As second-year coach Matt Jaynes attempts to rebuild the Westland High School girls basketball program, the coaching staff has devised some incentives to help provide motivation for the players.
One is hair-raising, or hair-falling, if you will.
Assistant coach Jena Studabaker has agreed to allow the players to cut her long ponytail if the varsity and junior varsity teams combine for at least 10 wins this season.
Studabaker may want to brace for a new hair style, as the teams had combined for eight wins entering their games against Upper Arlington on Feb. 2. Both teams had three other games in the regular season, along with the varsity team's postseason action.
"It's an incentive to just get them to want it more because that's the thing at Westland, we haven't wanted it in a while," Jaynes said.
The varsity, which was 4-14 overall before playing UA, faced Columbus East on Feb. 3 and closes the regular season with games against Grove City on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and Hilliard Davidson on Friday, Feb. 9. The Division I district tournament begins Feb. 17.
The junior varsity, which was 4-12 before playing UA, played Madison Christian on Feb. 3 and then faces Grove City and Davidson to close the regular season.
"We're going to use some silver shears (on Studabaker's hair) and I'm going to cut it," junior forward Atira Hoard said.
The varsity earned its fourth win by defeating Whitehall 37-34 on Jan. 30. The Cougars led 22-9 at halftime and held off a late comeback attempt by the host Rams.
"We have to set the tone, not the other team setting the tone," Jaynes said.
Trinity McClure again led Westland, scoring a game-high 21 points. She was averaging 25.9 points before playing UA and had been the Cougars' leading scorer in each of her team's first 18 games while reaching double figures in all of them.
"We've been picking each other up and we're doing better than the beginning of the season," McClure said. "We're making progress. We didn't give up (against Whitehall). We're starting to work together as a team."
Hoard, who added eight points against Whitehall, is pleased with her team's development.
"This team has a lot of drive," she said. "Being a team that's had a whole bunch of losses and people expect us to lose, we have to fight to win. We push ourselves, and it's fun having a lot of freshmen and new girls coming in. You have people who are trying to learn the game."
Along with reaching the 10-win plateau as a program, the varsity also was hoping to earn its first OCC-Central Division win since the 2015-16 season.
The Cougars were 0-8 in the league before playing UA and had lost 31 consecutive league games. Their last league win was Nov. 27, 2015, a 37-35 victory over Central Crossing in their league opener.
Westland went on to finish 1-13 in the league that season and 0-10 last season.
"We need wins and it's tough in the OCC," Jaynes said. "We have a brutal conference. Having a game like this (against Whitehall) where we can get a win, where we've let a few go with Whetstone (41-38 loss), Briggs (49-46 loss) and Walnut Ridge (61-56 loss), we needed this."
Boys basketball team earns second win
The boys basketball team earned its second win of the season, defeating Watkins Memorial 91-79 on Jan. 30 behind Gaige Holbrook's 31 points.
Zach Winegardner scored 26 and Mitch Burns added 17.
"The game was a breakthrough with regard to ball movement," coach Rob Hayes said. "All 10 guys did an outstanding job of pushing the ball in transition and for the most part taking good shots. If we keep our eyes up and get the ball to open people, we have several kids who can knock down a shot or make a play."
Hayes said the contributions of his reserves were another key in the win.
"The really encouraging thing was the energy from the bench, both in regards of production from the reserves but also the positivity, engagement and support the kids showed to one another regardless of who was on the floor," he said. "Those are unseen aspects of the game that are paramount to our success."
Westland was 2-15 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Central before playing UA on Feb. 2.
Winegardner scored 11 points in an 85-40 loss to Dublin Coffman on Jan. 26.
"We've played a little better lately," Hayes said. "Even in a bad loss against Coffman, we had segments of the game where we competed, and the overall feel of the practice and preparation is getting better and more intense."
Swimmers compete in OCC-Central meet
The swimming program competed in the OCC-Central meet Jan. 27 at UA.
Rachel Binion led the girls team, finishing 11th in the 100-yard butterfly (1 minute, 12.67 seconds) and 14th in the 50 freestyle (29.44). Peyton Madden was 12th in the 200 individual medley (3:00.88) and 15th in the 100 free (1:08.4).
The girls finished sixth (57 points) behind UA (478), Coffman (324), Davidson (166), Marysville (126) and Central Crossing (71).
Tim Wotring, the only boy in the program, finished 13th in the 100 free (1:09.32) and 15th in the 200 free (2:53.62).
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics and wrestling teams:
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson. The Cougars lost to the Wildcats 60-28 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 10 -- Home vs. Granville
Feb. 6 -- At Grove City
*Feb. 9 -- At Davidson. The Cougars lost to the Wildcats 63-18 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 7 -- At Dublin Coffman* with Central Crossing, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights and Grove City
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Central meet at Davidson
*Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Central Crossing