Westerville North boys seek rebound from first loss
Westerville North High School boys basketball coach Kevin Thuman is looking for his team to regroup after enduring its first loss.
The Warriors, who were ranked second in the Division I state poll behind Northland and first in the area coaches poll last week, dropped to 13-1 overall with a 69-63 loss to Brookhaven in the Ohio Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic on Jan. 26 at Capital University.
"I told (the players) that there is still a lot of basketball to be played and, obviously, there are some things we still need to work on," Thuman said. "It would be nice to go undefeated, but if you look around the state there aren't a lot of undefeated teams left ... but there are still a lot of really good teams.
"There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to see how we respond from here, both in practice and in games."
Despite falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, North remains the front-runner to win the OCC-Cardinal Division title. Entering play Jan. 29, the Warriors were 8-0 in the league, followed by Dublin Scioto (7-2), Westerville South (7-2), Hilliard Darby (5-4), Westerville Central (4-5), Dublin Jerome (2-6), Worthington Kilbourne (2-7) and Hilliard Bradley (0-9).
North hasn't won a league championship since 1997-98, when it went 10-0 in the OCC-Ohio. Also that season, the Warriors finished 19-6 overall and won a district title.
"We still have the goal of winning the league, so we have to be ready to play," Thuman said. "We want to keep getting better and be playing our best basketball when the (district) tournament rolls around."
North travels to Central on Friday, Feb. 1, for a league game. The Warriors beat the Warhawks 79-58 on Dec. 21 as senior guard Jack Gibbs had 22 points, junior center Alex Stewart scored 18 and senior guard Jaylen Benton scored 17.
North then will play host to Bradley in a league game Tuesday, Feb. 5. The Warriors rolled to an 84-40 win over the Jaguars on Jan. 4, as Gibbs (17), Benton (15), Stewart (13) and senior guard Adrian Cook (10) scored in double figures.
"We have to keep playing hard. That's the most important thing," Cook said. "If we work hard in practice and play hard in games, we're a good team."
North added some distance between itself and Scioto in the OCC-Cardinal standings by beating the Irish 51-44 on Jan. 25. Cook led the Warriors with 16 points and Gibbs and Benton added nine and eight points, respectively.
North led 27-18 at halftime but saw its lead trimmed to 37-35 by the end of the third quarter.
"(Scioto) came out and started getting offensive rebounds (in the third quarter), which means we should box out better," Stewart said. "(In the fourth quarter) we started moving the ball around and making their defense work more. We knew if we ran our plays in the half court, it would wear them out."
Against Brookhaven, North led 35-32 at halftime and took a 48-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
"They were bigger than us and they took advantage of that when they came out after halftime," Thuman said of the Bearcats, who were sixth in the Division II state poll last week. "They were quick and they were able to pressure us more than teams had in the past."
Gibbs had a team-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers, against the Bearcats. Stewart and Cook scored 14 and 12, respectively.
"This was a good test because it showed us that we needed to execute better in the half court," Gibbs said. "We wanted to go undefeated, but we're 13-1 (before Jan. 29) and we need to get better. We need to box out better and rebound. If we do those things, we can still go far in the tournament."
Girls team seeking outright league title
The girls team was 16-1 overall and 10-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Jerome on Jan. 29.
A win over the Celtics would give the Warriors at least a share of their first league championship since 2004-05, when they won the OCC-Buckeye title.
Entering play Jan. 29, Scioto was second in the OCC-Cardinal at 7-3, followed by Bradley (6-4), Jerome (6-4), Central (5-5), South (4-6), Darby (2-8) and Kilbourne (0-10).
North, which entered the week needing two wins to secure the league title outright, plays host to Central on Saturday, Feb. 2, and travels to Bradley on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The Warriors defeated the Warhawks 54-26 on Dec. 20 as sophomore guard/forward Symone Simmons had 21 points, sophomore forward Devin Jackson scored 14 and senior guard Breyonia Hearn scored 11. They beat the Jaguars 50-33 on Jan. 4 behind 10 points apiece from Simmons and Jackson.
North beat Scioto 55-33 on Jan. 25 to extend its winning streak to 11 games as Simmons had 16 points and junior forward Kelsey Walker scored 13.
On Jan. 22, the Warriors defeated Granville 74-42 behind 21 points from Simmons, 18 from senior guard/forward Gabrielle Pace and 13 from Jackson.