After his team fell out of a first-place tie in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division, Whitehall-Yearling High School girls bowling coach Jess Biller set his attention on another goal.
Biller hopes his team can defend its MSL Tournament title Feb. 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Last season, Whitehall defeated Granville 3-1 in a best-of-five match to win the tournament.
"We want to keep improving," Biller said. "We want to repeat our title in the Mid-State League. We were Mid-State League champions last year, so that's our big focus for the rest of this month."
The Rams, bowling shorthanded, fell from the unbeaten ranks after losing to Briggs 2,249-1,065 on Jan. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl. Whitehall had just three bowlers available because Taylor Deskins, Erin Brown and Savana Carrier were ill.
"We were short some girls," Biller said. "We only had three girls, so that was a kind of bummer. Briggs is a tough team and it would have been tough to pull out."
Taylor-Jo Morton led the Rams with a 358 series, followed by Ashley Ford (267) and Kaleigh Straits (247).
Before competing against Independence on Jan. 21, the Rams were tied with Reynoldsburg for third (7-1) in the COHSBC-South behind Briggs (10-0) and Eastmoor Academy (9-1).
Whitehall faces Eastmoor on Monday, Jan. 27, at Holiday Lanes.
The Rams returned to full strength and bounced back to defeat Teays Valley 1,783-1,328 on Jan. 17 at Holiday Lanes. Morton had a 395 series, followed by Straits (346) and Deskins (274).
"We came back with a strong win," Biller said. "We're really starting to meld as a team."
Through 19 games, Morton led the team with a 169.4 average.
Boys bowling team loses two matches
The boys bowling team fell to Briggs 2,187-2,078 on Jan. 15 and Teays Valley 2,601-2,225 on Jan. 17 in COHSBC-South matches.
The Rams entered the week fourth (7-2) in the league behind Teays Valley (9-0), Briggs (10-1) and Groveport (7-1).
Against Briggs, Andrew Sturgill had a 431 series, followed by Paul Gress (399), Noah Wiley (338) and Austin Wilson (301).
Gress had a 434 against Teays Valley, while Sturgill had a 408, Wiley had a 401 and Wilson had a 354.
Through 24 games, Gress had a team-high 199 average.
Boys basketball team falls at Grandview
The boys basketball team lost its first MSL-Ohio game, falling at Grandview 56-53 on Jan. 17.
The Rams were 10-4 overall and first in the league at 7-1 before playing Columbus Academy on Jan. 21.
Grandview, which was second at 6-1, closes the regular season Feb. 14 at Whitehall.
Whitehall played without senior guard R.J. Mims, who was out with a sprained right ankle suffered during practice Jan. 16.
Coach Drew Williams said Mims could be out two weeks.
The Rams still had a chance to beat Grandview despite playing shorthanded, but missed four free throws in the final minute and committed a turnover.
"We really didn't have time to adjust because R.J. was injured during practice (the day before), so we kind of figured it out as we went along, but that is no excuse," Williams said. "We still had a chance to win the game at the end and we didn't make the plays."
D.A. Sanders, Terronte Hutchins and C.J. Prater each scored 12 points.
Whitehall went 8-for-17 from the free-throw line.
"I'm not big on moral victories, but I can take away positives from the game," Williams said. "We can still compete. The next guy has to step up and that's what we'll do."
The Rams defeated host Bexley 74-68 in a league game Jan. 13, as Sanders scored 29 points, Prater had 13 and Hutchins added 10.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win the league," Williams said.
"We'll deal with the (Division II) district (tournament) after that, but you want to win the league. Kids are going to step up."
Wrestling team falls to Utica
The wrestling team lost at Utica 50-24 on Jan. 15.
Whitehall's points came on pins from Noah Jay at 113 pounds (3 minutes, 25 seconds), Ana Abduljelil at 120 (3:00), Travis Bailey at 160 (1:58) and Josh Pace at 182 (2:33).
"Utica is a very underrated team," coach Steve Pennington said.
The Rams opened the Division II state team tournament by competing against fifth-seeded Big Walnut on Jan. 22, with the winner facing top-seeded and host Licking Valley after the first dual.
The second-round winner advanced to a Region 14 semifinal Wednesday, Jan. 29, at a site to be determined against second-seeded Buckeye Valley, third-seeded Granville, sixth-seeded Mifflin or seventh-seeded Bexley.
Whitehall was seeded fourth in Region 14-A.
Last season, the Rams lost to Lexington 37-25 in a regional final.
"This season has gone pretty much like we thought," Pennington said.
"We knew we would be super young with a couple seasoned veterans. We have placed in the top four in each of the tournaments we have wrestled. We are 10-10 in duals and have two state-ranked wrestlers (in Abduljelil and Jay). We are very pleased with our young wrestlers."
Girls basketball team loses twice
The girls basketball team fell to 1-14 overall and 0-8 in the MSL-Ohio after losing to visiting Columbus Academy 30-20 on Jan. 14 and at Madison Plains 61-38 on Jan. 18.
Against Academy, Nia Parks had seven points.
R.J. Cunningham scored 17 points against Madison Plains.