Moments after falling to Westerville Central on a basket in the closing seconds, a disappointed Westerville South boys basketball team found new energy during its postgame talk in the locker room.
The Wildcats finished 7-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division with a 63-61 loss to the Warhawks on Feb. 14 at home, but earned a share of the league title when Olentangy Liberty lost to Olentangy 55-53 that same night.
With the gym nearly empty, South held a net-cutting ceremony to celebrate its first league title since 2016-17.
The Wildcats led Central by as many as seven points in the second half, but the Warhawks rallied and capped their comeback on Quincy Clark's short jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am with the outcome of the game, but you play 10 (league) games and you measure yourself over 10 games and we stood on top of the league, tied with Liberty," coach Ed Calo said. "I'm so proud of these guys. Nobody expected us to be any good except for us. We always expect the most from our guys. To be league champions, it says something."
Peter Pedrozo led the Wildcats with 20 points. Jaiden Guice scored 15 and Tabari Howard added 12.
"Winning championships is always a good feeling," Pedrozo said. "Winning is the most important thing about competition. We couldn't get the (win Feb. 14), but we all worked hard, fought hard. I'm happy we're league champions, but we're getting ready for the tournament now."
The Wildcats fell to 14-8 overall and now will prepare for the Division I district tournament. They are seeded 11th and play host to 30th-seeded Groveport in the first round Saturday, Feb. 22, with the winner playing 26th-seeded Briggs on Feb. 28.
"If we play a little bit better, we get a higher seed," Calo said. "We picked the best spot we could pick (on the bracket). It comes down to us playing hard and playing well. There are people who jumped on us that still don't think we're that great, which is fine. We just have to go play. I'm excited for it."
On the horizon is a possible matchup with second-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a district semifinal March 4.
"I don't care what bracket we're in," Pedrozo said. "We want to play the best. We schedule hard because in order to be the best, you have to play the best. We'll face anyone who comes our way."
Howard scored 15 points and Keyton Kowalski had 11 in a 50-47 loss to visiting Johnstown on Feb. 11.
Swimming teams compete at district
Sophomore Emily Ellsworth led the girls swimming and diving team in the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State, finishing sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.54 seconds) and 13th in the 200 individual medley (2:10.87).
Maeve Stacey was 19th in the 100 breast (1:09.51), and Gwen Stacey was 24th in the 100 breast (1:10.57) and 28th in the 200 IM (2:18.39).
Ellsworth, Maeve Stacey, Caroline Bowling and Katherine Blais were 15th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:44.77) and 200 medley relay (1:55.61). Gwen Stacey, Blais, Bowling and Grace Bartley were 24th in the 400 free relay (3:59.96) and Leanne Ngo was 12th in diving (321.35).
South finished 16th (30) behind champion New Albany (378) as 26 teams scored.
For the boys, who did not score, Jack Kielmeyer, Dom Schoenherr, Jack Secrest and Riley Andrews were 23rd in the 200 free relay (1:37.87) and 26th in the 400 free relay (3:43.5). Andrews, Kielmeyer, Secrest and Dakota Kivel were 23rd in the 200 medley relay (1:51.06).
"The kids swam really well," coach CJ Morabito said. "All the relays, everybody dropped time from (sectional), so it showed that our preparation worked."
The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.
Here's a list of area state qualifiers.
Wise steps down as girls soccer coach
Mark Wise has stepped down after six seasons as girls soccer coach.
Under Wise, the Wildcats went 22-70-11 overall and 4-26-4 in OCC play.
"We would like to thank coach Wise for the energy and professionalism he brought to the program during his six-year tenure," athletics director Jeff Good said. "The athletics department appreciates his emphasis on the value of character and grit that he instilled in our student-athletes."
South went 2-15 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye last fall.
"It was an honor and a privilege to have been able to serve as the South girls soccer coach for these past six years," Wise said. "The support I received from the school administration has been outstanding."
Wise previously coached the girls teams at Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington. He finished with a 63-68-10 record in eight seasons at Reynoldsburg before resigning to take over the UA program in 2009.
In five seasons at UA, Wise compiled a 49-32-12 record, guiding the Bears to a Division I regional runner-up finish in 2009 and a regional semifinal appearance in 2010.
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.