Canal Winchester girls basketball coach Mark Chapman set an expectation for wins entering his first season with the Indians, but by his own practice, he actually thought his team was capable of more.
"I am more of a pessimist when it comes to preseason thoughts. I always want to expect less and then be happy when we overachieve," said Chapman, whose team finished 20-6 overall. "I thought we could have a winning season, maybe somewhere around 15 wins, but this absolutely exceeded what I thought we could do this year. Getting to a district final was just icing on the cake."
"This" was the Indians' first trip to a Division I district final in program history, their first district final appearance at any level in 38 years and their first 20-win season since going 20-3 in 1985-86.
Seeded 14th in the 48-team district tournament, Canal Winchester ran into a juggernaut Feb. 29, falling to top-seeded Newark 73-36 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The Indians trailed just 21-13 after the first quarter before the Wildcats opened the second on a 23-4 run and cruised to their sixth consecutive district championship.
Senior forward Shalea Byrd had 13 points and senior guard Amanda Rarick added 10 to lead Canal Winchester, which committed 23 turnovers in the loss and had an 11-game winning streak snapped.
"(Rarick) is a really good creator and a facilitator. She makes them go," Newark coach J.R. Shumate said. "Shalea, we had to keep her off the boards. She really hurt us (in a 71-42 win at Canal Winchester on Jan. 10). We were only up 10 at the half at their place and Shalea was the reason because she rebounds so well."
The Indians advanced with a 48-43 overtime win over 12th-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal Feb. 26 at Whitehall. Senior forward Natalie Rarick and freshman forward Kate Ratliff both had 12 points to pace the Indians, who erased an early deficit by outscoring the Patriots 15-3 in the second quarter and never trailed in overtime.
Ratliff, who joined varsity full-time in early January after a season-ending shoulder injury to sophomore forward Madelyn Frank, scored eight of her points in the second quarter.
"It was all a team effort. They helped me get some good shots and even if they missed, I was there to get a rebound and put it back up," Ratliff said. "I didn't think I'd be here as a freshman. I just come in and work hard whenever they need me. I had to step up and be there once we had some injuries. At one point, we only had six healthy (varsity) players. I had to be what the team needed."
Byrd, who like the Rarick sisters will play volleyball at Rio Grande, averaged 14.1 points and 10.0 rebounds. She finished her career with 1,134 points and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Amanda Rarick averaged 10.5 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, Natalie Rarick averaged 12.0 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and senior guard Anaya Edwards was honorable mention all-league.
Canal Winchester went 6-4 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish third behind champion Newark (10-0).
"I can't say enough about this senior class and what they've meant to this program. They've set a real tempo for what we want to accomplish here the next few years," Chapman said. "In the next year or two when the girls come back to school and they're on break from college, they'll have a grasp on how good this season was and what they accomplished."
Diallo, Robinson sparked boys team
Although the 14th-seeded boys basketball team's season came to an end Feb. 28 with a 65-51 home loss to 22nd-seeded Whitehall in the second round of the Division I district tournament, at least some of the loss featured something coach Lyndell Snyder has been used to all season.
Senior guard Tre'Von Robinson scored nine points off the bench, exceeding his season average. Usually the team's first player off the bench, Robinson often found himself making key plays for the Indians, who finished 16-8.
"Being a senior and coming off the bench can be hard," Snyder said before the loss to Whitehall, also mentioning that senior guard Abdoulaye Diallo filled a key role as the team's seventh player. "Tre'Von brings energy and excitement. 'Doulaye' brings the ability to score the ball.
"I think (Diallo) had nine points in 12 minutes (in a first-round game) against Upper Arlington. He's an extremely good offensive player. Tre'Von gets to the hole and guards people really well."
Robinson averaged 7.4 points and Diallo averaged 5.0 with seven and two double-digit scoring games, respectively.
Diallo made a key 3-pointer in the final minute of Canal Winchester's 60-55 home win over 19th-seeded UA on Feb. 22.
Robinson, who was in his only season with the Indians, cited consecutive 13-point games against Groveport and Chillicothe in late January as the highlight of his season. He attended Pickerington schools until last winter, when he moved to Canal Winchester after skipping his junior season of basketball at North.
"It was the best decision I could have made," Robinson said before the game against Whitehall. "I worked on my game a lot more. I wasn't as confident (when I was younger). I think I am able to take over a game sometimes, but I want to make sure to include my teammates as well."
Against Whitehall, Cole Metzler had 10 points and Bilal Sow scored nine. The Indians led 31-30 at halftime, but the Rams used a 21-12 third-quarter edge to take control.