Columbus Academy Roundup: Vikings boys basketball team getting into postseason mindset

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Johnny Hill and Columbus Academy are preparing to open the Division III district tournament Feb. 23 at Northridge. The Vikings were 11-6 before playing Mifflin on Feb. 16.

Columbus Academy boys basketball coach Jeff Warstler has witnessed several positives with his team this season, including a six-game winning streak. 

The Vikings are looking to build on that success as they prepare for the Division III district tournament. 

“This team has taken on that Academy mantra,” Warstler said. “You have to defend and execute and play hard. They know how we have to play if we want to have chances to win games. We just want teams to view us as a tough night. If you’re looking ahead and you see us on the schedule and you know it’s going to be a tough night, then we’ve done our job.” 

Seeded ninth, Academy will visit 12th-seeded Northridge in the opening round Feb. 23. Despite being the better seed, the Vikings will travel to Northridge since they have played their home games with no spectators because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“The cool part is if we’re going on the road at least our senior parents can see their kids play in the tournament,” Warstler said. “For us, it’s a bonus. I’m fine with whatever draw we got. Northridge is a good team and they’re getting better, so we have our hands full.” 

The winner plays 10th-seeded Fairbanks on Feb. 27. 

On the horizon for the Vikings could be a rematch with MSL-Ohio Division-rival Worthington Christian in a district semifinal March 2. The Warriors advanced to the MSL-Ohio tournament title game Feb. 12 against Whitehall and were ranked first in the state poll released Feb. 8. 

Academy, which was 11-6 before playing Mifflin on Feb. 16, lost to Worthington Christian 61-56 on Feb. 3. Tanner Compton led the Vikings with 21 points, followed by Kevin Reeves with 13 and Brady Hess with 10. 

“It’s hard to be up 22 nights in a year, but we won six games in a row and we played the top team in the state to the wire,” Warstler said. “It was a one-point game in the final minute.” 

Academy then lost 57-43 to fifth-seeded Buckeye Valley in the opening round of the MSL-Ohio tournament Feb. 6. The Vikings, who were seeded fourth, had defeated the Barons 40-39 on Jan. 29. 

“We were fortunate to beat Buckeye Valley the first time and they came in locked and ready to go (in the rematch) and took it to us,” Warstler said. “We have to remember that we have to play humble every night, because the way we have to defend, the details we have to follow, if we’re not playing humble and we’re not locked in on what we do best, we could get beat.” 

Through 16 games, Reeves led Academy in scoring (12.2), rebounding (9.0) and blocked shots (1.2), while Hess and Parker Logan led in assists (2.7) and Compton led in steals (1.6). 

“We’ve been hot the last couple of weeks, which is awesome going into tournament play,” Hess said. “The guys are starting to come together.” 

The Vikings also have received solid efforts from Daniel Farber, Sonari Hart, Johnny Hill, Ryan Panley, Henry Rubey and Miles Walter. 

Academy lost a key player for the season when Jared Kass suffered a left quad injury in the loss to Buckeye Valley. 

“We had the loss of Jared Kass, which hurts the team in a big way, but the rest of the season we’ll be playing for him,” Hess said. “It’s good motivation going forward.” 

Ethan Stahl and Academy open the postseason with a Division III sectional Feb. 26 and 27 at Madison Plains.

Wrestling squad

preps for postseason 

The wrestling team will compete in a Division III sectional Feb. 26 and 27 at Madison Plains. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Coshocton. 

“I think we’ll be ready to go,” coach Paul Bukky said. “We look like we’re in pretty good shape. We’re making sure we’re pushing kids hard enough, but not too hard and wearing them out.” 

Before competing against Buckeye Valley on Feb. 11, Gyvnn Mendenhall (220 pounds) and Parker Knapp (120/126) were 7-0, Tiko Bdoyan (138/145) was 6-2, Ethan Stahl (182/195) was 4-1, Nick Yakam (138/145) was 4-3 and Chris Sugar (145) was 3-0. 

Knapp had a team-high six pins. 

Academy and Grandview tied at 36 on Feb. 5, with the Bobcats winning 37-36 on tiebreaker criteria. 

Girls basketball team 

winding down season 

The girls basketball team was 5-6 overall before playing Licking Heights on Feb. 11 and 3-3 in the MSL-Ohio before facing Grandview on Feb. 15. 

Academy did not compete in the league tournament because of COVID-19. 

The 12th-seeded Vikings played 14th-seeded Centerburg in the opening round of the Division III district tournament Feb. 17, with the winner visiting second-seeded Cardington on Feb. 20. 

The winner of that game plays eighth-seeded North Union or 11th-seeded Johnstown in a district semifinal Feb. 23 at the home of the better seed.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank