Westerville South High School girls basketball coach Silas Williams tried to remain upbeat as he examined his team's statistics after a 36-34 loss to visiting Westerville Central on Jan. 5.
The Wildcats made just 15 of 52 shots (28.8 percent) from the field, including going 0-for-13 on 3-point attempts, and converted only four of 14 shots (28.6 percent) from the foul line.
"Free-throw shooting has been our Achilles' heel," Williams said. "The girls fight, they battle and they battle you tooth and nail. They play good defense. We have to put the ball in the hole."
Despite its shooting woes, South remained in the OCC-Cardinal Division game with its defensive play and had an opportunity to pull out the win. It held its final lead at 32-30 midway through the fourth quarter.
Central took the lead for good at 33-32 on a 3-pointer by Marissa Conkins with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
With South trailing 36-34, junior post player Cheyenne Raker missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 18 seconds left and a 3-point shot by senior guard Chyna Porter hit off the front of the rim as time expired.
Sophomore guard Chenelle Moore led South with 15 points.
"We just have to get repetition, finish the basket and make smart plays," Moore said. "We just have to get the ball there and finish around the rim."
Before playing Dublin Jerome on Jan. 8, South had scored fewer than 40 points in three consecutive contests and seven of its 12 games, including in a 34-26 loss to DeSales on Jan. 2.
The Wildcats lost to Hilliard Davidson 44-37 in the championship game of the Lady Viking Holiday Classic on Dec. 29 at Teays Valley. They defeated Jonathan Alder 64-50 in the first round of the event Dec. 28.
South will need to finish more scoring chances when it travels to Westerville North on Saturday, Jan. 12, for an OCC-Cardinal contest. The Wildcats lost to the Warriors 50-24 on Nov. 30.
Junior forward Kelsey Walker had 17 points to lead North, which is 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the league. Porter had eight points to lead the Wildcats, who were 5-7 and 3-3 before playing Jerome.
"It's just repetition," Williams said. "We have to go back in the gym, repetition, shoot the basketball, and we have to continue to work. Defensively, we're OK. If we put the ball in the hole, we'll be that much better."
Boys remain perfect against Warhawks
The boys team improved to 13-0 all-time against Westerville Central with a 50-48 overtime win in an OCC-Cardinal contest Jan. 4.
Senior guard Jalen Bell made a free throw with 2:56 remaining in overtime to give South the lead for good at 47-46. The Wildcats closed out their scoring with a basket by senior forward Matt Chellis and another free throw by Bell.
In the waning moments with South leading 50-48, Central's Jalen Malone missed a 3-pointer and, after getting the rebound, Kwamel Wade missed a baseline shot as time expired.
Senior forward Trent Slade led the Wildcats with 15 points and senior guard Anthony Dixon scored 10. Malone led Central with 15 points.
"We didn't play our best game and you have to look at (Central) and say they were a reason we didn't play our best game," coach Ed Calo said. "They played hard and took us out of a rhythm. You have to give them credit, but at times we just weren't very good and that was disappointing because I thought we were playing so well."
Next up for South is a home game against undefeated Westerville North on Friday, Jan. 11. The Wildcats lost both OCC-Cardinal games to the Warriors last season, falling 59-53 and 71-68 in overtime.
North is 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal. The Wildcats were 8-3 and 4-1 before playing Jerome on Jan. 8.
South won the Newark Holiday Tournament held Dec. 28 and 29, defeating Newark 58-49 in the first round and Liberty Township Lakota East 60-59 in the championship game.
Senior forward Marcus Ball was the Wildcats' leading scorer in both games, finishing with 12 points against Newark and 28 against Lakota East. Bell added 13 points against Lakota East.