The Thomas Worthington boys basketball team carries high expectations into the Division I district tournament.
The Cardinals concluded the regular season with a 63-55 loss at Kilbourne on Feb. 14, but have won five of their last six games. They are 17-5 overall and finished 10-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, second to Hilliard Bradley, which went 14-0 in the league.
"It's been a really solid season and probably overall where we want to be, but as a whole, I think we did have expectations of competing for the league title and we didn't achieve that, so that's a little bit disappointing," coach Sean Luzader said.
A season after losing to Pickerington North 72-60 in a district final, the Cardinals expect to make a similar run in the postseason. They're the seventh seed and open Saturday, Feb. 22, at home against 36th-seeded Marion Harding, with the winner facing 32nd-seeded Olentangy on Feb. 28.
If Thomas wins its first two tournament games, it could run into ninth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal March 4.
"We're a better team this year," Luzader said. "I would say that would be the expectation again, to get to (a district final). And honestly, once you get to a district final, anything can happen. It doesn't matter who's playing.
"We'll be as well-prepared as any program, but we'll have a challenging road ahead and I think there's going to be a couple teams in our way to get there that maybe record-wise aren't outstanding, but I think they're better than what their record shows."
Leading the way for the Cardinals is junior point guard Jalen Sullinger, who is coming off a 38-point effort against Kilbourne. He's surrounded by a strong supporting cast featuring 6-foot-7 forward Tyrese Hughey, 6-5 guard Isaac Settles and 6-2 forward Omari Effiong.
"I think we're feeling confident and excited," Sullinger said. "One game at a time, but going into the tournament, I think we're really excited and I think we could do a lot of good things."
Sullinger said he's confident the Cardinals can compete offensively with the best central Ohio has to offer, but defense and rebounding may determine how far they advance this year.
"I think winning the rebounding battle is going to be a huge goal for us going into the tournament and going into each game," Sullinger said. "That's a key battle in the game, and I think on the offensive side, too. Offensive rebounding is going to be a huge part for us with Tyrese and Omari and great athletes like them. They can really get on the board and get us a few extra points per quarter on that. That's a difference between a win and a loss, honestly."
Swimmers compete at district meet
The swimming and diving program competed in the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State.
Competing for the boys were Zach Barnes in the 200-yard freestyle (16th, 1 minute, 48.01 seconds), Connor Florence in the 100 butterfly (25th, 55.81), Matt Fralic in the 100 fly (seventh, 52.14) and 100 backstroke (ninth, 53.38), Eli Short in the 50 free (eighth, 21.49) and 100 free (15th, 48.42), Sam Steele in the 200 individual medley (15th, 1:57.81) and 100 fly (12th, 53.06), Derek Taylor in the 200 free (27th, 1:54.1) and 500 free (26th, 5:07.13), the 200 free relay (11th, 1:31.58), the 200 medley relay (sixth, 1:35.55) and the 400 free relay (10th, 3:18.61).
Competing for the girls were Sloane Antonetz in the 100 fly (17th, 58.45) and 100 back (12th, 58.48), Audrey Taylor in the 50 free (26th, 25.49) and 100 free (29th, 56.33), the 200 free relay (19th, 1:47.43), the 200 medley relay (14th,1:55.52) and the 400 free relay (11th, 3:47.51).
Girls diver Clio Forsthoefel (13th, 310.1) and boys diver Carson Cole (24th, 123.15) also competed.
The boys finished eighth (94) behind champion Upper Arlington (381.5) as 23 teams scored and the girls finished 19th (27) behind champion New Albany (378) as 26 teams scored.
From district, the top six boys divers, the top four girls divers, the top two finishers in each swimming event and 16 at-large qualifiers in each swimming event based on times statewide advanced to the state meet, which begins Thursday, Feb. 20, and concludes Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Here's a list of area state qualifiers.
Girls team falls in first round
The 35th-seeded girls basketball team lost 42-21 at 19th-seeded Dublin Jerome in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 14.
Junior guard Reid Dunbar led the Cardinals with nine points, followed by junior guard Lauren Gerber with seven.
The Cardinals finished 5-18 overall and 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"During the regular season, I thought we competed really hard in games," coach Bill Sperlazza said. "I hope that the experience (the players) have all gained this season will carry forward to next season, because we have a lot of kids coming back."
Expected key returnees include junior forward Kaniya Boyer, sophomore guard Josie Tinnerello and freshman guards Ladan Elmi and Kaleigh Palmer.
The gymnastics, hockey and boys and girls bowling teams open their postseasons this week.
The gymnastics team will compete in the district meet Saturday, Feb. 22, at Kilbourne.
The boys bowling team will compete in the Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21, at HP Lanes. The girls will compete the following day at the same site.
The hockey team opens the district tournament Feb. 21 against Beavercreek at Chiller North. The winner plays Oxford Talawanda or Springboro on Feb. 22 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.