The Watterson girls basketball team continued what has become a tradition in recent years by reaching a Division I district final for the third time in four seasons.

The second-seeded Eagles entered their district final against fifth-seeded Pickerington Central on Feb. 29 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center seeking to advance to a regional tournament for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Watterson, which was the lower seed in its district final matchups in 2017 and last season, came up just short of ending its regional drought as it lost 43-40 to the Tigers, who won their fifth consecutive district title. Central was the 2018 state champion and was the state runner-up a year ago.

According to junior guard Kilyn McGuff, the Eagles were hoping they could "separate ourselves and win it" this season after being so close in past seasons. Last year, Watterson lost to Newark 58-34 in a district final to finish 23-3.

"We've worked so hard for this," McGuff said. "We've come to this point a lot. (Central is) a good team. They're good on all ends, defense, offense, and they push the ball."

Watterson, which finished 23-3, got 16 points from McGuff and 10 from junior wing player/guard Danielle Grim.

On Feb. 26, McGuff scored 10 of her 23 points in the third quarter as Watterson edged 13th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 45-40 in a district semifinal at Central Crossing. Senior guard Paige Woodford added 10 points for the Eagles, who led 23-17 at halftime.

Kilbourne pulled within 41-37 with one minute left but missed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and Woodford and McGuff each made two foul shots in the final minute to seal the victory.

"We threw some silly passes early that didn't make sense and were doing some things that were weird for us to do," coach Tom Woodford said. "(We've made it to a district final) three of the last four years, which is great."

Boys basketball team falls to Bexley

The ninth-seeded boys basketball team had its season end Feb. 26 with a 42-38 home loss to 18th-seeded Bexley in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

The Eagles finished 11-12 overall and 2-6 in the CCL, placing fourth behind champion St. Charles (7-1).

Watterson, which finished with a losing record for the second time in four seasons, had won four of its final five regular-season games.

Senior wing player Mike Bruzzese had 13 points to lead the Eagles, who trailed Bexley 22-13 at halftime.

Bruzzese was second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.5 points. The only other seniors on the roster, wing player Chris Crane and forward Mason Graney, averaged six and five points, respectively.

The top returnee is expected to be junior forward Davis Boone, who averaged a team-high 10.5 points but was held to three by Bexley.

Other juniors included guards Gavin Greene, Noah Gruver, Jake Hoying, Sam Intihar and Nick Malagreca and forward Noah Grayem. Gruver averaged seven points and Graham and Intihar both averaged five.

Gilbert Oduro, a 6-foot-5 sophomore post player, also is eligible to return.

Hockey squad showed improvement

Despite going winless in a 12-game stretch, the hockey team showed improvement this winter.

After finishing 9-21 last season,

The Eagles split their last four games to finish 13-22-1 overall, improving on last season when they finished 9-21.

Watterson also contended for the CHC-Blue Division title before settling for second place (7-9) behind Columbus Academy (7-7-1).

In the district tournament, the 17th-seeded Eagles beat 15th-seeded Olentangy 6-4 in the first round Feb. 22 at OhioHealth Ice Haus before losing 11-1 to fourth-seeded New Albany in a second-round game Feb. 23 at the Ice Haus.

Watterson is losing five seniors, including Max Graham, the coach's son who had eight goals and five assists during limited time at forward and also was the team's No. 1 goaltender.

Other key seniors included left winger Mason Jolly (12 goals, 17 assists) and right winger Ian Simone (11 goals, 14 assists).

Freshman forward Brandon Trout had a team-high 32 goals and 15 assists and junior defenseman Adam Pavliga had 12 goals and nine assists. Other top players expected to return include junior defensemen Nick Colombo and Hayden Storts, junior forwards Tino Auddino and Colin Meyer, junior winger Daniel Davis, sophomore forward Luke Simone and freshman forward D.J. Colombo.

Freshman Andrew Burri could replace Graham as the starting goalie next season after having served as his backup this winter.

Most of bowlers expected to return

The bowling teams expected to return more experienced lineups next season after each had just one senior this winter.

The girls finished 15-2 overall, won the COHSBC-D championship at 11-1 and tied Ready for the CCL title at 4-2, ahead of DeSales and Hartley (both 2-4).

In the Division I sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, the Eagles finished 30th (2,563) of 42 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (3,653), as junior Rachel Reuter tied for 68th of 192 bowlers with a 421 three-game series.

Senior Isabelle Payton led the team with a 162.3 average in COHSBC action.

Juniors Christina Rose and Madison Shaw and sophomore Joy Packard also competed at sectional and junior Chloe Forrest is another bowler eligible to return.

The boys team also ended its season at sectional, finishing 41st (2,621) of 47 teams Feb. 21 at HP Lanes, behind champion Reynoldsburg (3,991).

Sophomore Jack Kish tied for 84th (490) of 270 bowlers.

Sophomores Peter Assaf and Quinn Brown and freshmen Gavin Lewis and James McMonagle are others expected to return, while the only senior was Jacob Garland.

Watterson finished 6-12 overall, placed eighth in the COHSBC-D at 6-7 behind champion DeSales (12-1) and went 0-8 in the CCL to finish fifth behind DeSales (7-1), St. Charles (6-2), Ready (4-4) and Hartley (3-5).

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek