Westland High School girls basketball coach Matt Jaynes saw Trinity McClure's talent firsthand when he was leading the program at Briggs and she was a freshman at Columbus South.
Now in his second season with the Cougars, Jaynes is helping McClure, a 5-foot-7 junior point guard, expand her game.
Despite being the focus of opposing defenses and often being double-teamed, McClure has been putting up impressive numbers in her first season with the Cougars. She averaged 30.2 points through the first five games.
"I knew that she was at Westland the third day of school," Jaynes said. "She transferred from South. She was a freshman at South and she averaged 18 against us when I was at Briggs and I had a pretty good team. I knew she had that ability early."
McClure, who received honorable mention all-City League honors as a freshman and sophomore at South, said Jaynes is helping her reach new heights as a player. Her points have come not only from the perimeter but in the paint, as she has been using her quickness to drive to the basket.
"He's a good coach," McClure said. "He said if I need anything outside of basketball just ask him."
The challenge for Jaynes now is getting someone to complement McClure, who is taking the defensive pressure in stride.
The Cougars were 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Dublin Coffman on Dec. 15.
"Westland is a different experience," McClure said. "My teammates have stepped up. ... (The defensive pressure) gets frustrating sometimes, but I know I have to play through it because it's going to happen for the rest of the season."
Before playing Coffman, Westland had lost four consecutive games since defeating Marion-Franklin 60-29 in the opener Nov. 28. McClure began her Westland career by scoring 35 points to lead the Cougars past the Red Devils.
She scored a career-high 48 points in a 74-62 loss to Central Crossing on Dec. 5, had 29 in a 41-38 loss at Whetstone on Dec. 1 and scored 26 in a 61-56 loss at Walnut Ridge on Dec. 13.
Against Walnut Ridge, Westland trailed by double figures for most of the first three quarters before McClure sparked a comeback that ultimately fell short.
Jaynes hopes another player can boost her scoring to avoid McClure getting worn down by the constant defensive pressure or having to play all 32 minutes to keep the Cougars competitive.
"I wish I had somebody else to step up," Jaynes said. "I'd be all right. I need someone else. Hannah Kershaw did a great job (against Walnut Ridge). She took a load off of Trinity and scored 17 points."
McClure was held to a season-low 13 points in a 51-27 loss at Marysville in an OCC-Central game Dec. 8.
"Some games in the City League were easier," McClure said. "In the OCC every team takes it serious (and) every team plays hard."
Along with playing perennial powers such as Coffman and Upper Arlington twice a season in league play, Westland also will play host to Pickerington North on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
"I want to build a winning tradition, but it's a matter of getting them to believe in themselves and that's the hardest thing," Jaynes said. "They believed in themselves late in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter (against Walnut Ridge)."
Boys basketball team faces grueling stretch
The boys basketball team faced a challenging three-game stretch that began with its contest Dec. 15 against Coffman.
The Cougars entered the game at 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central.
Westland visits Pickerington North on Tuesday, Dec. 19, and plays host to UA on Friday, Dec. 22.
Scott Vayansky, who coached Westland the previous three seasons, is an assistant at North.
UA, which is led by Notre Dame signee Dane Goodwin, was 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Hilliard Davidson on Dec. 15.
"We have three straight challenges in front of us that are pretty large," coach Rob Hayes said before the Cougars played Coffman. "My greatest hope is to execute our plays and find a way to dictate some part of the game. We might not be able to dictate every part of the game, but (we will try to) take away the primary scoring threats that we scouted."
Westland was competitive in losses to Hamilton Township (67-64 on Dec. 2) and Jonathan Alder (45-34 on Dec. 5).
Gaige Holbrook scored 21 points against Hamilton Township, and Zach Winegardner had 11 points against Jonathan Alder.
Hayes was disappointed with his team's performance in an 89-56 loss to visiting Marysville in its OCC-Central opener Dec. 8. Winegardner had 14 points and Eric Panning added 13.
"We're a team that has a lot to learn," Hayes said. "We need to do a better job taking care of the basketball. That's first and foremost. We turn the ball over too much. We need to be more aggressive on the defensive glass. If you give up offensive rebounds, all the work that goes into getting the initial stop feels wasted and it's a psychological letdown."
Wrestlers compete at Big Walnut
The wrestling team finished seventh (81 points) in the 16-team Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 9 behind champion Coffman (205.5).
"Even though we placed in the top half of the field, there is still room to grow," coach Mark Niemann said. "Ultimately we need each weight class filled and all wrestlers willing to engage in the sport of wrestling as designed. We need to get tough in the wrestling room and then take that toughness onto the mat in competition."
Edgar Cruz led the Cougars at Big Walnut, finishing second at 113 pounds. He lost to Coffman's Kyle Murray 21-8 in the final.
Bryson Palmer (120) was third, Andrew Sherman (182) and Kyle Newman (220) finished fourth, Juan Martinez (heavyweight) was fifth and Steve McPeek (145) finished seventh.
"I feel the squad competed well against the competition in front of them," Niemann said. "A few members in competition were deliberate about hitting moves that we've been working on in practice. A couple of those individuals listened well and made in-match adjustments that will pay off in a big way moving forward."
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 19 -- At Pickerington North
*Dec. 22 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Dec. 19 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
*Dec. 22 -- At UA
Dec. 20 -- Central Crossing, DeSales, Franklin Heights, Thornville Sheridan and Westerville Central at Worthington Youth Boosters Gymnastics
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 19 -- Central Crossing and Grove City at Grove City YMCA
Dec. 21 -- Mount Vernon Invitational at Kenyon College
Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Central Crossing, Circleville and Grove City