With senior Devan Williamson likely out for the remainder of the season, Westland High School boys basketball coach Todd Parker knows that his team must move on.
Williamson, a 6-foot-4 forward who was averaging 11.1 points through 15 games and was second on the team in rebounding with 4.9 per game, has been ruled academically ineligible, according to Parker.
Parker added that Williamson could return if the Cougars make a deep run in the postseason and he regains eligibility.
The Division I district tournament begins Feb. 23.
In its first game without Williamson, Westland defeated visiting Hilliard Davidson 70-42 on Jan. 29. The Cougars were 14-2 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 1.
"He is a nice, lengthy athlete," Parker said of Williamson. "It hurts, but it gives some other kids opportunities to step in. (Forward/guard) Jalen Brown did a nice job stepping in (Jan. 29)."
Senior guard Cory Beesler connected on six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points against Davidson. Senior point guard Kersey Long had 17 points and senior guard/forward J.J. Smith scored 12.
"It's more of a team thing," Beesler said of losing Williamson. "It's always been a team thing. We just need someone to step in and flow with us. The chemistry is still intact. You can't look back. You have to keep pushing forward."
With Williamson out of the lineup, Smith could have more of a presence inside. He had 12 rebounds against Davidson and had a program-record 22 rebounds in a 79-47 win over Delaware on Jan. 22. The previous record was 21, which Carl Weaver set during the 1976-77 season.
Through 16 games, Smith was averaging a team-high 11.9 rebounds.
Entering play Feb. 1, Westland was one game behind Dublin Coffman (9-1) and a half-game behind Liberty (8-1) in the race for the OCC-Central championship. The Cougars play host to Coffman on Tuesday, Feb. 5, and the Shamrocks play host to Liberty on Friday, Feb. 8.
Westland lost to Coffman 70-64 on Jan. 4. Long led the Cougars with 25 points and Williamson scored 12. Forward Jason Hall and guard Josh Morrow each had 13 points to lead the Shamrocks.
"It doesn't get easier," said Parker, whose team took an eight-game winning streak into its game against Liberty. "We're going to focus hard on the league and see what we can do. We always look forward to playing Coffman. Coach (Jamey) Collins will have them ready. They play a similar style to us and it's always a very fun, athletic and energetic game."
Westland avenged its first loss of the season by defeating Thomas Worthington 62-57 on Jan. 25 at home. The Cougars had four players score in double figures in Long (19), senior guard KyJuan Grace (15), Beesler (12) and Smith (10).
The Cougars had lost to the Cardinals 64-53 on Dec. 14.
Through 16 games, Long was averaging a team-high 16.6 points, followed by Smith (15.1), Williamson, Grace (10.3) and Beesler (10.1).
Girls basketball team surprises Davidson
The girls basketball team dampened Davidson's OCC-Central title hopes by beating the host Wildcats 40-39 on Jan. 29.
Junior guard Christina Simpson scored the decisive basket on a layup with 3.1 seconds remaining. The Wildcats had 18 turnovers, including one with 19 seconds left that set up Simpson's winning basket.
Entering play Feb. 1, Coffman was first in the OCC-Central at 10-1, followed by Davidson (9-2).
"(Davidson was) tied for first place in our league and I'm sure Coffman is all excited," coach Hugo Quint said.
Junior forward Rachelle Marcum had 12 points to lead the Cougars and Simpson scored 10. Junior guard Tanesha Dixon, who was averaging a team-best 11.2 rebounds through 19 games, had 14 rebounds. The Cougars had lost to Davidson 51-21 on Dec. 18.
Westland defeated host Thomas Worthington 53-40 on Jan. 25 as freshman guard Maria Hamilton had 14 points, Simpson and freshman forward Camryn Moreno each scored 12 and Dixon scored 10.
The Cougars had lost to the Cardinals 42-39 on Dec. 14.
"The only thing that we want is for people to respect us," Quint said. "In the past, we were a patsy on everybody's schedule. We were everybody's senior night. We were everybody's parents night, and now we start getting everybody's tough end."
Through 19 games, Simpson was averaging a team-high 12.7 points, followed by Dixon (10.6).
The drawing for the Division I district tournament will be held Sunday, Feb. 3. The tournament starts Feb. 16.
Wrestlers beat three teams in Wildcat Duals
The wrestling team won three of its five matches in the Wildcat Duals on Jan. 26 at Westerville South.
The Cougars defeated Liberty Union (50-23), Walnut Ridge (78-6) and Columbus South (48-27) and lost to St. Charles (40-34) and Westerville South (43-33).
"I look forward to (the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Marysville) and summer wrestling," coach Bret Busby said. "I'm very proud of our guys. They work hard and are a great group of young men."
Before competing in an OCC-Central dual match against Central Crossing on Jan. 31, Jacob Ball was 21-3 at 120 pounds, Romero White was 12-6 at 132, Eric Byers was 13-10 at 152, Tommy Stone was 18-17 at 170 and Greg Rummel was 13-12 at 126.