Westland High School boys basketball coach Rob Hayes is hoping a rigorous offseason training regimen will assist in the continued development of his program.
After serving as an assistant coach the past three years under Scott Vayansky, Hayes completed his first season as head coach as the Cougars finished 2-21 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Central Division. Vayansky now is an assistant coach at Pickerington North.
"I think the playing time our young guys got opened some eyes that they need to put in a lot of work to get better to play at the level they want to play," Hayes said. "I'm anticipating some pretty dedicated work in the offseason, conditioning-wise, strength-wise and just overall on the games of some of these guys because they want to be good and they're realizing how much work needs to be done."
Seeded 46th for the Division I district tournament, Westland had a first-round bye and lost at third-seeded Hilliard Bradley 76-26 on March 1 in the second round.
Sophomore forward Mickey Martinez led the Cougars with eight points.
Westland's wins came against Columbus West (64-54 on Jan. 20) and Watkins Memorial (91-79 on Jan. 30).
The Cougars lost three other contests by seven points or fewer.
Hayes said junior guard Gaige Holbrook was rewarded for a good season by being named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. He averaged a team-high 12.2 points.
"Gaige had a couple of big games that got his name out there a little bit," Hayes said. "He's somebody that can score the ball and he's another who really wants to get better. He realizes there are things we can work on as a group to make him more effective against varying types of defense."
Post player Zach Winegardner led a four-player senior class, averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 4.8 rebounds. He was honorable mention all-league.
Junior guard DeShawn Evans missed the first six games after breaking his right ankle during football season. He averaged 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
"We're disappointed how the season ended up, but with the attitude of some of the kids coming back we should have a good summer in preparation of next season," Evans said. "We were a fairly young team this year and we should have a good core group coming back."
For senior guard Mitch Burns, who led in assists with 65, the season marked his final at Westland as he also played on the boys soccer team. Burns will play soccer at Wittenberg.
"It was a rough season, but I still enjoyed it," Burns said. "(Hayes) is a good coach. He knows what he's talking about. He just needs people to buy into his system."
Junior forward Daunte Campbell broke his left wrist against Dublin Coffman on Dec. 15 and was lost for the season. Hayes expects Campbell to be a key contributor next season.
Other players eligible to return are sophomores Robert Clark (forward), Hunter Corwin (guard) and Eric Panning (forward).
"I think the underclassmen are excited," Hayes said. "We'll sit down with all of them before we start spring work and articulate what they need to do, but I know I'm excited. There's potential for a pretty significant change based on some of the evolution I'm expecting over the summer."
Westland finished sixth in the OCC-Central behind Upper Arlington (10-0), Coffman (8-2), Hilliard Davidson (6-4), Central Crossing (3-7) and Marysville (3-7).
The Cougars lost to Central Crossing 87-68 on Jan. 16 and 71-50 on Feb. 9.
"I tell our guys not to worry about what other teams do," Hayes said. "We control our own progress and we need to put the work in and create the investment for our program and for our culture that we're trying to build. When we handle everything the way we need to, we'll be able to compete in this league."
Two wrestlers compete at district tournament
Junior Andrew Sherman led the wrestling team in the Division I district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, finishing sixth at 182 pounds.
Sherman reached a semifinal, defeating UA's Holden Freeman 8-5 in the first round and Darby's Rodney Beneker 6-4 in the second round before being pinned by Olentangy Liberty's Trevor Lawson in 36 seconds.
Sherman then went 0-2 in consolation matches, including a 10-3 loss to Olentangy's Colton Doup in the fifth-place match to finish 34-16 overall.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
"Andrew getting to the district tournament was a highlight. Andrew getting to the semifinals took it over the edge," coach Mark Niemann said. "His ability to listen and do what is stated, the trust that he displays is what makes him better."
Junior Kyle Newman went 1-2 at 195 to finish 14-18. He pinned Pickerington Central's Grant Meek in 1:58 in a consolation match after falling behind 7-1.
"That's something we've been teaching in the practice room, if you're down in the score, it doesn't mean the match is over," Niemann said. "The match is not over until the time expires, (so) keep wrestling, keep doing the things that we're teaching and (take it) one point at a time and you can make your way back."
Sophomore Edgar Cruz (113) qualified for his second district tournament but withdrew because of an illness.
The Cougars finished 33rd (10 points) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 2-21 overall, 0-10 (sixth) in OCC-Central
*Seniors lost: Mitch Burns, Kevin Font, Ilyas Nur and Zach Winegardner
*Key returnees: DeShawn Evans, Gaige Holbrook and Mickey Martinez