Westland High School boys basketball coach Todd Parker believes the importance of his team's 72-60 win at Upper Arlington on Jan. 8 is two-fold.
First, the Cougars rebounded from a 70-64 loss at Dublin Coffman on Jan. 4 to keep their OCC-Central Division championship hopes alive.
"That's huge to be able to bounce back and beat a very good Upper Arlington team," Parker said.
Before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 11, Westland was tied with Thomas Worthington and UA for third in the OCC-Central at 4-2, behind co-leaders Coffman and Olentangy Liberty, both of whom were 5-1. The Cougars defeated Liberty, which won the OCC-Cardinal championship last season, 70-62 on Dec. 21.
Also, the win at UA was Westland's first since the 2005-06 season.
"You don't walk into Arlington any year and pull out a win easily, but we battled, battled, battled and we executed pretty well," Parker said. "Our quickness finally showed up a little bit and we got to the glass."
Westland opened a 36-23 lead early in the third quarter before holding off a comeback bid by UA. The Golden Bears cut their deficit to 43-40 early in the fourth quarter before the Cougars went on a 24-11 run to regain control.
Senior point guard Kersey Long had 22 points and nine assists and senior guard/forward J.J. Smith had 21 points and 15 rebounds.
"This is a big win because we were down," senior forward Devan Williamson said. "We wanted to win that game (against Coffman). They're No. 1 in the league, so this puts us back on track."
Westland travels to Grove City on Tuesday, Jan. 15, looking to post its second win over the Greyhounds this season. The Cougars defeated host Grove City 92-81 in the Tip-Off Classic championship game Dec. 1.
The Cougars had five players score in double figures, led by Long with 25 points. The others were Smith (22), senior guard Cory Beesler (16), senior guard KyJuan Grace (16) and Williamson (10).
"Grove City is tough," Parker said. "They just beat Gahanna (63-60 on Jan. 4), which is a very good win for them. If they're hitting their 3s, they're as good as anybody. They hustle and coach (Greg) Waits does a great job."
The Cougars return to league play Friday, Jan. 18, at Marysville. They beat the Monarchs 75-71 in overtime Dec. 7 behind 26 points from Smith and 23 from Long.
Westland had four players score in double figures against Liberty, which went 21-3 and was a Division I regional semifinalist last season. Long led the way with 20 points, followed by Grace (16), Smith (15) and Williamson (15).
"That's a very big win," Parker said. "There are excellent teams in (the OCC-Central) this year and we're glad to be a part of it."
Long had 25 points and Williamson scored 12 against Coffman.
Girls basketball team ends drought against UA
The girls basketball team defeated visiting UA 39-36 on Jan. 8 to post its first win over the Golden Bears since the 2002-03 season.
Junior forward Christina Simpson led the Cougars with 15 points and junior guard Tanesha Dixon scored 12. UA had 24 turnovers.
"We did things a little bit differently than I think they were anticipating," coach Hugo Quint said. "The kids are playing their hearts out."
The Cougars were 4-8 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 11. They play host to Worthington Kilbourne on Tuesday, Jan. 15, before returning to league play Friday, Jan. 18, at home against Marysville.
Westland defeated Marysville 35-31 on Dec. 7 behind 10 points from sophomore post player Hunter Kershaw, who was lost for the season after breaking her left leg in a 42-39 loss to Thomas Worthington on Dec. 14.
Delgado leads wrestling team at West Jefferson
The wrestling team scored 143 points to finish 14th in the 19-team West Jefferson Invitational on Dec. 28 and 29 behind champion Hillsboro (449).
Senior Tommy Delgado placed fourth at 160 pounds and senior Eric Byers (152) and junior Tommy Stone (170) finished sixth.
"It was one of the hardest tournaments I've seen in about five or six years," coach Bret Busby said. "It was really tough. I was really happy with our kids. We knew it was going to be tough."
Westland will face Hilliard Davidson and Marysville in OCC-Central matches Thursday, Jan. 17, at Central Crossing. The Cougars are 0-1 in the league, having lost to Thomas Worthington 60-15 on Dec. 20.
The drawing for the inaugural state team tournament will be held Monday, Jan. 14. The Cougars are in Region 6-A with Central Crossing, Columbus West, Davidson, Franklin Heights, Grove City, Groveport and UA. The regional quarterfinals will be held Jan. 23.
Gymnastics team begins season
The gymnastics team opened Dec. 21, finishing fifth (90.35 points) behind Washington Court House Miami Trace (109.65), Washington Court House (104.2), Franklin Heights (103.1) and Central Crossing (101.6).
The Cougars also finished fifth (93.7) in a five-team meet Jan. 3 behind host Worthington Kilbourne (132.975), Liberty (126.35), Central Crossing (109.35) and Franklin Heights (103.2).
"It's basically the same as years past," coach Lavon Maynard said. "We have a few returnees, but we still have a bunch of new girls who are learning the basics all over again. They're learning. They're improving."
Westland is in the OCC-Central with Davidson, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Kilbourne and Liberty. The Cougars were 0-1 in the league before Jan. 11, as its result against Kilbourne in its opening meet counted as a league dual.