The competitive balance in the MSL-Ohio Division was evident in the two games this season between the Whitehall-Yearling and Grandview high school boys basketball teams.
After defeating the Bobcats 49-33 on Jan. 3, a game in which the Rams led 30-2 in the second quarter, Whitehall dropped a 67-54 decision at Grandview on Feb. 3.
"Every game in this league is going to be tough," coach Drew Williams said. "Anytime you come over here (to Grandview), it's going to be tough. (Grandview's Ray Corbett is) a great coach. His players do what they're told. They weren't going to come into this game and play the same way they played last game. It wasn't going to happen."
Despite the loss, the Rams left Grandview still controlling their destiny in terms of earning at least a share of the MSL-Ohio title.
Whitehall was 9-6 overall and 5-2 in the league before playing first-place Columbus Academy on Feb. 5 in a makeup from Jan. 12. The Vikings dropped to 6-1 in the league with a 50-35 loss at Bexley on Feb. 2.
The Rams and Academy meet again Feb. 16, with Whitehall also playing host to Worthington Christian on Friday, Feb. 9.
Grandview is 6-2 in the league with games remaining against Academy on Feb. 9 and London on Feb. 16.
"We can still win the championship," senior center Tyjaun Childers said. "We just have to play ball and the guards just have to get better."
Grandview turned the tables on Whitehall in the rematch, jumping out to a 14-8 lead late in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Luke Lachey.
Whitehall closed to within 25-24 at halftime and took its largest lead at 37-31 when Childers' tip-in capped a 7-0 run.
The Bobcats, however, closed the third quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 40-37 lead into the fourth.
After Childers converted a three-point play and Reiko Bagley hit a 3-pointer to give the Rams a 46-45 lead, Grandview responded with a 6-0 run to take the lead for good.
Bagley, Whitehall's leading scorer at 19.9 points per game through 15 contests, was held scoreless in the first half before finishing with a team-high 17 points. Childers added 11.
Sophomore guard Brian Collier led the Bobcats with a career-high 28 points, including an 8-for-8 effort from the free-throw line.
James Lachey and Luke Lachey, the sons of former Ohio State football and NFL player Jim Lachey, scored 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Williams said his team's guard play was a factor in the loss.
"It comes down to guard play," he said. "This whole year has been guard play. If I get good guard play, we're probably going to win. If I don't get good guard play, there's a good chance we're going to lose."
Childers also was disappointed with his team's play.
"The difference was in the first one we were more focused on beating them because Grandview is our rival. Bexley's not our rival, it's Grandview," he said. "We were ready to beat them, focused and just ready to play. This time we were laughing and giggling and weren't ready to play, and that was the difference."
Wrestlers finish third in league
Led by Luke Gibson, the wrestling team finished third (161 points) in the MSL-Ohio tournament Feb. 3 at home behind Bexley (195) and London (192.5) and ahead of Grandview (133) and Academy (71).
Gibson went 4-0 with four pins to finish first at 138 pounds.
"I felt great out there. I won all my matches by pin," Gibson said. "I just wanted to take first. I'm looking good. I obviously want to make it to state, that's the final goal, but I'm working on district right now. That's the first step."
Steven Fancelli (106) and Alex Rodriguez (132) also finished first, but both were the only entrants in their weight classes.
Justin Peck (170), Andrew Dickens (195) and Assante Ndongo (heavyweight) finished second.
"I thought Assante could win and Justin (could win)," coach Steve Pennington said. "With the young team I have, I'm happy, but it's disappointing when we get so close and then it doesn't happen. It's a little frustrating, but we knew coming into the season it was going to be a young team and there were going to be a lot of trials and tribulations. These kids are growing every day. They're getting better every day."
Bowling teams win MSL titles
The boys and girls bowling teams won the MSL-Ohio tournament Feb. 3 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The boys defeated Bexley in a semifinal and Worthington Christian in the final of the Baker games competition. They finished first (4,117) in preliminary play ahead of second-place Grandview (3,799).
Brandon Shaw was first of 39 bowlers with a 738 three-game series to earn Player of the Year honors. Jason Kefauver was third (627) and A.J. Stiffler was eighth (545).
The girls finished first (3,786) in preliminary play ahead of second-place Worthington Christian (2,911). They then defeated Worthington Christian in the Baker final.
Makayla Barber finished first of 35 bowlers with a 681 series to earn Bowler of the Year honors. Madison Stiffler was second (650), Alexis Stiffler was fourth (519) and Khylie Hardy was sixth (441).
Girls basketball team readies for tournament
The girls basketball team was 1-19 overall before playing Mifflin on Feb. 5 and is 0-9 in the MSL-Ohio as it closes league play Friday, Feb. 9, at Academy.
The Rams were competitive in a 40-35 overtime loss to the Vikings on Jan. 5.
Whitehall also was competitive in a 37-34 loss to Westland on Jan. 30 as Kiara Bagley scored 17 points.
The Rams are seeded 49th of 50 teams in the Division I district tournament and have a first-round bye. Whitehall visits fourth-seeded Reynoldsburg or 44th-seeded Briggs in the second round Feb. 23.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian. The Rams defeated the Warriors 66-40 on Jan. 6.
Feb. 12 -- At Westerville North
*Feb. 9 -- At Columbus Academy. The Rams lost to the Vikings 40-35 (OT) on Jan. 5.
Feb. 10 -- COHSBC tournament at Game of Western Columbus
Feb. 8 -- At Teays Valley with Hamilton Township
Feb. 10 -- Home vs. Cristo Rey and Caledonia River Valley