Kevin Thuman's career as Westerville North High School boys basketball coach came full circle when he got his 200th victory with the program.
The Warriors remained unbeaten through seven games and Thuman's career record improved to 200-193 with a 91-64 victory Dec. 28 over visiting Canton McKinley.
The Bulldogs have more victories than any boys program in the state and 11 state titles. McKinley also hired Dave Hoover from North after the 1995 season, opening the door for Thuman to become the Warriors' coach.
"We were talking about that before the game," Thuman said. "There's that connection, but also I picked up my first victory against Brookhaven, who was under then first-year coach Bruce Howard. Bruce later picked up his first win over Canton McKinley and coach Hoover. It's funny how things work out.
"And most of my coaches have been here awhile, both as players and coaches. I have Heath Lamont Tillman here, who was the point guard on our first win. Shan (Trusley) is a North graduate who has been here for a while and Rodger (Elander) was coaching with me every year until he became football coach last year. We have three former players on my staff in Shan, Heath and Mario Collins."
The Warriors improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division by defeating Worthington Kilbourne 76-46 on Jan. 7. They face a tough test Friday, Jan. 11, at Westerville South, which was 8-3 overall and 4-1 in league play before playing Dublin Jerome on Jan. 8.
"We need to stay hungry and work hard in practice," senior Adrian Cook said. "We can't listen to the hype and other things people say about us. We have to come out with the same mindset. We need to play hard and practice harder."
Last season, North swept South, winning 59-53 and 71-68 in overtime.
Against McKinley, North took a 14-4 lead and led 49-29 at halftime en route to sending the Bulldogs to a fourth consecutive loss.
"We wanted to win this badly for coach and we wanted to make sure that we came out strong," said Cook, who scored six points. "It was great to be a part of something like this."
Senior Jack Gibbs scored 23 points, senior Jaylen Benton had 15 and junior Alex Stewart had 13. Senior Brett Durden had nine points, junior Isaiah Keene scored seven and junior R.J. Hutcherson added six.
"Everyone is ready to play when they come out on the court," Benton said. "We have seven seniors and we have a lot of experience. Everyone has the same mindset.
"When you work as hard as we do, you come in with a lot of energy and confidence. That helps a lot."
The Warriors routinely play a rotation of 10 or more players.
"(The depth) can help out when we get into foul trouble because you know the guy coming in will do the job," said Gibbs, who had 17 points in an 84-40 league win over Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 4. "Everyone feels like they are a part of the success and it makes things go smoothly."
Thuman said the depth also plays into North's up-tempo game.
"Our second group is very good and they play great defense," he said. "Caleb Ledford was a starter last year who had a couple of key buckets and some steals in the first half (against McKinley).
"We have been playing 10 instead of the seven or eight that we normally play. We want to apply pressure all over the court and that depth allows us to do that."
Benton was happy to have beaten McKinley to get Thuman a milestone victory, but he said the team is hungry for more.
"It means a lot to be a part of that, and for it to happen in our senior year means a lot more," he said. "We want to see a lot more wins."
Simmons shines for girls team
The girls team was 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Cardinal after defeating Kilbourne 56-46 on Jan. 7.
Through nine games, Symone Simmons was averaging a team-best 17.1 points. She scored 23 in a 54-26 win over Westerville Central on Dec. 20, 21 in a 76-19 win over Centennial on Dec. 27 and 10 in a 50-33 win over Bradley on Jan. 4.
Simmons, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, also was averaging 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.2 blocks.
Junior Kelsey Walker was averaging 8.4 points, and sophomore Devin Jackson was averaging 8.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals. Senior Gabrielle Pace was scoring 7.9 points per game, senior Breyonia Hearn was averaging 7.3 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 steals, and sophomore Hannah Ferguson was averaging 6.1 points and 2.3 assists.