Pickerington North boys basketball coach Jason Bates conceded that in a Division I district final between similar teams with like-minded approaches March 6 at Ohio Dominican, his Panthers came up a few plays short.
Senior forward Chris Scott's 19 points and six rebounds paced fifth-seeded North against seventh-seeded Thomas Worthington, but what appeared to be his final basket as a Panther might be the one that sticks in the team's memory the longest.
Scott, a Cincinnati football recruit, had an apparent game-tying basket waved off by a charge into Thomas forward Omari Effiong -- who played for North last season -- with 8.5 seconds left and the Cardinals made their final four free throws to hang on for a 52-48 victory.
"They just ended up making more plays at the end," Bates said. "(Tyrese) Hughey hurt us with his rebounds and second-chance opportunities, and that inside-outside combination with (Jalen) Sullinger on the outside was tough for us to beat."
Hughey's 22 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals led Thomas to its first district championship since 2001. Sullinger added 13 points.
Senior forward Savion Marshall-Hamilton had nine points and 10 rebounds for North, which finished 21-5 overall, had a 10-game winning streak snapped and was seeking its third district title in four years.
The Cardinals held junior guard Casey George, one of the Panthers' top scorers, scoreless three days after his 22 points led North to a 64-38 district semifinal win over 16th-seeded Chillicothe at Amanda-Clearcreek.
"We've shot 3s well all year, but they defended us well," Bates said. "We didn't play our best game defensively, but we were decent. There are a couple plays we just didn't make. We've made 3s all year. That's the game and that's why we love it so much. When you win, you deserved to win. When you don't, you don't."
Cardinals coach Sean Luzader praised Effiong and his team's overall defensive effort.
"(Effiong) has been that guy who gives every bit of effort with loose balls and charges," Luzader said. "We secured this victory with rebounding and defense at the end of the game. ... We had to get back in transition better and box out and rebound (better). That's how (North) beats you. They don't beat you in a half-court offense. They run the floor with unbelievable athletes and beat you that way. Once we spaced them out and made them defend the whole court, that benefited us."
Scott and Shedenhelm, who averaged 11.8 and 12.7 points, respectively, both earned first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division honors. Shedenhelm, an Ashland recruit, also was named third-team all-district.
George averaged 12.5 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district with Scott.
Sophomore guard Jerry Saunders was special mention all-league and sophomore guard Dior Conners was honorable mention all-league.
North went 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio to finish second behind Gahanna (9-1).
Before the district final, the Panthers hadn't lost since a 65-63, triple-overtime setback to Pickerington Central on Jan. 17.
"We want to make sure they see the big picture of what this team did," said Bates, who earned his 200th career win against Chillicothe and has a 200-90 record. "This is one of the best senior groups I've ever had. This team executed and defended better than any team I've ever had. We understand that a lot of people didn't expect us to be here. This makes us sad, but we still need to see the big picture."
Wrestler Carte earns state alternate spot
David Carte of the wrestling team was not guaranteed a spot in his first Division I state tournament, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State, but the junior will be called upon if needed.
Carte went 4-2 and finished fifth at 138 pounds in the district tournament that concluded March 7 at Hilliard Darby. Carte, who is 36-10 on the season, defeated Mount Vernon's Triston Bowens 16-6 in the fifth-place match.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
North scored 28 points and tied Licking Heights for 18th place behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Also competing but failing to advance were Rajesh Bomjan (113, 1-2), Josiah George (182, 1-2), Kyle Coffey (152, 0-2), Erik Gomez (126, 0-2) and Braden Watts (220, 0-2).
Bowling teams hoping to reload
Both the boys and girls bowling teams have most of their top contributors eligible to return after advancing to the Division I district tournament.
Freshman Kyle Butterfield's 527 three-game series led the boys to seventh place (3,726) at district Feb. 29 at HP Lanes behind champion DeSales (3,901) as 16 teams scored. Sophomore Ethan Yurko was 37th (525) of 110 bowlers, followed by seniors Gary Neal (73rd, 416), Jacob Dollmatsch (81st, 323), Caden Thieken (84th, 304), junior Alex Zumock (87th, 284) and sophomore Jack Rodgers (94th, 169).
The girls finished 12th (2,773) behind champion Westerville Central (3,599) as 16 teams scored. Sophomore Evy Vance tied for 42nd (437) of 108 bowlers, followed by senior Kathryn VanCourt (54th, 413), juniors Alana Robinson (55th, 411) and Sienna Reedus (70th, 359) and senior Piper Clark (72nd, 342).
Yurko led the boys with a 194.2 average, ahead of Zumock (187.4), Butterfield (176.8), Dollmatsch (175.6), Neal (171.2) and Thieken (168.2).
The girls team was similarly competitive, led by VanCourt (145.6), Robinson (144.9), Vance (139.3), Reedus (126.5) and Clark (111.3).
Both teams had identical regular-season records of 8-5 overall, 7-5 in the COHSBC-B and 4-2 in the OCC-Central and had 11 bowlers who earned varsity time.
"This is exactly what I was thinking," coach Mike Rossi said of the teams' balance and depth. "I was thinking Kathryn and Alana would be a step up because they've come such a long way. Alana has always been good ... and Evy has come out of nowhere. Sienna and Piper have been consistent, too.
"With the boys, we've had a six-man rotation all year. Caden and Jacob are capable of bowling over 200. Kyle Butterfield will be one of our better bowlers the next couple years. He just has to establish more consistency."