The Whetstone girls basketball team is facing a major challenge in its postseason opener.
The 48th-seeded Braves will open the 48-team Division I district tournament with a second-round game Friday, Feb. 21, at fifth-seeded Pickerington Central. The Tigers won the state championship in 2018 and were state runners-up last year.
Central routed 45th-seeded Westland 70-11 in the first round Feb. 15 to improve to 18-5.
Whetstone, meanwhile, fell to 4-18 overall with a 59-23 loss to Walnut Ridge in its regular-season finale Feb. 4 and finished 2-12 in the City League-North Division.
Despite her team's overall record, coach Torrie Ruffin believes the Braves have come a long way this season in terms of developing their basketball instincts, such as what reads to make, when to take shots and to stay moving when off the ball.
"The team has done quite a few things well this season," Ruffin said. "I've been really impressed with how much basketball IQ they have been gaining. You can be an extremely talented athlete, but you have to also understand the game and grasp the mental concepts of how the game is played."
The Braves entered the matchup with Central having lost four consecutive games and six of their last seven. They know they can't make many mistakes if they are to pull off the upset against the Tigers.
"We have to shoot well and pass the ball well," senior forward Lauren Armstrong said. "We have to hold our own, be aggressive and box out. Simple things like that."
The Braves have spent the past two weeks scrimmaging in practice to replicate the tournament's pace-of-play as best as they can and have been working on game-time situations to better prepare themselves.
"We've been scrimmaging a ton just to get used to how back and forth it's going to be," Armstrong said. "And the fact that we're going to be running most of the game and probably going to get tired."
"We are really working on game-time scenarios," Ruffin said. "We've had many situations throughout the season that the girls aren't prepared for because they do not experience them enough."
Senior guard Selma Kebe is averaging a team-best 8.2 points, followed by junior guard Heaven Goble (7.3).
Ruffin expects Armstrong and players such as guard/forward Ellen Edwards and guard Vida Barzdukas, both sophomores, to have an impact as well.
"They have stepped up as huge contributors to the team as a whole, and I would not be surprised if they do it again on the 21st," Ruffin said.
Boys team finishes regular season
The boys basketball team concluded the regular season Feb. 13 with a 58-56 loss to West, falling to 6-16 overall.
Junior guard Caleb Brigle had a game-high 29 points and senior guard Alex Timmons scored 10.
Whetstone, which finished 5-9 in the City-North, is now preparing for the 49-team Division I district tournament. The Braves are seeded 48th and will play at third-seeded South or 47th-seeded Franklin Heights in a second-round game Feb. 28.
"It'll be a good test of how far we've come from the beginning of the season to the end of the season," Brigle said.
Boys swimmers end season at district
The season ended for the boys swimming team at the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State, as neither of its relays advanced to state.
The 400-yard freestyle relay of Nick Timmons, Matthew Conroy, Joshua Richards-Jarvis and Aaron Schaefer finished 28th (3 minutes, 53.73 seconds) and the 200 medley relay of Alex Marcum, Timmons, Javier Cruz and Isaac Schaefer finished 27th (1:57.62).
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 times statewide.
The girls team did not have any district qualifiers.
The bowling teams will open the postseason this week at HP Lanes.
The boys team will compete in the Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21, with the girls competing the following day.
The wrestling team will compete in the City tournament Saturday, Feb. 22, at Centennial. The Braves then will prepare for a Division I sectional Feb. 29 at Watkins Memorial.