Junior forward Christina Simpson believes a win in the Division I district tournament would help validate the Westland High School girls basketball team's improvement this season.
The Cougars are seeded 20th of 43 teams in the district and will play host to 24th-seeded Watterson in the first round of the tournament Friday, Feb. 15. The winner plays fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman or 35th-seeded Marysville in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the higher seed.
"It would definitely be a step for our program because I have no idea when the last time we went to the second round in the tournament (was)," Simpson said. "If we win (the game against Watterson), it would be an accomplishment, but it's not something to be satisfied with."
Westland, which was 10-10 overall and 6-6 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Upper Arlington on Feb. 8, is seeking its first district tournament win since 2005 when it defeated Chillicothe 68-45 in the first round. The Cougars lost to third-seeded Gahanna 49-37 in the second round that season.
"Westland's an aggressive team with quick guards and post players who go after rebounds well," Watterson coach Tom Woodford said. "Westland is strong and they play a physical style. We need to use our strength to match them while avoiding getting caught up into their style of game. We also need to be ready to withstand their half-court defense by making good decisions with the ball and making our shots."
Watterson was 9-10 before playing Teays Valley on Feb. 7. The Eagles are led by 5-foot-11 guard Kayla Cook, 5-11 center Emma Nikolai, 5-10 post player Alexis Mayle and 5-7 guard Makenzie Bevins.
The Cougars and Eagles faced each other in a summer league game last year, Westland coach Hugo Quint said.
"It's going to be another Division I basketball game," Quint said. "If you come not ready to play, you're going to go home. I look for it to be a rock 'em, sock 'em type game.
"This year, we've lost a couple close games and we've won a couple close. Each one, one way or the other, has an affect on building for the future for your kids. It would be great for our kids who are going to be seniors next year to get a victory in the tournament."
Westland lost to Olentangy Liberty 50-38 in an OCC-Central game Feb. 1. Guard Tanesha Dixon and forward Rachelle Marcum each scored nine points to lead the Cougars.
Through 20 games, Simpson was averaging a team-high 12.2 points. Dixon was averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 11.2 rebounds.
Wrestlers preparing for sectional tourney
The wrestling team will play host to a Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 16.
Also competing in the sectional are Central Crossing, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Grove City, Hilliard Davidson, New Albany, St. Charles, Upper Arlington and Worthington Kilbourne.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
Last season, Westland finished 10th (56 points) in a 10-team sectional at Central Crossing behind champion Coffman (196.5).
The Cougars finished seventh (88) in the 14-team All-North Tournament on Feb. 2 at Dublin Jerome behind champion Mount Vernon (244.5).
Jacob Ball reached the final at 120 pounds before losing to Jerome's Liam Dunlea 5-0.
Greg Rummel (126), Romero White (132), Devyn VanHandel (145) and Tommy Stone (170) each finished fourth and Blake Rece placed fifth (106).
Boys basketball team gets set to play Falcons
The boys basketball team will play host to Franklin Heights on Tuesday, Feb. 12, before closing the regular season Friday, Feb. 15, at Central Crossing in an OCC-Central contest.
Westland has not played Franklin Heights since beating the Falcons 56-46 in the South-Western City Schools Classic in the 2010-11 season. The Cougars defeated Central Crossing 94-69 on Jan. 11.
Westland then will prepare for the Division district tournament, which starts Feb. 23. The tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 10.
The Cougars entered a league game against Upper Arlington on Feb. 8 looking to end a three-game losing streak. They lost to Liberty 58-44 on Feb. 1, Watterson 65-54 on Feb. 2 and Coffman 57-53 on Feb. 5 before playing the Golden Bears.
Guard Kersey Long had 24 points and guard/forward J.J. Smith scored 18 against Watterson and Long and Smith scored 20 and 10, respectively, against Coffman. Long and guard Cory Beesler each had nine points against Liberty.
"This past week was difficult," coach Todd Parker said. "We played the three best teams on our schedule and knew it would be a tough stretch. Liberty wanted revenge, Watterson wanted respect and Coffman is just plain good. I felt we played well enough to win these games, but we had a few mistakes late that did us in each time."
The Cougars had defeated Liberty 70-62 on Dec. 21.