big Walnut were Tamas Eder (113 pounds), Paolo Sferrella (132), Zach Raquepaw (138), Tristan Burton (145), Emmett Cain (160), Corbin May (170), Mason Sutandar (182), Clay Ours (195) and Nathan Robinson (heavyweight).
Delaware was 6-0 in the OCC-Cardinal entering its league finale against Olentangy Berlin on Feb. 13 and competed in the All-North Tournament Feb. 15 at Dublin Jerome. A win over Berlin would have given the Pacers the outright league title.
The boys and girls bowling teams open the postseason this week at the Division I sectional at HP Lanes.
The boys team competes Friday, Feb. 21, followed by the girls team the next day. The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on a qualifying team in both the boys and girls sectionals advance to district Feb. 29 at HP Lanes.
The 18th-seeded girls basketball team opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 15 against 29th-seeded Marysville. The winner plays at 10th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in the second round Feb. 21, with that winner advancing to a district semifinal Feb. 26.
The gymnastics team will compete in the district meet Saturday, Feb. 22, at Worthington Kilbourne. At district, the top three teams advance to the team state meet Feb. 28 at Bradley and the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advance to the individual state meet Feb. 29 at Bradley.