Westerville North rolls in tournament opener, extends streak
After losing to Pickerington Central 52-47 on Dec. 11, the Westerville North High School girls basketball team closed the regular season by winning 16 consecutive games and finished 14-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
The Warriors carried that momentum into the postseason, as they ran their winning streak to 17 with a 58-33 home win over 36th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16.
The sixth-seeded Warriors were 22-1 before playing ninth-seeded Pickerington North on Feb. 20 at home.
Reynoldsburg is the top seed, followed by Gahanna, Olentangy Orange, Dublin Coffman and Northland.
"There's eight or nine teams that could probably win the district," North coach Jim Kloepfer said. "Obviously, I think we have a chance. Reynoldsburg is probably a step above everybody in their bracket, but there's a lot of teams that could win a district (title) this season."
Westerville North and Kilbourne met twice during the regular season in league games, with the Warriors winning 56-46 on Jan. 7 and 61-38 on Feb. 8.
In the postseason meeting, North led 14-6 after one quarter and 30-14 at halftime.
The Warriors pulled away despite sophomore guard/forward Symone Simmons being in foul trouble for most of the game before fouling out with 5 minutes, 2 seconds remaining. Simmons, who was averaging a team-best 15.8 points through 23 games, finished with three points.
"We didn't finish on a lot of opportunities," Kloepfer said. "Defensively, I thought we played a little sloppy and had some silly fouls."
Sophomore guard/forward Devin Jackson led North with 14 points and senior guard Breyonia Hearn had 11.
"We're a pretty young team," Jackson said. "We'll be solid the next two years."
The Westerville North-Pickerington North winner will play seventh-seeded Olentangy or Mount Vernon in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder.
The winner will advance to a district final against Gahanna, Central Crossing, Dublin Scioto or Watkins Memorial on March 2 at Jonathan Alder.
Central improves on last season's record
After finishing 0-21 last season in coach Jamiya Pride's first year, Central improved this season to 9-14 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"Our improvement was huge," Pride said. "Last year we lost about 95 percent of our games by 30 or more points. This year we only lost three times by about 30 points and everything else was under 15, so that's just a huge improvement. Overall, it was a very exciting year."
The visiting Warhawks lost to Mount Vernon 41-37 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 16.
Central played without leading scorer Megan Mills, who sprained her right ankle in a 44-32 win over Hilliard Darby on Feb. 8 in the regular-season finale.
Mills, who was one of six seniors, finished as the team's leading scorer, averaging 10 points.
Mills missed eight games earlier in the season after fracturing her left wrist in a 43-39 win over Kilbourne on Dec. 14 in what was Pride's first victory at Central.
"Megan battled injuries all year for us," Pride said. "She got injured in our last regular-season game and she had a week, but I knew she was not going to be ready (for the postseason). She was probably only 50 percent. She didn't play and that definitely hurt us because we were lacking with ball-handlers and other people to score for us."
The Warhawks also played without senior forward Maggie Sabo for most of the season after she injured her left ankle in a 41-37 loss at Hartley on Dec. 15.
Pride believes he will return a solid nucleus led by sophomore point guard Andrea Hodge and freshman post player Emma Stille, who averaged 9.5 rebounds a game.
Stille had 10 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks in the tournament loss to Mount Vernon.
Pride also expects junior guard Halle Kramer, sophomore forward Imani Steele and freshman post player Morgan Hyatt to contribute next season.
Hodge was first-team all-league, Mills was special mention all-league and Stille was honorable mention all-league.
Central finished fifth in the league at 7-7, behind Westerville North (14-0), Dublin Jerome (9-5), Scioto (9-5) and Hilliard Bradley (8-6) and ahead of Westerville South (5-9), Hilliard Darby (4-10) and Kilbourne (0-14).
South had first-round bye
South had a first-round bye in the district tournament and played at 23rd-seeded Upper Arlington on Feb. 20.
UA defeated 10th-seeded Pickerington Central 45-42 in the first round Feb. 16.
The Wildcats were seeded 29th.
The winner will play eighth-seeded Hilliard Davidson or Newark in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Bloom-Carroll.
South lost to Davidson 44-37 on Dec. 29 in the final of the Lady Viking Holiday Classic at Teays Valley.