Trailing by 13 points midway through the second quarter, the Hilliard Bradley boys basketball team seemed to flip a switch.
The second-seeded Jaguars scored the next 15 points to take control of their Division I district final against eighth-seeded Newark and cruise to a 60-50 victory March 7 at Ohio Dominican for their second district championship in three seasons.
Coach Brett Norris said that character-building scenario was a signature moment for his team.
"If ever through 26 games there was a moment that would define our group, that's it right there," Norris said.
Ranked fifth in the final state poll, Bradley improved to 24-2 and advanced to play ninth-ranked Walnut Ridge in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio Dominican.
Newark led 26-13 with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Jaguars ended the first half on a 15-0 run to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.
Bradley continued to limit the Wildcats' offensive attack in the second half, building a 44-32 lead with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
"Basketball works in funny ways and once we sat down and started guarding and getting stops, the ball started to go in," said senior guard Matt Allocco, who led the Jaguars with 25 points. "Really, it was the defense that sparked the rally."
Norris was confident that his players could handle the situation.
"(The Wildcats) couldn't have played better," Norris said. "Our kids were telling each other that they're all right and there was a long way to go. It says a lot about our group. In a moment like that, in an environment like that, to be able to take that kind of thrust from your opponent...
"With being down 13, to be able to go (into halftime) with a lead was big for us. And on their end, you can't play much better and go in behind. We started to get stops defensively and we were able to get easy scores in transition."
Junior A.J. Mirgon added 11 points for Bradley.
"Defense is the most important thing for us," Mirgon said. "It all starts with defense. You get stops, change the momentum of the game and we go down and score on offense."
The Jaguars made 21 of 26 free-throw attempts, led by Allocco's 11-for-12 performance at the line. Junior Keaton Norris was 5-for-7 free throws as part of his 12 points.
"It's a special group of kids and you want to see them enjoy that success," coach Norris said. "Anytime you are able to have success against a great program like Newark and how they do things, it's special."
The regional semifinal winner will face Thomas Worthington or Westerville Central in a regional final Saturday, March 14, at Ohio Dominican. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 20.
The Jaguars defeated Thomas twice in OCC-Cardinal Division play, winning 49-44 on Dec. 6 and 53-38 on Jan. 18. Bradley lost to the Cardinals 46-41 in a district semifinal last season.
Norris had 17 points, Mirgon scored 13 and Allocco added 12 in a 50-41 win over 11th-seeded Westerville South in a district semifinal March 4 at Olentangy Berlin.
DeMoss qualifies for state wrestling
Kyle DeMoss will represent the wrestling team in the Division I state tournament that runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
The senior qualified for state by placing fourth at 170 pounds in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Darby. He was pinned by Upper Arlington's David Soghomonyan in 2:43 in the third-place match.
"I was so excited, but I knew I had the preparation to make it happen," said DeMoss, who went 4-2 at district and is 44-12 on the season. "I have never been to state before, even to watch it. I expect there will be a lot of people and a lot of hard matches."
Coach John Riggs said it is important for DeMoss to stay focused during the sensory onslaught at state.
"We have no doubt that he'll do what he has done for four years, and that's get in the practice room and work hard and prepare," Riggs said. "There are a lot of things to get caught up in at state. If you can boil it down to one mat, one wrestler and one official, then you can wrestle your match and that sets you up to be successful."
The Jaguars finished 17th (33 points) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Also competing for Bradley were seniors Alex Schmidt (145, 2-2) and Wade Troutman (195, 0-2), junior Deacon Sawchuk (132, 2-2), sophomore Julien Kleiv (106, 1-2) and freshmen Caden Ellison (120, 0-2), Saimir Refatllari (220, 0-2) and Robert Snyder (heavyweight, 1-2).
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Girls bowling team falls short of state
The girls bowling team won a second consecutive OCC-Cardinal championship, but fell short of reaching its first Division I state tournament.
The Jaguars finished sixth (3,029) of 16 teams in the district tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes, 253 pins behind the fourth and final state qualifier, Delaware (3,282).
Junior Olivia Johnson led Bradley, rolling a 487 three-game series to finish 16th of 108 bowlers. She finished 36 pins behind the fourth and final individual state qualifier, Briggs' Dakota Fink (11th, 523).
Senior Marisabel Aguilar (38th, 443), junior Callie Hribar (tied for 42nd, 437) and junior Katie Yabroff (79th, 295) also rolled three games for the Jaguars.
Brandon Dever was the lone district qualifier for the boys team. The junior tied for 43rd of 109 bowlers with a 516, as the top three individuals advanced to state.
In the OCC-Cardinal, Johnson (175.2 average) and Hribar (168.8) were first-team all-league and Aguilar (153.9) made second team as the girls won their second consecutive league title at 7-0.
Yabroff (147.5) and sophomore Madison Kennedy (139.7) were other top bowlers for the girls team, which finished 13-1 overall.
On the boys side, Dever (205.8) was first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and junior Zander Dietz (186.2) made second team.
Juniors Nick Curran (171.5) and Joe Dwyer (170.8) and sophomore Nick Caruso (180.7) were other top performers for the boys team, which finished 10-5 overall.