Chants of "OCC" rang through the locker room Feb. 9 at Westerville North as the Westerville South High School girls basketball team celebrated a goal that was a long time coming.
The Wildcats won their first OCC title since 2005-06, clinching it outright with a 51-31 win over North. They improved to 16-5 overall and 9-0 in the OCC-Buckeye and have a three-game lead over second-place Westerville Central (6-3) with one game remaining.
"This is part of the process," coach Silas Williams said of winning the league title. "We've been working for nine years now. This is the product. This is probably one of the best groups I've ever had. It takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day, but each one of them stuck around. I told them every day we just have to get a little bit better."
South plays host to Central on Friday, Feb. 16, in a rematch of the Wildcats' 55-44 win Jan. 13. The Wildcats will recognize seniors Cailin Duffy, Christiana Robertson and Bryanna Sheppard before the game and hold a net-cutting ceremony to commemorate the league title following the South-Central boys game.
The 2005-06 title was the third consecutive OCC-Central championship under former coach Jeff Brenning.
The Warriors pulled away from North in the second quarter and led 26-11 at halftime. South led by as many as 26 points in the second half.
Sophomore Gabby Hutcherson, who transferred from North before the school year, led the Wildcats with 12 points and Duffy added 10.
"This is the most fun we've had in my four years," Duffy said. "We've really worked for this, so it's really fulfilling. We're not done yet."
The league title also is rewarding for Robertson, who missed most of her freshman and sophomore seasons with a knee injury.
"I'm pretty excited about that because we worked hard to get to where we are right now," Robertson said. "We can make it to the state tournament if we play hard (and) play together."
Along with the chants of "OCC," the Wildcats' postgame celebration focused on the goals ahead -- playing for district, regional and state titles.
South is seeded fifth for the Division I district tournament and has a first-round bye. It will play host to 28th-seeded Mount Vernon or 34th-seeded Marion Harding in the second round Feb. 23.
"I'm pretty pleased (with the tournament draw)," Williams said. "It doesn't matter where you land because you have to play everybody anyway. I'm pretty pleased with where we're at."
The second-round winner plays 17th-seeded Canal Winchester, 19th-seeded Logan, 30th-seeded Marysville or 39th-seeded Whetstone in a district semifinal Feb. 28. The district final is March 3 at Ohio Dominican.
"This team has potential to make it to the state final, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us," Duffy said. "We want to work through our issues and play the best we can."
Boys basketball team to close regular season
The boys basketball team will close the regular season by playing host to Central on Friday, Feb. 16.
The Wildcats are 12-7 overall and 5-4 in the OCC-Buckeye. They beat the Warhawks 59-45 on Jan. 13.
South lost to North 68-40 on Feb. 9 after being outscored 50-21 in the second half. Emmanuel Sunnyway scored 13 points.
Sunnyway had 18 points and Jordan McMillian scored 12 in a 66-46 loss to Upper Arlington on Feb. 6.
The Wildcats are seeded eighth for the Division I district tournament and will play host to 36th-seeded Marysville in the first round Feb. 24.
Swimmers compete at sectional meet
The swimming teams will compete in the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 17, at Ohio University.
In a sectional Feb. 10 at UA, Nate Stadler led the boys by winning the 100-yard freestyle (47.4 seconds) and 100 backstroke (52.43). Caleb Baker was third in the 50 free (22.61) and fifth in the 100 free (49.49).
For the girls, Abigail Ellsworth was fourth in the 100 back (1:00.12) and fifth in the 100 free (53.82).
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.
At district, the top two placers in each event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on district times statewide.
Divers Allie Diller and Cara Jennings competed in the girls district meet Feb. 12 at Dublin Recreation Center, with Diller finishing 21st (144.75) and Jennings placing 31st (120.6) of 33 competitors. The top four finishers advanced to state Feb. 22.
Morton wins wrestling title at Jerome event
Sophomore Aaron Morton continued his strong season for the wrestling team by winning the title at 152 pounds in the All-North Tournament on Feb. 10 at Dublin Jerome.
He defeated Reynoldsburg's Noah Ratliff 9-5 in the final to improve to 28-9 on the season.
"The timing is perfect," coach George Crooks said. "We decided to go down to 152 pounds. This is a big win for him. He came in here as the No. 8 seed and gets first in the tournament. He knocked off the No. 1 seed in the second round. He's feeling good. He's going to try to keep his weight down all the way through sectional and district and hopefully something special happens."
Morton defeated top-seeded Luke DeWeese of Hilliard Davidson 12-5 in the second round.
The Wildcats finished 14th (44 points) of 16 teams behind champion UA (237).
Athletes announce college decisions
Seven student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 8.
Jeriel Adarquah-Yiadom will play football at Davidson, Chandler Cordell will play men's soccer at Southern State Community College, Quentin Franklin will play football at California University of Pennsylvania, Malani Lungu and Kamal Mohamed will play men's soccer at Tiffin, Chris Lytus will play men's soccer at Findlay and Michael McLemore will play football at Findlay.
Below are the coming schedules for the South bowling and wrestling teams:
Feb. 16 -- Lancaster at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Feb. 17 -- Lancaster at Tiki Lanes
*Feb. 15 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*League contestAt a glance
Below are the district qualifiers with sectional time and district seeds for the South boys and girls swimming teams:
BOYS -- Caleb Baker: 50 free (22.61, 20th), 100 free (49.49, 20th); Nate Stadler: 100 free (47.4, second), 100 back (52.43, second); 200 free relay (1:38.35, 23rd); 200 medley relay (1:44.79, 17th); 400 free relay (3:29.49, 18th)
GIRLS -- Abigail Ellsworth: 100 free (53.82, 12th), 100 back (1:00.12, ninth); Maeve Stacey: 100 breast (1:12.72, 29th); 200 free relay (1:49.18, 19th); 200 medley relay (1:58.17, 19th); 400 free relay (3:58.42, 21st)