As expected, Toury Freeman has emerged as a leader of the Westland High School boys basketball team.
The 6-foot-3 senior forward, who has taken on a starting role after coming off the bench a year ago, helped the Cougars beat Columbus West 76-69 on Dec. 20 and Beechcroft 52-39 on Dec. 30 to post back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Westland was 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Dublin Coffman on Jan. 3.
"I feel like I've taken leadership and making (my teammates) work hard in practice and making sure that we give 101 percent every day, every play, every practice," Freeman said.
The only returnee who got significant playing time last season, Freeman was averaging 14.7 points through eight games, ranking second on the team behind junior guard Javon Watson (15.1).
"Last year Toury had to come off the bench and this year with him being a senior we've stressed 'Toury, you have to be our leader, you have to be our vocal leader, you have to be our leader in practice, you have to be the guy that works the hardest,' " coach Seth Martin said. "Not only for this year but for years to come so young guys can see how hard he's worked to be successful and maybe (they will) continue the tradition for years to come."
Freeman hit a jump shot from the foul line in the final second to lift the Cougars to a 54-52 league win over Hilliard Davidson on Dec. 17. He called the shot the biggest of his career.
"I thought the shot slipped out of my hand," he said. "I thought it was going to be an air ball, but it just rolled in and I was just so happy."
Watson scored 26 points and Freeman added 21 against West as Westland bounced back from an 88-56 league loss to Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 20.
Westland trailed Beechcroft 29-21 early in the second half before ending the game on a 31-10 run.
JaQuan Henry led the Cougars with 16 points and Freeman added 13.
"These last few weeks, Toury has come into his own and he's been working his tail off in practice and it's paid off in the games," Martin said. "He's really put on a streak of some good games lately."
Westland resumes OCC-Central play this week as it plays host to Upper Arlington on Tuesday, Jan. 7, and Marysville on Saturday, Jan. 11, and travels to Central Crossing on Friday, Jan. 10.
The contest against Marysville is a makeup of a game postponed Dec. 6 because of bad weather.
"The guys have done a great job of believing what we do, sticking together and working hard every day in practice," Martin said. "If they do what they're taught, we can win some basketball games and be a good team."
Girls basketball team looks to bounce back
The girls basketball team was looking to rebound from back-to-back losses when it played Coffman on Jan. 3.
Westland and Coffman entered the game tied for first in the OCC-Central at 5-0.
The Cougars won their first six games before losing to Plum (Pa.) 66-58 on Dec. 27 and Bridgeport 41-39 on Dec. 28 in their annual Mike Burbridge Holiday Invitational.
Against Plum, Westland was outscored 26-12 in the third quarter after trailing 28-24 at halftime. Christina Simpson led the Cougars with 16 points, followed by Rachelle Marcum with 15 and Tanesha Dixon with 10.
"The Pittsburgh team is probably the biggest team we'll face all year," coach Hugo Quint said of Plum. "They were 6-foot-3, 6-1, 6-1 and two others at 5-9. We stopped doing what we could do against them, but you have to give them credit. Their height intimidated us a little bit."
Simpson led the Cougars with 12 points against Bridgeport.
Through eight games, Simpson was averaging a team-high 15 points, followed by Dixon (11.7).
Wrestling team finishes 10th at West Jefferson
Wrestling coach Bret Busby was pleased with his team's performance in the 17-team West Jefferson Invitational held Dec. 27 and 28. The Cougars finished 10th (191 points) behind champion West Jefferson (432).
Tommy Stone had the Cougars' highest finish, placing third at 170 pounds.
Devyn VanHandel placed fourth at 145 despite competing with a dislocated left thumb for most of the tournament.
Also finishing fourth were Brian Foster (120) and Noah Green (182). Blake Rece (106) was fifth and Josh Burns (152) was sixth.
Westland opened OCC-Central action by losing to Thomas Worthington 51-21 on Dec. 19.
"I definitely feel so much better from the night of the Thomas Worthington match," Busby said after the West Jefferson Invitational. "For a two-day tournament, the kids got a full 10 matches and it was a true test for my team. There were teams from all over Ohio. I was very happy with our team. We showed a lot of heart and we showed a lot of determination."