First-year Westland High School boys basketball coach Rob Hayes has been receiving something that is sometimes more important than accolades for winning on the court.
Hayes is earning high praise from opposing coaches for his commitment to the Cougars on and off the court.
Grove City coach Greg Waits, who is the longest-tenured boys basketball coach in South-Western City Schools in his 15th season, came away from the Greyhounds' game against the Cougars on Feb. 6 impressed with what Hayes has accomplished.
"(Hayes) is doing the right things with his kids," Waits said. "He has them playing hard and he's doing some disciplinary things right. He'll get these guys on the right track because he's a good young coach and he'll do a good job. Unless they're playing us, we're cheering for Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights. We want our sister schools to be successful."
Hayes is pleased with the respect his program continues to garner.
"It's nice for any recognition of the program in a positive way after so many years of things being run," he said. "People seem to view us negatively for whatever reason and the (players) are doing a good job. They're saying the right things and they're trying to do things the right way."
Hayes has seen some positive results in the closing stages of the season. He earned his first win Jan. 20 against Columbus West (64-54) and his second against Watkins Memorial (91-79) on Jan. 30.
The Cougars played well for most of the first half against Grove City before the visiting Greyhounds pulled away for a 95-49 win.
Westland led 11-6 in the first quarter as junior guard Gaige Holbrook connected on three 3-pointers.
The Greyhounds rallied to take a 22-15 lead after one quarter and were ahead 42-26 at halftime. They added to their advantage by outscoring Westland 35-14 in the third quarter.
Grove City made 11 3-pointers and outrebounded the Cougars 59-25, including 28-8 on the offensive end, which Hayes said has been a problem all season. Grove City had 25 second-chance points to eight for Westland.
"The first quarter was good," Hayes said. "I anticipated we could score if we ran what we practiced. We scored on them early when we executed. What hurt us was offensive rebounding, as it has all year. We gave up too many second chances and it's like being in a boxing match and getting hit in the ribs over and over. It wears you down and you get frustrated."
Holbrook and Mickey Martinez each scored 14 points to lead the Cougars.
"We just had to keep rotating the ball and we didn't," Holbrook said. "We had to knock down open shots. I missed a couple, but you can't hit them all. It's pretty disappointing. They executed better and they had good help-side defense."
Grove City's P.J. Jones hit five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 27 points.
Westland was 2-17 overall and 0-8 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Feb. 9.
The Cougars played Granville on Feb. 10 and close the regular season Friday, Feb. 16, at Central Crossing. Westland lost to the Comets 87-68 on Jan. 16.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 11. Although Hayes realizes his team won't get a favorable seed, he believes it can be competitive.
"Obviously, you want to stay away from some of those heavy hitters at the top," he said. "It doesn't really matter at this point; the draw is going to be what it is. If we play the way we're capable of, we can play a competitive game against anybody, but we have a lot to learn and we have to stay positive."
Girls basketball team to take on Tigers
The girls basketball team is seeded 45th of 50 teams for the Division I district tournament and will play at third-seeded Pickerington Central in the first round Saturday, Feb. 17.
The winner plays host to 48th-seeded Hamilton Township in the second round Feb. 23.
"Pickerington Central is a great team, but if we took care of business in the regular season then we wouldn't be playing such a great team," coach Matt Jaynes said. "We need to slow the game down and take care of our fundamentals. A rebuilding process does not mean all in one year, it means baby steps, doing things the correct way and making sure we're taking roles correctly."
Westland was 5-16 overall and 0-9 in the OCC-Central before playing Davidson on Feb. 9.
The Cougars defeated Columbus East 48-46 on Feb. 3 on Mimi Berete's 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds remaining. Trinity McClure led Westland with 26 points.
Westland lost at Grove City 75-26 on Feb. 6 as McClure scored 13 points.
Wrestlers finish 10th in tournament
The wrestling team finished 10th (86 points) in the 20-team Canal Winchester Invitational on Feb. 3 behind champion Dresden Tri-Valley (150.5).
Andrew Sherman was second at 182 pounds, Edgar Cruz was third at 113 and Kyle Newman was fourth at 195 to lead the Cougars. Bryson Palmer (120) and Steve McPeek (138) placed fifth, and Angel Lopez was sixth at 113.
Westland was 0-3 in the OCC-Central before facing Central Crossing on Feb. 8. It closes league action Thursday, Feb. 15, at Upper Arlington.
Gymnasts compete in league meet
The gymnastics team competed in the OCC-Central meet Feb. 10 at Davidson.
On Feb. 7, the Cougars finished fifth (108.4) in an eight-team meet at Dublin Coffman behind first-place Dublin Jerome (132.925).
Kennedy Budd was fourth in the all-around (32.8). She placed second on balance beam (8.6), tied for sixth on uneven bars (8.0) and was eighth on floor exercise (8.45).
Westland will compete in the district meet Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne.
Swimmers compete in sectional meet
The boys and girls swimming teams competed in a Division I sectional Feb. 10 at UA.
The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advanced to district Saturday, Feb. 17, at Ohio University.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 22-24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.
Bott to play at Findlay
Senior Trent Bott has committed to play football at Findlay.