Coming off a 10-13 season, the Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball team rebounded to earn a share of the MSL-Ohio Division title and finish 15-9.
The 22nd-seeded Rams advanced to a Division I district semifinal before losing to top-seeded Gahanna 68-45 on March 4 at Pickerington North. Whitehall also lost to the Lions 55-44 on Dec. 31 at home.
Junior forward Royal Sibley led the Rams in the rematch with 14 points, and junior forward Kei'Von Wiggins added nine.
"I challenged the kids who will be returning, because there's quite a few of them," coach Drew Williams said. "I told them I hope this loss stings because it should sting. You wanted to be on the big stage, this was the big stage. There's certain things you have to be able to do to win and we just didn't have it primarily because we did not follow the game plan."
The Rams went 9-3 in the MSL-Ohio to share the league title with Worthington Christian.
"A league championship is always good," Williams said. "Our league was pretty tough this year."
Williams called a three-game winning streak heading into the district semifinal a highlight of the season.
After losing to Worthington Christian 48-41 on Feb. 11, Whitehall rebounded to defeat Buckeye Valley 66-58 in double overtime Feb. 14 to secure a share of the league title.
The Rams also defeated Hartley 57-47 on Feb. 15 and 14th-seeded Canal Winchester 65-51 in the second round of the district tournament Feb. 28.
"We showed a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity, a lot of mental toughness," Williams said. "It showed a lot of maturity on our part, so I was really happy about that."
Wiggins averaged 13 points and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Sibley (12 ppg) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, junior guard Josiah Mobley (11 ppg) was second-team all-league and senior forward Amir Dallas was honorable mention all-league.
Williams and Worthington Christian's Kevin Weakley shared league Coach of the Year honors.
"It was a great experience playing with these guys," senior guard Charles Miller said. "They made things 10 times better. I got to learn things to better myself for my future from the coaching staff. Things didn't turn out as planned in the district tournament, but getting to the semifinals was a goal I had."
Other players eligible to return are juniors Jay'Saun Brown (forward), Teddy Brown (guard), Da' Leon Jackson (forward), Jaiion Lowe (center/forward) and Kaden Macklin (forward) and freshman Elijah Hughes (forward).
"We have quite a few of them coming back and a lot to work with, but if they don't put the work in it will be all for naught," Williams said. "I like where they are."
Gress bowls at state tourney
Senior Jessica Gress achieved a career goal by competing in her first Division I state tournament March 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Gress finished 16th of 103 bowlers with a 582 three-game series.
"(The state tournament) was challenging and the other girls were tough," she said. "I kept up with them, which is something I never thought I could do. I shot my best. ... I wish I would have made it to state sooner in my career."
She earned the state berth by placing seventh (546) at district Feb. 29 at HP Lanes.
After finishing fourth in pool play in the MSL-Ohio tournament Feb. 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, the Rams lost to Buckeye Valley 3-0 in the best-of-five Baker series final.
Gress, who had a team-best 178.8 average, and senior Kamdon Pauley, who had a 138.9 average, earned first-team all-league honors.
Other players eligible to return are junior Chelsee Cress (123.1) and freshman Lilli Jones.
The boys team's season ended at sectional Feb. 21 at HP Lanes.
In the MSL-Ohio tournament, the Rams finished first (3,547) in pool play but lost to Buckeye Valley 3-1 in a best-of-five Baker series semifinal.
Junior Elias Rozzelle and sophomore Alexander Scott were first-team all-league. Junior David Sattler and sophomore Nathan McGrath were second-team all-league.
Alexander had a team-best 168.2 average, followed by Rozzelle (165.2), McGrath (158.6), Sattler (155) and sophomore Samuel McQuate (151.5).
Other players eligible to return are junior Nick Miner and sophomores Dillon Fooce and Kameron Lees.
Senior wrestlers compete at district
Seniors Steven Fancelli and Andrew Dickens capped their prep wrestling careers by competing in the Division I district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
Fancelli went 0-2 at 113 pounds to finish 33-10, and Dickens went 0-2 at heavyweight to finish 36-9.