Guards expected to lead Wildcats
Under first-year coach Silas Williams, the Westerville South High School girls basketball team is going to utilize some of the things that worked last year under former coach Jeff Brenning and add some new wrinkles.
Williams was the junior varsity coach last season and he's using that familiarity to help put players in the right positions before turning them loose.
"Offensively, we kept some of the sets and things that the players liked," Williams said. "I'll put my touch in as far as full-court pressure. Brenning and I have a lot of similarities and I think that's one of the reasons why they hired me."
In Brenning's nine seasons, South was a perennial contender for the OCC title, winning three league titles from 2004-06.
Last year, the Wildcats were 14-7 overall and 10-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. South was third in the league behind co-champions Dublin Scioto and Olentangy (11-3). Westerville North was fourth (9-5), followed by Marysville (6-8), Dublin Jerome (4-10), Westerville Central (3-11) and Olentangy Liberty (2-12).
South won nine of its last 10 games in the regular season before eventually losing to North 59-51 in overtime in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Part of the reason for South's success at the end of the year was the play of starting point guard Morgan Neighbors and backup Erica Aiello. For stretches, they were South's best players.
As juniors, both are starters this season and are expected to lead the way. Neighbors will play more at shooting guard this season to make room for Aiello at the point guard spot. In her first varsity season last year, Aiello led South in 3-point shooting percentage at 41 percent.
"We've been playing together since middle school and being back on the court together has been great," Aiello said. "I think we're going to be pretty good this year. For me, it's just being more vocal on the court and helping everybody else out."
Neighbors has played significant varsity minutes since her freshman year. As a freshman, she was often the first player off the bench before moving into a starter's role last season. She started slow last year as she dealt with a soccer injury, but came on toward the end to average 9.0 points.
South needs her to help make up for the loss of leading scorer Shanae` Ash (13.7 points) and leading rebounded Brooke Robbins (10.5 rebounds), who also averaged in double figures (10.0 points).
"It feels good being able to step in their shoes and being the leader instead of always listening," Neighbors said. "I'll have to fill more of the shooting role this year."
The Wildcats also have some height inside with junior Rylee Holman (6-foot-2), and they're expecting a big contribution from junior guard Lindsay Gerhart, who missed the second half of last season with injury.
Also on the team are seniors Breyona Colley and Rena Pele, and juniors Nikia Buckingham, Cori McClain, Alex Hall and Sydney Sharp. Sophomore Brianna Wendell, sophomore Marley Stash and freshman Jada Smoot are also on the team.