Wildcats boys blowing past opponents
The Westerville South High School boys basketball team has been dominating opponents this season.
With a blend of a hard-nosed defense and a fast-breaking offense, the Wildcats were 7-0 overall before playing Westerville North last Tuesday.
Life was good for the Wildcats after a 62-22 win over Watterson on Dec. 30. They made it look easy against the Eagles, leading 28-4 at halftime. Afterward, part of coach Ed Calo's message was for his team to stay grounded.
"I tell our team the truth: that it's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think," said Calo, whose team had won 33 consecutive regular-season games before playing North. "We made (the Watterson game) look easy, but we really had to work. (Watterson) missed some easy shots that changed the mindset, but we really went after it."
Through seven games, South had beaten its opponents by an average margin of 29.3 points. The victory over Watterson was its second by 39 or more points. The other was an 81-42 win over Groveport in the opener Dec. 4. The Wildcats' lone challenge came in an 82-78 win over Reynoldsburg on Dec. 14.
A key to South's success has been solid play by players who stepped into larger roles this season, including senior guard Damarkeo Lyshe.
A spot player last season, Lyshe set up the Wildcats' high-pressure defense against Watterson by guarding Brad McCurdy, the Eagles' point guard. Lyshe drew two charges in the contest and forced McCurdy to dribble out of bounds. Perhaps nothing signified South's mentality more than in the third quarter when Lyshe stole the ball from McCurdy and drove the length of the floor for a layup and a chance for a 3-point play. The Wildcats' bench erupted as though the game was tied, when in fact Lyshe's basket made it 34-7.
"We all just have a common goal, really," guard Ben Jones said. "Our coach always says, 'Play like one, act like one.' Our bench always needs to be in the game emotionally and support the players on the court. Everybody is really starting to learn their new roles and really sticking to their goals."
To guard against complacency, all anyone on South's roster needs to do is think back to last season when South finished the regular season 20-0 and earned the No. 3 seed for the Division I district tournament, only to be beaten by eighth-seeded Marion-Franklin 66-57 in a district semifinal to finish 22-1.
The Wildcats would rather forget about last season's ending, however, and instead focus on making sure their level of play does not drop off.
"We're all motivated," Lyshe said. "Our goal is to stay motivated and striving every day to get better."
South looks to continue its winning ways Friday with an OCC-Cardinal Division game at Olentangy, which won only three of its first eight games.
The Braves are led by guards Jordan Gingery and Chad Nugen and 6-foot-8 center Stephen Walczak.
AT A GLANCE
Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the South boys and girls basketball teams:
*Dec. 21 - Defeated Marysville 69-41. Traevon Jackson scored 19 points, Damarkeo Lyshe scored 15 and Ben Jones scored 12.
Dec. 30 - Def. Watterson 62-22. Jackson scored 23 points.
*Last Tuesday - Played North
Friday - At Olentangy. The Wildcats won 97-44 and 65-46 last season.
Of note: The Wildcats were 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.
*Dec. 21 - Lost to Marysville 52-47. Morgan Neighbors scored 21 points, including four 3-pointers.
*Last Wednesday - Played North
*Friday - Home vs. Olentangy. The teams split last season, with the Wildcats losing 48-42 in the first meeting and winning 59-46 in the second.
Of note: The Wildcats were 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Wednesday.