With only 13 players in his program, Wellington School girls basketball coach Bill Mitchin knew his team would need to stay healthy to put together its first winning season since 2007-08.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they were plagued by injuries and illness throughout the season and finished 6-17.
Freshman forward Gwen Hughes underwent an appendectomy and later sustained a concussion, missing a total of 17 games. Sophomore forward Molly Anderson missed the final nine games with a knee injury and junior post player Donnette Cox missed seven games with a concussion.
"We had two starters out with injuries and the flu hit us pretty hard, too, to the point where we had four or five freshmen on the floor at the same time and only one or two players on the bench for some games late in the season," Mitchin said. "It was disappointing to have three girls miss a big chunk of the season, but I was encouraged by the girls' attitudes and approach to the game. No matter how much adversity we faced, they continued to play with extreme effort."
Wellington won five of its first nine games but went 1-13 the rest of the season, losing its final eight contests. Seeded 17th, the Jaguars closed the season with a 70-16 loss to second-seeded Worthington Christian in the first round of the Division IV district tournament.
Cox had six points against Worthington Christian, which outscored the Jaguars 21-0 in the second quarter and led 32-6 at halftime.
Among Wellington's victories was a 40-26 win over Columbus School for Girls in the first round of the Jaguar Invitational on Jan. 18. The Jaguars lost to Shekinah Christian 64-17 in the final of the four-team event the next day.
"Beating CSG in the first round of the Jaguar Invitational was the highlight of our season for two reasons," Mitchin said. "First, it's always nice to beat a traditional rival. Second, that win came in the middle of our team being hit by all of those injuries and illnesses. It would have been easy to sell our season short at that point, but the girls continued to play hard."
The Jaguars lose one senior in starting point guard Helen Fite, who averaged 6.6 points and had a team-high 47 assists.
Among those expected to return are six players who started multiple games in Anderson, Cox, junior forward Mallory Tannous, sophomore guard Sydney Snow, freshman forward Halle Jefferson and freshman guard Abbey Mayne.
Cox averaged 8.7 points and 13 rebounds and was named honorable mention all-district. Jefferson averaged 6.3 points and 7.5 rebounds, Tannous averaged 4.5 points and Anderson averaged 4.3 points and four rebounds.
Also expected back are Hughes, sophomore Jane Borgemenke (guard) and freshmen Derin Atekoja (wing player), Paige Harper (post player), Madison Jo Hyzdo (forward) and Annie Steele (guard).
"Our younger kids will be that much better next year because of the opportunities they had for playing time because of all of the injuries we had," Mitchin said. "All of our girls walked away better players for all of the adversity they faced."
Boys team's 'wheels' fell off late in season
The boys basketball team ended its season with a 57-49 loss to 13th-seeded Grove City Christian in the second round of the Division IV district tournament Feb. 27 at home to finish 12-10.
The seventh-seeded Jaguars, who had a first-round bye, led 21-13 at halftime but were outscored 22-7 in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Jahi Dial had 14 points to lead Wellington, with senior point guard Tyler Sharp scoring 13 and senior guard Jonathan Robinson scoring 11.
The Jaguars lost six of their first nine games before winning five in a row. The winning streak included victories over Hartville Lake Center Christian (50-40 on Jan. 18) and Shekinah Christian (72-56 on Jan. 19) in the Jaguar Invitational.
Wellington went 4-4 in its final eight games.
"Our team came together to dismantle Shekinah Christian and win our invitational, but we struggled with our chemistry after that," coach Brian McCants said. "We had a very talented team and we should have been up there with the best teams in the state in Division IV. I don't know why, but the wheels fell off for us at some point."
The Jaguars lose six seniors, including four who started multiple games in Dial, Robinson, Sharp and center Billy Brisk.
Sharp averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 assists and was third-team all-district and Dial averaged 13.3 points and was honorable mention all-district. Robinson averaged 11.3 points and Brisk averaged six points.
Expected to return are junior Mason McIntyre (guard), sophomores Ben Brisk (forward), Elliott Fite (guard), Zach Kauffman (forward) and Ben Sloneker (center) and freshman Lorenze Gordon-Haynes (guard).
Gordon-Haynes averaged 7.9 points.
Wellington also will be undergoing a coaching change during the offseason, as McCants announced before the postseason that he would be stepping down. He guided the Jaguars for 12 seasons, posting a 150-93 record and leading them to district and regional titles in 2003.
The Jaguars also won a district title in 2005, but that championship was awarded to them after Africentric, which had beaten Wellington 73-46 in the district final on its way to winning the state title, had to forfeit all of its postseason wins for using an ineligible player.
"I always will be a Jaguar no matter if I'm coaching there or not," McCants said. "They will need to do some rebuilding after losing those seniors, but I wish those guys the best."