Despite a recent four-game losing streak, Westland High School boys basketball coach Todd Parker remains optimistic about his team's potential to make a run in the Division I district tournament.
The Cougars were 15-6 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Central Division before concluding the regular season Feb. 15 at Central Crossing. They ended their skid with a 58-49 win over visiting Franklin Heights on Feb. 12.
Westland is seeded 11th of 42 teams in the district and will play host to 27th-seeded Briggs in the first round of the tournament Saturday, Feb. 23. The winner will play 15th-seeded Thomas Worthington or 24th-seeded Westerville Central in the second round Feb. 27 at the home of the higher seed.
The second-round winner will play third-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 23rd-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 29th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal March 6 at Marysville. Top-seeded Northland likely would be the opponent in a district final March 9 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
"The sky is the limit," said Parker, whose team lost to Liberty (58-44 on Feb. 1), Watterson (65-54 on Feb. 2), Dublin Coffman (57-53 on Feb. 5) and Upper Arlington (56-49 on Feb. 8) before beating Franklin Heights. "We have to shore a few things up. Our bracket is mostly teams we've seen or teams we feel we have a pretty good chance of beating."
Westland is familiar with Briggs, as the teams face each other in a preseason scrimmage. The Bruins are a member of the City League-South Division and were 8-13 before playing Whetstone on Feb. 15.
"We think we got a pretty good draw," Parker said. "Briggs kind of jumped on us. The kids are excited about that because it's an across-the-street rival and we're also happy to have a home-court advantage."
Briggs is led by senior guards Chris Gore and Kiante Woods. Through 21 games, Gore was averaging a team-high 13 points and Woods was averaging 12.9.
Westland split its two games against Thomas in OCC-Central play, losing 64-53 on Dec. 14 and winning 62-57 on Jan. 25. The Cougars have not played Westerville Central this season.
Against Franklin Heights, Westland built a 53-32 lead early in the fourth quarter before holding off a late rally by the Falcons.
"We needed a win and we actually needed a win on our home court," Parker said. "We value the fact that we want to be undefeated on our home court every year and lately it's been tainted."
Senior guard/forward J.J. Smith led the Cougars with 13 points and senior guards KyJuan Grace and Kersey Long added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Wing player Johnathan Tinker led Franklin Heights with 25 points.
"This win was very important," Smith said. "We were in a slump for a little bit, but we got back on track. We can beat anybody in the tournament."
Long was averaging a team-high 17.3 points through 21 games and Smith was averaging 14.3 points and a team-high 11.1 rebounds. Smith holds the program records for rebounds in a season (221) and a career (641).
Girls basketball team ties for fifth in OCC
The girls basketball team concluded the regular season with a 45-39 loss to Coffman on Feb. 12 to fall to 10-12 overall.
Westland finished 6-8 in the OCC-Central to tie Central Crossing for fifth, behind co-champions Coffman (12-2) and Hilliard Davidson (12-2), Liberty (9-5) and UA (8-6) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (3-11) and Marysville (0-14).
Junior forward Christina Simpson had a team-high 15 points against Coffman and junior guard Tanesha Dixon scored 13.
The Cougars lost to UA 42-32 on Feb. 8, with freshman forward Camryn Moreno scoring a team-high nine points.
Seeded 20th of 43 teams, Westland played 24th-seeded Watterson in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 15. The winner plays fourth-seeded Coffman or 35th-seeded Marysville in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the home of the higher seed.
The second-round winner will play fifth-seeded Northland, 27th-seeded Briggs or 32nd-seeded Delaware in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Davidson.
Wrestlers finish eighth in league
The wrestling team concluded its OCC-Central duals with a 44-33 loss to Upper Arlington on Feb. 7.
Westland went 0-7 in the league to place eighth, behind Marysville (7-0), Thomas Worthington (6-1), Davidson (5-2), Liberty (3-4), UA (3-4), Central Crossing (2-5) and Coffman (2-5).
The Cougars played host to a Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the district tournament Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.
Gymnastics team prepares for district
The gymnastics team will spend this week preparing for the district meet Saturday, Feb. 23, at Worthington Kilbourne.
The top three teams at district advance to the state team meet March 1 at Hilliard Bradley and the top nine finishers in each event and the all-around advance to the state individual meet March 2 at Bradley.
Last season, the Cougars finished last (89.45) of 24 teams at district, as Grove City (140.075), Coffman (139.375) and Thomas Worthington (137.345) qualified for state. They did not have any individual state qualifiers.
Westland finished fifth (101.525) in the OCC-Central meet Feb. 9 at Thomas, behind Kilbourne (137.45), Davidson (127.225), Liberty (125.525) and Delaware (111.25) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (89.25).
The Cougars went 1-4 in their league duals and tied Scioto (0-5) for fifth in the overall OCC-Central standings with six points, behind Kilbourne (24, 5-0), Liberty (18, 4-1), Davidson (18, 3-2) and Delaware (12, 2-3).