Last year was not characteristic of the Westerville North girls basketball team.
The Warriors lost to Hilliard Darby 53-42 in the first round of the Division I district tournament to finish 9-14. The players and coaches knew they had to make changes to ensure success.
Sixth-seeded North was 19-5 before playing ninth-seeded Reynoldsburg on Feb. 26 in its first Division I district semifinal since 2017.
"Last year we were 9-14, which is not good at all," sophomore forward Charia Smith said. "To go 17-5 in the regular season this year shows how much more we want it and how much we worked in the preseason and in practice. We just didn't want to be one-and-done (in the postseason) like we did last year."
Coach Lamont Tillman said his team has built confidence over the course of the season.
"We're tightening things and hopefully mentally we're in a good place to go out and compete," he said. "There are no easy games left. When you step on the court now, it's going to be a dogfight."
Should the Warriors defeat Reynoldsburg, they would play in their first district final since 2015. That year, they lost to Hilliard Bradley 45-42 in an attempt to win their first district title since 2005.
Awaiting in the district championship game Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center would be third-seeded Westerville South or 15th-seeded Hartley. North split with South in a pair of OCC-Buckeye Division contests, losing 52-34 on Jan. 3 and winning 45-43 on Feb. 7.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 3, at Otterbein.
"In my mind, we are in a different head space than last year," Tillman said. "This year, we're playing with a lot more confidence and we're more talented than we were last year. I think we have a mixture of players that allows us to play the style of play that we were attempting last year but weren't always successful at doing."
The Warriors cruised through their first two district contests. Imari Martin scored 11 points and Kayla Curry-Brown added 10 as North defeated 37th-seeded Grove City 50-12 on Feb. 15 in the first round.
Curry-Brown scored 16 points and Smith added 14 in a 50-20 victory over 42nd-seeded Pickerington North on Feb. 21 in the second round.
"I feel like we get a sense of confidence (from the early district contests)," Smith said. "With the easier games, everyone scores and that helps build confidence and trust in each other. We still have to focus on the harder games ahead.
"Our chemistry is better this year, and we have better communication between teammates. That's way better than it was last year. We're closer and more in tune with each other."
Harper, Yeager swim at state
Senior Christy Harper and junior Hayden Yeager represented the swimming and diving program in the Division I state meet Feb. 21 at Branin Natatorium at Canton.
Yeager finished 19th in the 100-yard butterfly (51.63 seconds). He entered as the 17th seed after finishing third (50.99) at district Feb. 13 at Ohio State.
Harper finished 24th in the 100 backstroke (58.82). She was seeded 19th following a time of 57.32 at district.
The girls team will lose key seniors in Alaina Bernsdorf, Emma Bolen, Harper and Ariana Sanabria. Bernsdorf will compete at Ashland.
Juniors Allie Thompson (sprint freestyle) and Emma Weisgerber (diving), sophomore Abigail Bosler (breaststroke) and freshman Kayla Simashkevich (distance free) were key performers at district.
Yeager is expected to return for the boys along with juniors Paul Buckley (relays), Joshua Dewey (relays), Colin Hudnell (relays) and Taylor Sanford (relays) and sophomore Gabriel Charles (200 free, 100 fly).
Soisson to bowl at district tourney
Sophia Soisson will compete in the Division I girls bowling district tournament Saturday, Feb. 29, at HP Lanes.
The junior competed with the boys team in the regular season because the Warriors did not have enough bowlers for a girls squad. She rolled a 517 to finish 14th of 192 participants in the sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, earning the third of 16 individual-qualifying spots for district.
The boys team finished 43rd (2,518) of 47 teams in the sectional Feb. 21 at HP Lanes behind champion Reynoldsburg (3,991).
Owen Ptak (390, tied for 143rd), Cameron Wages (377, 153rd), Ethan Moore (359, 157th), Bryce Byington (345, 164th) and Cole Wright (340, tied for 165th) competed.
Boys team falls in district opener
The boys basketball team lost at 21st-seeded Marysville 64-39 on Feb. 21 in the first round of the Division I district tournament,.
The 28th-seeded Warriors finished 9-14 overall and lost their final five contests. They went 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
Senior forward Charles Perkins (first-team all-league) averaged a team-leading 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in the regular season. Senior guard Chace Perkins (second-team all-league) averaged 11.7 points.
Junior guard/forward Camden Ledford (special mention all-league; 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds) and sophomore guard Noah Lawrence (honorable mention all-league; 8.9 points) were other top contributors.
Wrestlers to compete in sectional tourney
The wrestling team begins its postseason Saturday, Feb. 29, in a Division I sectional at Watkins Memorial.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Darby.