After what Whitehall-Yearling High School boys basketball coach Drew Williams called a disappointing regular season, the team is looking forward to a fresh start in the postseason.
The Rams closed the regular season at 10-12 overall and went 7-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division to tie Columbus Academy for fourth in the league, behind Worthington Christian (10-2), Bexley (8-4) and Grandview (8-4) and ahead of West Jefferson (2-10) and London (0-12).
Whitehall had won three consecutive league titles and has played in a Division II district final the past two seasons.
The Rams lost to DeSales 57-53 in overtime in last year's district final, and in 2015 they lost to Walnut Ridge 52-42.
"I put 0-0 on the whiteboard (in the locker room)," Williams said. "At this point, everybody is 0-0. It doesn't matter if you've won 25 games in a row. ... When you go into the tournament everybody is 0-0."
Whitehall is seeded 11th of 26 teams in the district tournament and plays host to 17th-seeded Columbus East in the first round Monday, Feb. 27.
Williams said the Tigers, who play in the City League-North, are a dangerous team.
Whitehall and East did not play during the regular season.
"They've struggled this year at times, but they're athletic and we'll have to deal with that," Williams said.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Bloom-Carroll or 20th-seeded Licking Valley in the second round March 4, with the winner playing fifth-seeded Johnstown, 13th-seeded Granville or 14th-seeded Sparta Highland in a district semifinal March 7.
The district final is March 10.
"These teams are beatable, but we just have to play as a team," Williams said. "If we don't play as a team, we'll be gone in the first round."
The Rams are looking for a strong postseason from 6-foot-7 junior Tyjaun Childers, who said his team wants to redeem itself for the regular season.
"We start off 0-0," Childers said. "The regular season didn't go as we expected. We thought we were coming in hot stuff and didn't prepare for games. We thought we were just riding off the wave of the last couple of years. We weren't really prepared for the disappointment we got this season, but the postseason is a whole new season."
Whitehall also is looking for strong postseasons from seniors C.J. Prater and Antoine Blackshear, who emerged as the team's top scorers. Prater is averaging 20 points and Blackshear is averaging 14.
Williams said the loss of several key players to graduation has played a role in the team's struggles this season, with point guard Antoine Vaughn being the biggest departure.
Vaughn averaged 11 points and seven assists last season and was named first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.
Prater replaced Vaughn at point guard and has attempted to develop into a similar leader.
"C.J. is a doing a really good job," Williams said. "I would like to see a little more leadership, but in terms of the position he's playing, he's scoring. He's done a tremendous job this year of picking up some of the scoring slack. Winning the district is going to come down to how much leadership we can get out of him and Antoine Blackshear."
Whitehall lost three of its final four games in the regular season, including 54-49 to visiting Worthington Christian in the finale Feb. 14.
Childers led the Rams with 15 points.
"I don't like where we are right now," Williams said. "I do have hope that we're getting better, even though in some of the games you can't see it. The biggest issue is I can't get them to get out of their own way. There's enough talent on the team to be successful, but until they realize that they have to play as a team it just won't happen."
set for sectional
The wrestling team will play host to a 13-team Division II sectional Saturday, Feb. 25, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to district March 3 and 4 at Heath.
Coach Steve Pennington said Carrollton and Millersburg West Holmes, both of which compete in the East District, should be favorites to win the sectional title, but he hopes his team can be in the mix.
"All the kids from the East (District) are tough," Pennington said. "It is what it is being combined with them for a sectional tournament, but it challenges us."
The Rams have several wrestlers who are hopeful of advancing to district, including 220-pounder Assante Ndongo, who has a team-high 31 wins.
Tyliq Stewart (126) and Josh Sandoval (182) both have 30 wins.
Pennington said 160-pounder Justin Peck (shoulder) and 152-pounder Wing Yu (thumb) will miss the postseason with injuries.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 9-11 at Ohio State.
Bowling teams to
The boys and girls bowling teams will compete in Division I sectional tournaments this weekend at Sawmill Lanes.
The girls will compete in a 41-team sectional Friday, Feb. 24, and the boys will compete in a 45-team sectional Saturday, Feb. 25.
The top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on qualifying teams from both sectionals advance to district March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.
"The regular season gets us ready for this," girls coach Jess Biller said. "This is when it counts. We have to do well to advance from sectional to district and to state. We're ready. We've been bowling really strong. We're really improving our spares. We're improving our focus. These girls have a lot of determination."
At district, the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The girls compete March 10 and the boys compete March 11.
Girls basketball team
opens district tourney
The 17th-seeded girls basketball team was 5-17 before playing at fifth-seeded Independence in the first round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 20.
The winner plays 13th-seeded Buckeye Valley in the second round Friday, Feb. 24, at the home of the better seed, with the winner playing third-seeded Caledonia River Valley, 10th-seeded Beechcroft or 18th-seeded Horizon Science in a semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 28, at a site to be announced.
The district final is March 3.