The Hartley boys basketball team enters the Division II district tournament in an unusual position compared to recent seasons.
The last time the Hawks won fewer than 13 games was in 2012-13 when they lost to eventual district champion Marion-Franklin in the second round. The last time Hartley finished with a losing record was in 2004-05, when it went 9-12.
This winter, the Hawks failed to win a CCL game, lost their final three regular-season games and begin the postseason at 8-13.
"We knew we'd get better in some areas," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "The problem is that in some areas, like shooting, we've been so darn inconsistent."
Performances such as Feb. 8 when the Hawks beat City League-North Division champion Linden-McKinley 54-53 show their capabilities, particularly on defense.
Kortokrax is hoping his team's ability to make stops can fuel a surprise tournament run.
The 13th-seeded Hawks open the postseason with a second-round game Saturday, Feb. 29, at sixth-seeded Beechcroft or at home against 19th-seeded Horizon Science. The winner faces fifth-seeded Linden or 21st-seeded Marion-Franklin in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 4, at a site to be determined.
The district final is March 7 at Central Crossing.
"Our defense is really good," Kortokrax said. "We've held everybody down. When we do score a little bit, we're right on with anyone. I don't know if it'll come this season, but if it does click... That Linden win, we've had some great wins. We're more aggressive sometimes when we're down and we just fight. I tell them we're either intimidated or we're not focused because we're not always intense. Then we get a little bit on them at halftime and they play like they should."
Entering their matchup Feb. 26, Beechcroft was 14-6 and Horizon Science was 11-10. Linden is 13-9.
Beechcroft has a pair of strong scorers in sophomores Amani Lyles (17.2 points per game) and J.J. Simmons (18.2 ppg).
Hartley, meanwhile, has had junior forward Will Miller and sophomore forward Amari Gaston step up offensively, while junior guard Dejon Donnell has shown steady improvement, according to Kortokrax.
The Hawks could end up with a rematch against Linden, which got 20 points, including four 3-pointers, from junior Chance Groce in the contest against Hartley. Gaston led the Hawks with 14 points.
"This team can come along and do some things," Kortokrax said. "I'm trying to hit them with a confidence factor, because if we do hit some shots, our defense is decent."
Boys bowlers end season at district
Struggles in Baker games ended the boys bowling team's hopes of advancing to the Division II state tournament.
The Hawks were third in the district tournament Feb. 20 at HP Lanes after the first three games, trailing second-place Caledonia River Valley by just 18 pins, but they scored just a 114 in their fifth Baker game and finished ninth (3,337) of 12 teams as top two advanced.
"We had a very slow start, but (in) game two, we had the best score and that brought us back (into contention)," coach Chris Blum said. "Our third game was good, but not amazing, and in Bakers, we came out kind of flat."
The girls team finished 39th (2,365) in the 43-team Division I sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes behind champion Westerville Central (3,653) and didn't have any individual district qualifiers as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
Girls basketball team opens tourney
The 15th-seeded girls basketball team opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 21 by beating 23rd-seeded Hilliard Davidson 43-33 at home in a second-round game.
The Hawks played at third-seeded Westerville South in a district semifinal Feb. 26. The winner plays sixth-seeded Westerville North or ninth-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district final Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Columbus Convention Center.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 3, at Otterbein.
Hartley improved to 15-7 with the win over Davidson as Kami Kortokrax had 10 points, Ella Brandewie scored nine and Lexi Cashwell added seven.
Swimmers to return strong nucleus
Of the swimming and diving program's 12 athletes who reached the awards podium at the Division II district meet Feb. 12 at Ohio State, nine are eligible to return.
The seniors in that group were swimmer Mia Phillips and diver Bailey Smith of the girls team and swimmer Chad Kegelmayer of the boys squad.
Junior Emma Simone and freshmen Mackenzie Frizzell and Grace Goodwin should be among the top returnees for the girls squad after joining Phillips on the fifth-place 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 56.82 seconds) at district. Freshman Chloe Albrecht, Goodwin and Simone should give the team a strong group of sprinters as well after joining Phillips on the seventh-place 200 freestyle relay (1:47.13) at district.
Another top returnee should be freshman Abby DiNardo, who placed eighth at district in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.66).
Other girls eligible to return include juniors Ellie Kitsmiller, Megan Luallen and Liza McClung and freshman Lilly Lindeman.
The boys team expects to return three of its four competitors on the sixth-place 200 medley relay (1:46.17) at district in juniors Sam LeMay and Leo Noll and sophomore Will Sheridan.
Sophomore Simon Sybert is another who should return after placing fourth at district in diving (257.75).
Others eligible to return include sophomores Stewart Landry and Connor Phillips and freshman Jordan Madry.
The wrestling team will compete in the Division II sectional Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, at Licking Valley. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Wilmington.