Girls basketball team in transition mode
The transition continues for the Whitehall-Yearling High School girls basketball team and first-year coach Stephanie Jones.
The Rams are 3-13 overall and 3-6 in the MSL-Ohio Division as they prepare to play Heath on Friday, Jan. 25.
Jones took over the program in June for Libby McCandlish, who resigned because of family commitments.
Jones wasn't able to have a full offseason with the players, who are continuing to learn a new system. The Rams also had to deal with the loss of junior twins Natalie and Nicole Orr, who transferred to Reynoldsburg over the summer.
Jones hopes a full offseason program this year will lead to further development with her players.
"We have a lot of plays in," she said. "They didn't have that last year and they're executing all of them. Last year they just ran a couple plays, which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, but I know they had a lot more to learn this year and they have picked up on it all and been executing everything.
"We've been working a lot on our shooting and getting more people confident looking to score rather than relying on two people. We have other girls stepping up now."
Whitehall will look for a season sweep of Columbus Academy when the teams meet Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Academy. The Rams defeated the Vikings 41-33 on Dec. 21.
"I think that could be a good win if we play to our full potential and play all four quarters like we're supposed to," senior guard Mamie Russell said.
Jones credits Russell, senior guards Amber Lucas and Ta'Shara Smith and senior forward Marissa Ware for helping with the transition.
"The seniors have stepped up and been great leaders, helping the other girls adjust from the j.v. level to varsity level," Jones said.
Whitehall's other wins came against Lakewood, 59-55 on Dec. 1 and 41-32 on Jan. 11.
Russell scored a season-high 23 points and sophomore guard Gayle Poindexter added a season-high 19 in the first win over the Lancers.
Against Academy in the first meeting, Russell scored 19 points and junior forward Brenell Williams scored 11.
Russell leads the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game, followed by Poindexter at 9.3.
Whitehall lost to Newark Catholic 53-30 on Jan. 15 and Licking Valley 51-28 on Jan. 19.
Against Licking Valley, Russell scored a game-high 17 points.
"We're getting every look we want at the basket, but we probably had about 15 layups go off the rim," Jones said of the loss to Licking Valley. "We shot five of 29 from the field. I definitely have more girls stepping up; they're more confident looking to score. We're executing our plays. We just can't knock the shots down."
Boys basketball team ends losing streak
The boys basketball team rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Lakewood 56-54 on Jan. 18 at Capital University to end a six-game losing streak.
The Rams trailed 42-28 after three quarters, but outscored the Lancers 28-12 in the fourth.
Sophomore forward Tristen Ritchie hit two 3-pointers in the final minute, including the go-ahead basket with 20 seconds remaining to give Whitehall a 55-54 lead. He later hit one of two free throws for the final margin.
Senior guard Demetrius Carr scored 14 points, Ritchie scored 13 and junior guard D.A. Sanders scored 10.
"It was a good win. The kids were excited," coach Mike Barcus said. "I thought we were in trouble. We went to a full-court press and the kids just kept working at it and finally we got hot."
Before playing Newark Catholic on Jan. 22, Carr led the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, followed by junior guard R.J. Mims at 10.6.
Wrestling team has successful week
The wrestling team went 4-0 last week, defeating Linden-McKinley 76-0 and Columbus South 72-12 on Jan. 17 at Old Rosemore Middle School and Greenfield McClain 72-6 and host Teays Valley 51-19 on Jan. 19.
The Rams will compete in the Cruiser Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Groveport.
Last season, Whitehall finished sixth (126.5 points) behind champion Pickerington North (192.5) in a 14-team field.
The top-seeded Rams had a bye in the opening round of the Division II state team tournament Jan. 23. Whitehall will compete against fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder or fifth-seeded Mifflin in the second round Wednesday, Jan. 30, with the winner advancing to a Region 14-A semifinal Jan. 30 against second-seeded South, third-seeded DeSales or sixth-seeded Linden.