Considering his roster featured only one player with previous varsity experience, first-year Westland High School boys basketball coach Seth Martin was pleased with his team's development over the course of the season.
The Cougars finished 5-18 overall and 3-11 in the OCC-Central Division. They ended their season Feb. 26 with a 79-51 loss to fifth-seeded Newark in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Westland was seeded 37th of 45 teams in the district and had a first-round bye.
"Going in having one guy that played some minutes last year and didn't have a lot of varsity experience, I was pretty happy with the way we started the season and the way we progressed through midseason on," Martin said. "I thought we did a good job. We got a lot better offensively. We definitely got a lot better with our man-to-man defense."
Westland tied Hilliard Davidson for seventh in the OCC-Central, behind Upper Arlington (13-1), Olentangy Liberty (11-3), Dublin Coffman (10-4), Thomas Worthington (8-6) and Marysville (7-7) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-13).
The Cougars' league wins came against Davidson (54-52 on Dec. 17 and 62-52 on Jan 29) and Central Crossing (71-62 on Jan. 10).
Westland had lost nine players from last year's squad to graduation, including all five starters. The only returnee was senior forward Toury Freeman, who had limited playing time last season.
One of six seniors, Freeman emerged as the Cougars' top player, averaging a team-high 16.6 points and a team-best 7.2 rebounds. He was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"Toury had a monster year for us," Martin said. "He really stepped up. I'm proud of the way he led us his senior year."
Freeman, who is looking to play in college, scored a career-high 35 points in a 72-60 loss to Grove City on Jan. 14.
"I feel like last year prepared me for this year," he said. "I realized everybody was leaving and it made me want to step up and be a leader."
Another key senior was guard Jaquan Henry, who averaged 7.5 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Expected to return are juniors David Freeman (forward), John Gebhardt (forward), Nico Thaboun (guard) and Javon Watson (guard) and sophomore Koran Montague (forward).
Watson was the team's second-leading scorer. He averaged 14.4 points and five rebounds and made special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"The six seniors set the standard on how we need to work, how hard work will pay off, and the younger guys can follow them and continue to work hard when we get started back up in the spring and the summer," Martin said. "The seniors laid the foundation and these other young guys have to build off of that. We have to get this program consistent."
Girls basketball team had winning season
The girls basketball team ended two droughts this season.
Westland, which lost to top-seeded Reynoldsburg 46-25 in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 27 at Bloom-Carroll, finished 13-11 overall, marking its first winning season since 2003-04.
The Cougars, who were seeded 19th of 47 teams in the district and had a first-round bye, defeated 18th-seeded New Albany 40-39 in the second round Feb. 19 before falling to the Raiders.
The win over New Albany, in which Tanesha Dixon made two free throws with 14.8 seconds left, was Westland's first postseason victory since 2005.
"I have mixed emotions on the season," said coach Hugo Quint, whose team won its first six games but went 7-11 over its final 18. "We started off so well and then, in the middle part of the season, we kind of fizzled and then we picked it up a little at the end of the season again."
Westland went 8-6 in the OCC-Central to finish fourth, behind UA (13-1), Coffman (12-2) and Liberty (10-4) and ahead of Marysville (6-8), Thomas (5-9), Central Crossing (1-13) and Davidson (1-13).
According to Quint, the turning point in Westland's unsuccessful bid to upset Reynoldsburg came in the second quarter.
The Cougars trailed 12-10 after the first quarter but were outscored 15-4 in the second quarter despite the fact that Raiders post player Alyssa Rice spent much of the quarter on the bench with two fouls.
"Rice got into foul trouble and they took her out and that's the time you have to make your run at them and we were unable to do that," Quint said. "We didn't execute well during that time."
Reynoldsburg, which led 27-14 at halftime, pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring the Cougars 13-4 to take a 40-18 lead into the fourth quarter.
Christina Simpson, one of Westland's four seniors, led Westland with nine points and junior Sarah Demana scored eight. Rice, a University of Kentucky signee, and De'Shay Thomas each had 10 points for Reynoldsburg.
Simpson (guard/forward) and Dixon (point guard) averaged 15.2 and 12 points, respectively. Both made first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"Christina and Tanesha are going to play at the next level," Quint said. "They're just starting their path."
Expected to return are Demana (guard/forward), juniors Savannah Badillo (forward/post player), Jaide Douglas (guard), Hunter Kershaw (forward/post player) and Brianna Taylor (guard), sophomores Kaylee Barber (forward/post player), Madison Dale (guard) and Camryn Moreno (forward) and freshman Brooke Pannell (guard).
Kershaw was honorable mention all-league.