Senior guard Geoffrey Schoeny helped Upper Arlington win the OCC-Central title and win a district championship. The Golden Bears finished 21-5.
Moments after his team won its first Division I district championship in five years, and even before cutting its piece off the net on March 5 at the Ohio Dominican, Upper Arlington’s boys basketball coach Tim Casey appreciated the performance by taking the whole into account.
“It never gets old,” Casey said. “It (the district championship) was our fifth in the last 21 years. It took us 60 years, from 1947 to 2007, to get (the first in my 21 season). The fact that we have won five since 2007 tells how they invested here are the guys.
“Our approach was that we would not let what we have achieved for 20 years come from us in one year. We came with a determination. From the fact that we could meet as a group, I think this group was as determined and invested as what a group I’ve ever had. “
The Golden Bears’ season ended on March 9 with a 53-40 loss to Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal at the Ohio Dominican. The Tigers won the regional title by defeating Gahanna 59-42 on March 12.
Against Central, senior guard Quinn Corna had 19 points, but Nick Heath – a senior forward and recruit from Denison who had averaged 22 points in the previous six games and led the UA in points in each of them – was held to six points.
The Bears were down 22-20 at halftime and 30-26 halfway through the third quarter but never got any closer.
Still, Casey was adamant that the loss did not diminish the program’s recovery from a three-year run that, although not without some success, did not meet Bear’s standards.
UA lost in a district semifinal 2018-19, fell in the first round 2019-20 and went last year with 9-12 in total and 1-9 in the league, and finished last of six teams in the OCC-Central Division.
The Bears put it behind them with a turnaround from worst to first, winning the league title directly 7-3 and defeating Reynoldsburg 48-43 in a district final. They finished 21-5 overall.
This was achieved despite Corna playing through a broken toe in the middle of the season and classmates Heath and Geoffrey Schoeny (guard) each missed several matches due to a concussion and a broken thumb.
Senior Owen Gawel helped lead the team on point guard after suffering two broken ankles in the past two years.
“It’s been a tough, cruel, determined group,” Casey said. “I think it has helped us develop the depth and deal with tough times to have some injuries. It’s really important. You will not go through a season unscathed very often and this group was tagged a couple of times but came back stronger and more determined. “
Corna, whose 1,051 career points rank him seventh in the program’s history, averaged 18.2 points to earn the first team in the entire district and share the Player of the Year award with Coffman’s Ajay Sheldon.
Heath (15.8 points) was the first team in the entire league and the third team in the entire district, senior guard Drew Graves (7.8 points) and Schoeny (8.8 points) were the second team in the entire league and Gawel (4.2 points) was an honorable mention the whole league.
Players who are eligible to return include junior forward Joey Harder and novice guard Zach Corna.
Heath wanted to match the performances of the older brothers Austin and Harrison, who were part of UA’s second team in the state in 2014.
“Just staying at the gym individually and as a group was huge. Coach Casey always coaches us to be in the right place at the right time and (when it comes to) the right things to run,” says Heath. “With him and the rest of the coaches and ours seniors, we really felt we could beat anyone. “
UA BOYS BASKETBALL
•Record: 21-5 overall
• OCC-Central position: Upper Arlington (7-3), Hilliard Davidson (6-4), Olentangy Liberty (6-4), Hilliard Bradley (4-6), Olentangy Orange (4-6), Dublin Coffman (3-7)
• Senior lost: Quinn Corna, Luke Eriksen, Owen Gawel, Drew Graves, Nick Heath, Jack Purcell, Jacob Schneider and Geoffrey Schoeny
• Key recipients: Zach Corna and Joey Harder
• Post-season: Def. Chillicothe 58-14; def. Olentangy 56-37; def. Newark 61-38; def. Reynoldsburg 48-43; lost to Pickerington Central 53-40 in Division I regional semifinals