After back-to-back regional appearances, first-year Westerville South girls basketball coach Jermaine Guice is hoping to lead the team to the next level.
Guice has replaced Erick Herzberg, who stepped down after one season and now is the coach at DeSales.
Herzberg guided the Wildcats to a second consecutive Division I district title before losing to Pickerington Central 71-44 in a regional semifinal to finish 19-6 overall.
Guice, 47, played at Butler University and professionally in Europe for six seasons, averaging 14.3 points in 217 games. He retired in 2008 and spent the previous 10 seasons as an assistant with the South boys team under coach Ed Calo.
"It was tough leaving the boys side, but it's going to be a pretty decent situation," said Guice, a 1990 graduate of South. "I'm still able to watch (Jaden) and be involved on the outside. It gives me a chance to coach these girls up and try to continue their winning success."
Guice's son, Jaden, is preparing for his junior season with the boys team.
The girls team captured a second consecutive OCC-Buckeye Division title a year ago, going 10-0, and has won 21 consecutive league contests. The Wildcats opened Nov. 26 against Newark and begin defense of the league title Dec. 6 at Olentangy.
In 2017-18 under Silas Williams, South went 21-6 overall, 10-0 in the league and lost in a regional final.
The Wildcats return a pair of key contributors in seniors Anyssa Jones and Gabby Hutcherson, both of whom have signed with Ohio State.
Jones, a 5-foot-8 guard, averaged a team-high 15.7 points last season and was named OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year, first-team all-district and third-team all-state. She reached 1,000 career points during the postseason.
"I'm really happy," she said. "We work really hard in practice. Each and every practice we work harder and harder. (Guice) just wants to push us to be the best that we can be because he knows what we're capable of. He knows what we need to work on this year and he's really implementing a lot of stuff that we did do last year.
"Having him and being pushed every day is something that we really did need."
Hutcherson, a 6-2 post player, averaged 12.1 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"The recruiting process is obviously amazing, but to get it over with and feel excited and ready to go ... and be able to put that to the side and focus on our high school basketball careers is really great," she said. "We have such a young team, a fresh team and a new system that we have going on. It's really exciting."
Junior Aja Austin, a 6-0 post player, missed part of last season with a stress fracture in her right leg. She averaged 7.7 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Other returnees are seniors Asaya Bulgin (6-1, post player), Neveah McClure (5-2, guard) and Mira Rudolph (5-4, guard) and juniors Iman Benlemlih (5-7, guard) and Megan Rispress (5-10, guard).
Other players are juniors Cyress Alexander (5-7, guard) and Morgan Pillow (5-7, guard), sophomore Madi O'Neill (5-5, guard) and freshmen Nelia Guice (5-8, guard), Leila Jones (5-8, guard) and Tamara Ortiz (5-4, guard).
South lost two key players to graduation in Sommer Pitzer and Peyton Guice.
Pitzer, who is playing at Indiana State, was first-team all-league and second-team all-district after averaging 11.4 points. She is the program's all-time leading scoring with 1,154 points.
Guice, who is playing at Ohio University, averaged 10.1 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"They brought a lot of leadership, a lot of depth and a lot of ball-handling to the team," said coach Guice, who is Peyton's father. "That's gone, so now we have to replace it with girls who maybe haven't played as much and some youth. We're looking at that and making them compete in practice and we'll see where that takes us."
Below are the coming schedules for the South boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Newark
Dec. 3 -- At Lexington
*Dec. 4 -- Grandview at Sawmill Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Olentangy Orange at Westerville Community Center