The final game of the Olentangy boys basketball team's season bore more than a passing resemblance to many of the previous 22.
A 49-47 loss at seventh-seeded Thomas Worthington on Feb. 28 in the second round of the Division I district tournament was the Braves' 17th game decided by single digits, nine of which were by three points or fewer.
With the Cardinals seemingly in control after a 7-0 run late in the third quarter and a 15-3 spurt that stretched into the fourth, the 32nd-seeded Braves clawed closer on a 3-pointers by sophomore guard Ethan Smith sandwiching consecutive Thomas possessions that ended in offensive fouls.
Senior guard Jake Elmore gave Olentangy a 47-44 lead on a 3-pointer and two free throws, but the Cardinals tied it on Tyrese Hughey's layup after an offensive rebound with 1 minute, 17 seconds left and won it on Isaac Settles' putback of a missed jumper from Camden Beatty with 3.2 seconds to go.
"When we got into the fourth quarter and we were still in striking range, that was our goal. We played probably 18 close games this year and we knew (Thomas) hadn't played as many close games as we had," said Braves coach John Feasel, whose team had a first-round bye in the district tournament and finished 10-13 overall. "We made a game out of it at the end. The guy battled their butts off. We were the 32nd seed and they were the seventh. That's not supposed to go like that."
Elmore led Olentangy with 10 points and junior forward Zach Wieging added nine.
"They had four guys on the floor who could all flat-out score and shoot it, so we had to get stops when it mattered," Thomas coach Sean Luzader said. "They are not a typical 10-(win) team. They could have been 6-16 or 17-5 because you look at their scores and they played so many close games. Everything was close."
The Braves went 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, tying Orange for fifth place behind co-champions Liberty and Westerville South (both 7-3).
Elmore averaged 11.6 points and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Senior forward Josiah Seymour averaged a team-leading 11.7 points and was second-team all-league and senior guard Austin Brown was honorable mention all-league.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Luke Elmore (guard), Caleb Gossett (forward), Jack Hennegan (forward) and Tavian James (guard).
"I told the guys that if they learned one thing from the season, (it was) no matter how good the other team is or who you're playing, if you just keep battling, good things will happen," Feasel said. "We didn't come out on the winning end of a lot of those games, but we battled."
Gymnasts powered to strong finish
Despite having five freshmen on the roster and just three gymnasts back from a year ago, the gymnastics team nearly won its fourth consecutive OCC-Buckeye championship and came up fewer than six points shy of its fifth state team meet appearance in a row.
Senior Ellie McIntyre finished 10th on uneven bars (8.8 points) and classmate Meg Morgan was 12th on uneven bars (8.875) during the district meet Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, leading Olentangy to 133.325 points and fifth place behind champion Thornville Sheridan (144.55) as 27 teams scored.
Sheridan, Berlin (139.275) and Dublin Jerome (138.775) earned the berths for the state team meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley. The top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to the state individual meet Feb. 29 at Bradley.
Junior Caroline Hise finished 18th on vault (8.325).
The Braves went 6-2 with 16 points in the OCC-Buckeye to finish second behind Orange (20, 8-0).
The rest of Olentangy's roster is eligible to return in freshmen Emilee Baumann, Jordan Horst, Maria Triplett and Courtney Wells.
Hockey team wraps up season
Despite a late comeback in what turned out to be its only postseason game, the 15th-seeded hockey team fell to 17th-seeded Watterson 6-4 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 22 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Junior forward Landon Johnson scored three goals and freshman forward Andrew Kieffer tied the game at 4 with 7:07 left, but the Eagles scored two unanswered goals to seal the win.
Olentangy finished 8-20-0-2 overall and 5-10-0-1 in the CHC-White, placing eighth behind champion Orange (22, 11-5).
The Braves are losing four players to graduation, including defenseman Alec Rieser and goaltender Dominik Rusnak. Other players eligible to return include sophomores Nick Biehl (center) and Kiernan Latshaw (forward) and freshman Essence Wyse (goalie).