Although his team lost its top two players to graduation, Whitehall-Yearling High School boys basketball coach Drew Williams is hoping there isn't much of a drop-off.
Williams said the Rams again will feature an up-tempo, aggressive style as they look to defend their MSL-Ohio Division championship. They shared the title with Grandview at 8-2 and finished 13-10 overall.
"I love this group," said Williams, who is in his sixth season. "They're young and most of these kids I'll have for two or three years. We're going to compete even with all these young kids."
The Rams opened with a 60-58 win over Dayton Dunbar in the All-Ohio Nike Showcase on Dec. 1 at Gahanna, as 6-foot-5 sophomore center/forward Royal Sibley led a balanced attack with 16 points. Senior forward Roshean Bagley (6-4) scored 13 points and senior guard Taylon Cofer (6-0) added 10.
Cofer is Whitehall's top returning scorer from last season, when he averaged seven points and was honorable mention all-league.
The Rams lost their top scorers in Reiko Bagley and Tyjaun Childers. Reiko Bagley averaged 19 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, and Childers averaged nine points and 10 rebounds and was second-team all-league.
"We have a good group of strong young guys that I can lead down the right path," Cofer said. "With a lot of communication, chemistry and working together, we can compete for a league title."
Other returnees are 5-11 senior guard Manny Hilton and juniors Amir Dallas (6-2, forward) and Charles Miller (6-0, guard).
Junior Juvaun Blackshear, a 5-8 forward who attended Whitehall as a freshman, transferred to Groveport for his sophomore year but has returned.
Also looking to contribute are sophomores Teddy Brown (5-10, guard), Dorsien Butler (6-0, forward), Deleon Jackson (6-4, forward), Jaiion Lowe (6-7, center/forward), Kaden Mack (6-0, forward) and Kei'Von Wiggins (6-3, forward).
"I have a relatively young team and I have a lot of teaching that we have to do," Williams said.
"We're going to have some growing pains. The leadership is better this year."
Whitehall opens league play Saturday, Dec. 8, against visiting Bexley.
Strickland's return helps wrestling team
The wrestling team should be boosted by the return of senior Raashad Strickland, who missed last season with a right knee injury.
Strickland, who went 23-9 at 106 pounds as a sophomore, will compete at 120. He is a two-time district qualifier.
"It's such an amazing feeling to be back in that room," Strickland said.
"Just being back with the energy that the team brings because the team my freshman and sophomores years left an impact on me. After missing my junior year, it's just a great feeling to be back with the team because they bring such a good energy."
The Rams open Saturday, Dec. 8, by playing host to the Dan Gartner Duals.
Gartner died Nov. 26 after a long illness, and coach Steve Pennington said the team is dedicating the season to the former Whitehall coach and teacher.
Whitehall returns three other district qualifiers in senior Luke Gibson (152), junior Andrew Dickens (220) and sophomore Jace Peck (138).
Also back are senior Alex Rodriguez (145), junior Carter Paddock (132) and sophomores Peter Gibson (195), Bradley Holley (170), David Winegarner (160) and David Woods (heavyweight).
Sophomore Mike Dawkins, a transfer from Hartley, should contribute at 126, according to Pennington.
Other wrestlers are sophomores Dashani Hale (195) and Michael Miles (182) and freshmen Noah Church (220), Shea Jordan (106), Carlos Rodriguez (182) and Austin Whistle (113).
"It's a very young team, but there's some talent," said Pennington, who is in his 16th season.
"The freshmen that are coming in are solid kids."
Last season, the Rams finished third (161 points) in the MSL-Ohio tournament behind champion Bexley (195).
With London moving to the Central Buckeye Conference, the league now consists of only the Rams, Bexley, Columbus Academy and Grandview.
The Rams failed to qualify a competitor for state the past two seasons.
They competed in Division I last year after previously being in Division II.
Pennington is hoping for a return to state.
"It's part of the drive," he said. "We've worked really hard in those 16 years to create an atmosphere that being a state qualifier is attainable. We're trying to build that mindset that you can be a state qualifier, you can be a state placer."
Dec. 1 -- Dayton Dunbar in All-Ohio Nike Showcase at Gahanna
Dec. 4 -- at Independence
*Dec. 8 -- vs. Bexley
Dec. 12 -- Mansfield Senior at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland
Dec. 15 -- vs. KIPP Columbus
*Dec. 22 -- at Grandview
Dec. 28 -- Vincent Warren at Marietta College
Dec. 29 -- Pomeroy Meigs at Marietta College
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Worthington Christian
Jan. 8 -- vs. Logan
*Jan. 12 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Jan. 15 -- vs. DeSales
*Jan. 18 -- at Bexley
Jan. 19 -- at Gahanna
Jan. 22 -- at St. Charles
Jan. 29 -- at Reynoldsburg
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Grandview
Feb. 2 -- at Eastmoor Academy
Feb. 7 -- vs. Patriot Prep
*Feb. 9 -- at Worthington Christian
*Feb. 15 -- at Columbus Academy
Feb. 19 -- vs. Hartley
Dec. 8 -- Dan Gartner Duals at home
Dec. 12 -- at New Albany with Central Crossing and Whetstone
Dec. 15 -- Grapple at the Castle in Ona, West Virginia
Dec. 28-29 -- Canton McKinley Invitational
Jan. 5 -- Cruiser Invitational at Groveport
Jan. 12 -- Madison Plains Invitational
Jan. 15 -- vs. Utica and Walnut Ridge
Jan. 25-26 -- Sally George Invitational at Marion Pleasant
Feb. 7 -- at Teays Valley with Hamilton Township
Feb. 9 -- at Caledonia River Valley
Feb. 16 -- MSL-Ohio tournament at home
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball and bowling teams:
Dec. 10 -- At Lakewood
*Dec. 7 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Holiday Lanes
Dec. 8 -- Holiday Classic at HP Lanes