Defense helps Westerville North girls team start strong
The Westerville North High School girls basketball team was unbeaten through five games, but even coach Jim Kloepfer was surprised by how well the Warriors had played.
North was averaging 62.8 points and winning by an average margin of 30.2.
"Our defensive intensity has been a little better than last year," said Kloepfer, whose team played Pickerington Central on Dec. 11. "That has helped us turn up the pressure on our opponents."
The Warriors play at home against Dublin Scioto on Friday, Dec. 14, in an OCC-Cardinal Division game. The teams split last season, with the Irish winning the first meeting 58-48 and North taking the second 51-41.
Scioto was 3-1 overall before playing Mount Vernon on Dec. 11 and is 2-0 in league play. Its first loss was to Lancaster, 45-36 on Dec. 5.
The Irish are led by 5-foot-10 point guard Anna Buhigas, who was OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year last season after averaging 16.2 points and 4.2 assists. Other returning starters include senior forward Katie Collins (5-11) and senior guard Casey Suich (5-9).
"Rebounding is still an issue with us and we need to get our feet set on our perimeter shots," said Kloepfer, whose team is 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal. "Sometimes we rush our shots in transition, so that's another thing we could improve on."
Through five games, Symone Simmons led the Warriors in scoring at 14.2 points per game, while also averaging 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 steals. Kelsey Walker was averaging 10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
Gabrielle Pace had scored 9.0 points per contest with 2.6 steals, and Devin Jackson was averaging 8.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.4 steals. Breyonia Hearn was averaging 7.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals.
"We have to continue to play together as a team. We really play well together," Kloepfer said. "That has been important to our success, and we have to continue to be unselfish."
Boys team faces tough stretch
The boys team is 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Cardinal entering its contest Friday, Dec. 14, at Scioto.
The Warriors split with the Irish last season, losing 45-41 in the first meeting and winning 62-41 in the second. Coach Kevin Thuman said his team can't overlook Scioto, which was 2-0 before playing Marion Harding on Dec. 11.
"They have a lot of talent back, especially in the backcourt in seniors Josh Ashwill and Antonio Bisutti," Thuman said. "Ashwill is one of the top shooters in the area and Bisutti is one of the top all-around players. We're going to have to work hard for our points. We won't be able to get anything cheap or easy."
The next day, the Warriors play Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic at Massillon Jackson. The Vikings were 2-1 overall after defeating Euclid 85-71 on Dec. 8. Their loss came to Lakewood St. Edward, 69-53 on Dec. 7.
VASJ is led by two Division I signees in Duane Gibson and DeMonte Flanagan. Gibson, a 6-3 guard, signed with Evansville and Flanagan, a 6-7 forward, is headed to Cleveland State.
The Vikings also have 6-8 sophomore Carlton Bragg inside.
"From what I understand, (VASJ) is one of the top teams in the Cleveland area and they have a sophomore who is one of the top five players in the state, and they have two big guys in the paint," Thuman said. "As long as we make teams play our style, we've been OK. Our speed has been more of a factor with the pressure on the ball."
The Coaches Vs. Cancer game is the first of three showcase events for the Warriors. They also play Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy in the Flyin' to the Hoop tournament Jan. 19 at Kettering Fairmont and Brookhaven in the Play-By-Play Classic on Jan. 26 at Capital University.
"The showcase games are great because the organizers think enough of our program to have us there," Thuman said. "The kids like them because of the competition, but we also have to go out and prove that we are capable playing at that level."
Through three games, Jaylen Benton led the Warriors by averaging 18.7 points, followed by Alex Stewart (14.3 points per game), Jack Gibbs (10 ppg) and Adrian Cook (9.7 ppg).