The DeSales boys bowling team started fast during the Division I state tournament March 6 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, but the Stallions tried not to let a finish they didn't want take the luster off an historic achievement for the program.
The Stallions bowled a 963 in their first game, 921 in the second and 848 in the third to fall from seventh to 13th place entering the three Baker games, and finished 14th (3,266) in qualifying behind Centerville (3,780). The top eight teams advanced to the championship round.
Senior Andrew Swift's 575 three-game series led DeSales, which was making its first state appearance as a team a week after winning its first district championship.
Junior Bryan Ritzler was 45th (572), followed by senior Isaiah Thomas (56th, 551), freshman Caden Lester (66th, 529) and senior Will McAfee-Witherspoon (74th, 505).
"We started out great, but we missed some spares and I think that got in their heads. Things went downhill from there," coach Miranda Singer said. "Isaiah had a great second game and Andrew was consistent. They just wanted to be in the top eight and we thought would take bowling in the 900s every game to do that. Once that 848 hit, it deflated us a little bit. Even the 921 brought them down a bit because they knew it'd be tough from there."
Thomas started the second game with eight consecutive strikes. Swift had games of 192, 190 and 193.
"We were confident coming in here, but things were just iffy all day," Thomas said. "I breathed and just was focused on one thing, getting strikes. The first game is always my iffy game, my warmup, but after I got warm and loose, I just threw the ball how I was taught."
The state tournament finished a season in which DeSales went 18-1 overall, 12-1 in the COHSBC-B Division to win the league championship ahead of runners-up Ready and St. Charles (both 11-2) and 7-1 in the CCL to finish ahead of the runner-up Cardinals (6-2) for the Stallions' third title in a row.
"We thought we had a good chance and had a great start, but we had a tough time with the lanes by the third game," Ritzler said. "To be here, to have this kind of season, is great. We're not mad about anything. We're very proud we got here."
Thomas had a 198.0 average during the regular season, ahead of Ritzler (196.6), Lester (195.3), Swift (186.3) and McAfee-Witherspoon (176.2).
The girls team expects to return three of its top six bowlers in junior Skyla Blumenscheid, who carried a 165.2 average, as well as classmate Ella Otu-Danquah (121.4) and freshman Alexis Reynolds (104.1).
Blumenscheid finished 39th (442) of 108 individuals at district, falling short of her second consecutive state berth.
Senior Audrey Nave averaged 141.9, ahead of classmates Catharina Le (125.6) and Olivia Houlihan (123.7).
Other boys bowlers who are eligible to return include junior James Jackson and sophomores Patrick Anderson and Andy Karas.
"We wish we could have competed (better at state), but knowing we're the first team to come here, it's something special," Thomas said. "It's bittersweet, but we tried to treat this like any other day and not let the moment be too big."
Boys basketball team wins district title
The boys basketball team was seeded third in the Division II district tournament, but won its first district title since 2016 and eighth in program history by knocking off the top two seeds in consecutive games.
After defeating second-seeded and previously undefeated Heath 63-53 in a semifinal March 4 at Bloom-Carroll, the Stallions gutted out a low-scoring victory and edged top-seeded Jonathan Alder 32-30 in overtime in a district final March 7 at Central Crossing.
Kobe Righter's 14 points led DeSales, which trailed 16-11 at halftime, and Austin Mann scored the winning basket on a jump shot with 20.5 seconds left in overtime.
The Stallions improved to 19-6 and will play New Philadelphia in a regional semifinal Thursday, March 12, at Ohio University. That site, if not the matchup, was the goal coach Pat Murphy had in mind at the tournament draw.
"It was all about Athens for Jonathan Alder, Heath and us," Murphy said. "It was not about the matchups with each other. It was that we all think our kids deserve a shot at the state tournament and Athens traditionally, for Columbus teams, is the road you take to get there."
Righter scored in double digits for the 12th time in the past 13 games. The only exception was against Heath, when he was held to eight points.
"Kobe has elevated his game to where we always thought he should be, and getting (forward) Chris (Fleisher) back from three weeks out was huge," Murphy said. "Chris is our glue guy. He does a lot of things that don't show up in stats. Everybody is contributing at a high level."
Desmond Watson scored a game-high 32 points against Heath but was held to six against Jonathan Alder.
The DeSales-New Philadelphia winner will play Byesville Meadowbrook or Logan Elm in the regional final Saturday, March 14, at OU. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 20 at Ohio State.
The Stallions are seeking their fifth state tournament appearance and first since 2009.
"(A district championship) is just another step toward our goal," Watson said. "We're a family. Our goal is to win a state championship."
Potts reaches state wrestling tourney
Cole Potts of the wrestling team will try to improve on last year's fourth-place finish at heavyweight in the Division II state tournament when he competes there for the second and final time beginning Friday, March 13, at Ohio State.
The senior finished third in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Wilmington, going 4-1 and pinning Kettering Alter's Matthew See in 23 seconds in the third-place match. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which concludes Sunday, March 15.
Potts' 38-3 record this season matches his win total from last year, when he was 38-5.
Also competing at district but failing to advance were Owen Eagan, who went 2-2 at 120, and Josh Morse, who went 0-2 at 132. Eagan competed as an alternate after finishing fifth at the sectional Feb. 28 and 29 at Licking Valley.
DeSales scored 29 points at district to tie Marengo Highland for 22nd behind champion St. Paris Graham (242) as 49 teams scored.