First-year Wellington School girls basketball coach Kimball Johnson has a keen understanding of how bright he believes the future is for the program.
Having spent the past two seasons as Wellington's middle school coach, Johnson replaced Danielle Fleming as varsity coach during the offseason. Fleming stepped down after one season to become an assistant at Southern Arkansas.
Johnson has a freshman-laden roster surrounding 5-foot-6 senior guard Savannah Childress.
"We're going to be very young, but the best part about it is the young players I did have last year are accustomed to my expectations so it should be a pretty smooth transition even though we're moving up in level," Johnson said. "We're going to be OK."
Wellington opened Nov. 27 with a 33-21 victory over Harvest Prep as Childress scored 16 points. The Jaguars then lost to Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day 59-31 on Nov. 30 in the first round of the Jaguar Invitational at home and lost to Columbus School for Girls 36-30 on Dec. 1 in the event's consolation game.
Childress averaged 16 points and was named first-team all-district last season as Wellington went 15-10 overall and tied Zanesville Rosecrans for third in the MSL-Cardinal Division at 9-5, behind Fairfield Christian (14-0) and Berne Union (12-2).
The Jaguars' season ended with a 50-36 loss to Fairfield Christian in a Division IV district semifinal.
Junior guards Eli Burkhardt and Ellie Weinberg and sophomore guard Lina Grohovsky are other returnees who contributed last season.
Freshman guard Alexis Burkhalter scored 11 points in the opening win and freshmen Hannah Jones-Beyene (post player) and Abigail Burkhardt (guard) also are playing key roles.
Others looking to contribute include freshmen Jameela Askira (guard), Jamie Murphy (post player) and Rhea Singh (guard).
Among the graduation losses from last season were Jacquie Sierzputowski, who averaged nine points and was second-team all-league and third-team all-district, and Jakaysha Williams, who was honorable mention all-league. The Jaguars also lost senior Addie Shock, a Marquette recruit in soccer who is not playing this winter.
"I'm hoping to send (Childress) out well and just want to get these girls to rally around her and help her have a good senior year," Johnson said. "Last year (the middle school team) finished 12-4, so that's why we're optimistic about the future at Wellington."
Boys basketball team plans to 'have fun'
Following a run to a Division IV state runner-up finish in 2016-17, the boys basketball team went 19-5 overall and reached a Division III district semifinal last season before losing 59-57 to Johnstown.
Dallas Patrick, a 6-1 senior guard, is the only player remaining from the team from two seasons ago.
"We're just trying to have fun and trying to enjoy the moment," coach Artie Taylor said. "Let's go create something special. It's almost like my first or second year here where we have the notion that hard work pays off and have team unity and just see where this can take us. We've got good pieces. It's just going to look different."
The Jaguars don't have as much height as they had the past two seasons, but Patrick showed Nov. 30 in his team's opening 74-56 victory over Cincinnati Riverview East in the first round of the home Jaguar Invitational that he's ready to take on a leading role by scoring 28 points.
He then had 27 points and eight rebounds in a 77-67 loss to Maumee Valley Country Day in the championship game of the Jaguar Invitational on Dec. 1.
A second-team all-league and third-team all-district honoree, Patrick averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists last season as Wellington earned a runner-up finish in the MSL-Cardinal at 12-2 behind Harvest Prep (14-0).
Junior forward Elijah Meredith (6-5) had 19 points and 12 rebounds and 6-3 sophomore guard Marcus Stewart added 12 points in the opener. Meredith had 12 points and 12 rebounds against Maumee Valley Country Day.
Stewart averaged 4.5 points last season while Meredith is a transfer from Olentangy Orange who is expected to be eligible for only the first half of the season because of OHSAA rules.
Junior guards Connor Herrick (5-10) and Noah Jones-Beyene (5-9) also return after seeing action off the bench last season. Herrick sat out the first 11 games of last season after transferring from Upper Arlington.
Seniors Ben Edwards (5-10, guard) and Katz Kadlic (6-2, forward) and freshmen Christian Jones (6-3, guard/wing player), Chase Ouellette (6-3, guard/wing player) and Robert Post (6-0, wing player) are others looking to contribute.
"We have a tradition now, and we always set our goals high," Taylor said. "This is year five for me, and my first year here nobody knew what to expect and we caught a lot of people by surprise, winning 13 games. Last year, we had some adversity and fought our way through and were still able to have a great year. This year, just losing so much over the last three years, we've got so many new faces and not a whole lot of varsity game time."
Nov. 30 -- Cincinnati Riverview East in Jaguar Invitational at home
Dec. 1 -- Toledo Maumee Valley Country in Jaguar Invitational
Dec. 4 -- vs. Hartley
*Dec. 8 -- at Harvest Prep
Dec. 11 -- vs. Westerville North
*Dec. 14 -- at Grove City Christian
*Dec. 18 -- vs. Millersport
*Dec. 22 -- at Fisher Catholic
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Zanesville Rosecrans
*Jan. 8 -- vs. Berne Union
*Jan. 12 -- at Fairfield Christian
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Harvest Prep
Jan. 19 -- at Columbus Academy
*Jan. 22 -- vs. Grove City Christian
*Jan. 26 -- at Millersport
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Fisher Catholic
Feb. 2 -- at Fredericktown
*Feb. 5 -- at Rosecrans
*Feb. 9 -- at Berne Union
Feb. 12 -- at Ready
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Fairfield Christian
*Nov. 27 -- at Harvest Prep
Nov. 30 -- Toledo Maumee Valley Country in Jaguar Invitational at home
Dec. 1 -- Columbus School for Girls in Jaguar Invitational
*Dec. 4 -- at Columbus Academy
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Grove City Christian
*Dec. 11 -- at Millersport
*Dec. 15 -- vs. Fisher Catholic
Dec. 19 -- vs. Whitehall
*Dec. 21 -- at Rosecrans
*Jan. 3 -- at Berne Union
Jan. 5 -- vs. Fairfield Cristian
Jan. 10 -- at Granville Christian
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Harvest Prep
*Jan. 15 -- at Grove City Christian
*Jan. 19 -- vs. Millersport
*Jan. 25 -- at Fisher Catholic
*Jan. 29 -- vs. Rosecrans
Feb. 1 -- vs. Tree of Lie
*Feb. 2 -- vs. Berne Union
Feb. 6 -- vs. Centennial
*Feb. 8 -- at Fairfield Christian
Feb. 12 -- at Circleville New Hope Christian
Below are the coming schedules for the Wellington swimming & diving team:
Dec. 10 -- Whetstone at Columbus Aquatics Center