Whitehall News

Whitehall-Yearling Roundup

Girls squad puts focus on fundamentals

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As Stephanie Jones began her second season as girls basketball coach at Whitehall-Yearling High School, she realized she would have to do a little more teaching this year.

The Rams return just one starter from a team that finished last season 4-19 overall and 4-10 in the MSL-Ohio Division.

"We're basically starting over," said Jones, whose team opened Nov. 23 against visiting Millersport. "We're so young. I only have one returning starter and lots of freshmen. I break it down for them in simple terms and we run very fundamental drills.

"The biggest thing right now is I'm trying to get them more intensity in practice. They've played hard in the scrimmages we've had, but I'm not getting the same intensity in practice."

The returning starter is 5-foot-10 forward Brenell Williams, who Jones hopes will assume a leadership role as the only senior on the team.

Also back is 5-5 junior point guard R.J. Cunningham, who saw some playing time last season. She has been pleased with her team's play during scrimmages.

"We've looked really good," she said. "We've done a lot of shooting and hustling. We have really good defense and we've talked, we've communicated."

The other returning player is 5-9 junior post player Nia Parks.

Freshman Stephanie Ellis (5-6) will be starting point guard.

"She is pretty good," Jones said of Ellis. "She'll probably be one of the leading scorers."

Junior Chris Marshall, a 5-7 post player, saw time on junior varsity last season.

Other players are sophomores Avnee Patel (5-7, forward), Alexis Kefauver (5-10, post player) and Taleisha Smith (5-5, guard) and freshmen Teiana Marshall (5-9, post player) and Hannah Smith (5-6, forward).

Jones is working just as hard as her players to help the Rams improve.

"I'm worn out after every practice because I'm putting everything I've got into it because these girls are like sponges," she said. "They soak up everything I teach them. We just have to start slow and be very fundamental and just apply it to the game."

The Rams lost three players from a year ago to graduation, including guard Mamie Russell, who led the team in scoring at 11.0 points per game and was first-team all-league and forward Marissa Ware, who led the team in rebounding at 5.6 per game.

Gayle Poindexter, who averaged 9.4 points last season as a sophomore point guard and was honorable mention all-league, is no longer in the program.

After playing its home games at Rosemore Middle School last season because of a renovation project at the high school, Whitehall has returned to its home gym.

"The girls are excited about that," Jones said. "I guess we'll find out if that is motivation."

Whitehall, Bexley and Columbus Academy have remained in the realigned MSL-Ohio and have been joined by Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian. Heath, Granville, Lakewood, Licking Valley and Newark Catholic moved to the Licking County League.

The Rams' league opener is Tuesday, Dec. 3, against visiting Worthington Christian.

"I know Grandview should be decent," Jones said. "They were young and they have a nice coach (Michelle Chavanne). They were young a couple years ago, so they should be jelling now. I've heard that Madison Plains and West Jeff are pretty tough. We're worrying about what we do well and not so much what the other teams do."

Last season, the Rams finished sixth in the league behind champion Newark Catholic (14-0). They had a first-round bye in the Division II district tournament and lost to Granville 55-40 in the second round.

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