First-year Westland girls basketball coach Nina Napolitano has been impressed with her team's resiliency this season.
Several times, the Cougars have been able to follow discouraging losses with strong performances.
The latest instance happened after Westland lost at Central Crossing 55-31 on Jan. 10. The Cougars responded with a 56-48 win over visiting Hamilton Township on Jan. 15.
"Every time we step out on the court, our goal is to improve and I think we've done that," Napolitano said. "This was the best game we played as a team. It was a whole team effort. I was pretty proud with what they did (Jan. 15)."
Westland was 3-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 16. The Cougars were looking to end a 48-game losing streak in league play, with their last league win being a 37-35 victory over Central Crossing on Nov. 27, 2015.
The Cougars' resiliency also was evident following an 86-8 loss to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 13, as they bounced back to defeat Madison Christian 36-35 on Dec. 16.
Westland's other win was a 38-21 victory over Northside Christian to open the season Nov. 22.
The Cougars received a balanced effort against Hamilton Township, led by sophomore Hayden Kershaw's season-high 16 points.
"We're doing really well on working together and our coaches are really with us on having a good team bond so we can work well on the court together," Kershaw said.
Junior Hannah Kershaw had 10 points, junior Alexxus Phifer scored nine and sophomore Taylor Bronson added eight. Bronson connected on a pair of 3-pointers to help the Cougars maintain the lead in the first half.
"I love that," Napolitano said of the balanced performance. "It's good to see."
Hayden and Hannah Kershaw, both of whom are 6-foot-2, provided Westland with numerous second-chance opportunities.
"That's something we've been trying to work into our offense, how we can get the ball into the post," Napolitano said. "When we do that and we play inside-out, it works for us."
Hannah Kershaw scored 14 points against Central Crossing, and senior Christine Johnson had 10 points in a 46-33 loss to Franklin Heights on Jan. 7.
Through 12 games, Hayden Kershaw was averaging a team-high 8.3 points, followed by Phifer at 6.5.
"We want to continue to work on our defensive intensity," Napolitano said. "When we play great defense, our offense does come. If we play lackadaisical defense that's when we usually run into some errors and we break down as a team."
Injuries and illnesses have forced Napolitano and athletics director Brian Lowery to cancel all junior varsity games for the remainder of the season. They hope to reinstate the team next season.
"It's frustrating for the girls and it's frustrating for the coaching staff," Napolitano said. "We're making it work."
Boys basketball team aims for strong finish
The boys basketball team was 2-11 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central before playing Marysville on Jan. 17.
The Cougars lost at Grandview 73-55 on Jan. 13 as Kenan Lay and Drew Panning each scored 14 points and Kalil Camara added 13.
The Cougars lost to visiting Central Crossing 55-47 on Jan. 10 as Camara and Sohn McGee each scored 12 points.
"We are trying to get healthy and refocus on daily improvement and understand that our entire goal right now is learning how to execute and finish: Finish a drill, finish a practice, finish a game and be playing the best basketball we are capable of when the (Division I district) tournament begins," coach Rob Hayes said. "I'm proud of a lot of the kids and excited for the challenge of putting it all together down the stretch."
Wrestlers compete at Central Crossing
The wrestling team finished eighth (133) in the 18-team Comet Classic on Jan. 11 at Central Crossing behind champion Versailles (213).
Bryson Palmer finished second at 126 pounds to lead Westland.
The Cougars opened OCC-Central action with a 57-17 loss to visiting Marysville on Jan. 9. Axel Ventura (106) and Trent Jude (120) won by major decision, Palmer (126) won by decision and Tyler Jude (113) won by forfeit.
The Cougars competed in a league dual against Davidson on Jan. 16. Top performers entering the match were Trent Jude (18-4), Palmer (18-5), Tyler Jude (15-6) and Jakob Hurley (12-5, 145/152).
"We still have to improve on making less mistakes and wrestling our best the full six minutes," coach Brent Allerding said. "A few guys are starting to hit their stride and improving a lot. Going into the last month of the season, we need to get healthy and clean up some things."
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 21 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
*Jan. 24 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman. The Cougars lost to the Shamrocks 92-65 on Dec. 13.
Jan. 21 -- At Canal Winchester
*Jan. 24 -- At Coffman. The Cougars lost to the Shamrocks 86-8 on Dec. 13.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 25 -- OCC-Central meet at Kenyon College
*Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Coffman
Jan. 25 -- New Albany Tournament