Coach Lamont Tillman sees a much different Westerville North girls basketball team as compared to last season.
The Warriors are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division entering a game Friday, Dec. 20, at Olentangy Liberty. Last season, they started 3-4.
"We're a year older, we have a year more of experience and we have good leadership," Tillman said. "We have experience at the guard position with Imari (Martin) and Alyssa (Wright), which truly helps. Our bigs are a year older and we were playing them a lot as freshmen (last season) and now they have some games under their belts. You have that experience at guard and in the post and you can start 6-1."
North had to fight for its third league victory, defeating visiting Olentangy 35-34 on Dec. 13. With the Warriors trailing 34-33, Martin drove the lane and passed to senior Emylee Preston on the right side of the key. Preston then made a basket from just inside the 3-point line with 14 seconds remaining.
"We were in a scramble at first, trying to get any open shot we could," said Preston, whose game-winning shot accounted for her point total. "Then Imari drove in and everyone collapsed on her because she's normally the scorer. She kicked it out to me and I was able to make the shot. It didn't feel like it was going in, but I'm glad that it did."
Martin led the Warriors with 17 points and sophomore forward Charia Smith scored six.
"I'm happy with the way we are playing," Preston said. "Everyone is on board and we have a really good bond on the team. We're a lot more together than we were last year and everyone wants it a lot more.
"I think one thing we need to do is start off with that fire. At the end of the game, we are hyped up and really want it, but we don't always start with that."
In other league action, North defeated Olentangy Orange 74-32 on Dec. 3 and Westerville Central 46-32 on Dec. 6.
Despite his team's strong start, Tillman is looking for ways for his players to improve. He believes the biggest area in need of improvement is rebounding.
"We need to continue to work on our rebounding," he said. "We do a good job of forcing difficult shots on (an opponent's) first shot, but we can't give them second and third shots.
"We still have to get better at rebounding out of our zone, which is a tough thing to do on long shots. When you force a long shot, the ball usually rebounds long so it goes over our heads when we crash (the backboard) hard. We have to be more disciplined in our rebounding assignments."
Boys basketball team posts first victory
The boys basketball team picked up its first victory of the season, defeating visiting Olentangy 51-50 on Dec. 13 in an OCC-Buckeye contest.
Chace Perkins came down hard after being fouled while going up for a layup with 0.3 of a second left with the teams tied at 50. The senior guard composed himself and made the second of his two free-throw attempts to secure the victory.
"We need to work on consistency and that will come with repetition," said coach Shan Trusley, whose team was 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing Dublin Jerome on Dec. 17. "I have four kids who played a lot last year and I have nine kids who didn't, and they are gaining that game experience."
Senior post player Charles Perkins led a balanced attack with 14 points, followed by sophomore point guard Noah Lawrence with 10, Chace Perkins with nine and junior guard/forward Camden Ledford with eight. All four were key contributors last season.
"The four kids I have back are playing different roles for the most part," Trusley said. "Noah Lawrence now has to play the point for most of the game and other kids also have different roles.
"We play stretches were we are playing well, but we have to do that for four quarters and 32 minutes every night. We're going to get there."
Through five games, Charles Perkins was averaging a team-high 12.4 points and 4.8 rebounds, Chace Perkins was averaging 10 points, Lawrence was averaging 8.2 points and 2.6 assists and Ledford was averaging 6.2 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds.
Euton, Gooding lead wrestlers at Liberty
The wrestling team had four competitors place in the Olentangy Liberty Classic held Dec. 13 and 14.
Jake Gooding (120 pounds) and Connor Euton (138) both went 4-0 and were the champions of their respective weight classes.
Gooding pinned Medina Highland's Joey Vazsonyi in 1:56 for the title, while Euton pinned Orange's Zack Miller in 5:13 in his championship match.
Gabe Ohle (113) went 4-1 and placed third by pinning Westland's Tyler Jude in 3:43 in the consolation final, and Nico Candido (160) placed sixth, going 3-3 and losing to Louisville (Kentucky) Trinity's Landon Lenhart 3-0 in the fifth-place match.
Also competing for the Warriors were Sylvester Bockarie (152, 3-2), Eli DeTemple (182, 2-2), Xavier Dockery (152, 1-2), John Holzapfel (220, 1-2), Nathan Hynes (126, 0-2), Ray Johnson (195, 3-2) and Eli Williams (170, 2-2).
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 21 -- Whetstone at Mount Vernon Nazarene
*Dec. 20 -- At Liberty
Dec. 21 -- Olentangy Berlin at Mount Vernon Nazarene
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 20 -- Rule the 'Ville Meet at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 21 -- At Hilliard Darby with Massillon Washington and Uhrichsville Claymont