The Whetstone boys basketball team is not where it wants to be as it nears the end of the regular season, but several veteran players are seeing improvement in year one under coach Dean Washington.
The Braves were 5-14 overall and 5-7 in the City League-North Division before playing Northland on Feb. 4. They will close the regular-season Friday, Feb. 7, with a league game at home against Linden-McKinley.
Last season, Whetstone finished 4-19 overall and 3-11 in the City-North.
Through 19 games, junior guard Caleb Brigle was averaging a team-best 17.1 points and 3.3 rebounds and senior forward/center Jaden Arledge was averaging 10.5 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds.
Brigle had a 39-point performance in a 103-82 loss to Centennial on Jan. 21, and Brigle and Arledge scored 23 and 19 points, respectively, in a 74-38 victory over International on Jan. 24.
Those two, along with senior guard Alex Timmons, were the Braves' only letterwinners to start the season.
"I've had three different coaches in my four years here," Arledge said. "Out of all of them, this is the coach where I've really seen a change in the players. We had players who couldn't do a three-man weave drill, couldn't dribble the ball. Now they're throwing full-court passes. I think just listening to the coach is the best thing you can do."
Brigle said this year's group has bonded well, and this year's coaching staff has done a good job helping the players develop on and off the court.
"They're trying to help us grow as a player and as a person every single day," Brigle said. "Growing as a team every single day, that's been one of the high points of the season. I think (when we were) just getting to know everybody, we just came together as one. That's probably the best thing that we've done so far this season is trying to build one big team."
"Our chemistry's there," Arledge said. "We didn't have to find it. We didn't have to go on certain trips or anything to gain it. We're all there for each other."
Still, both players know the program has a ways to go before the Braves can be contenders in the City-North.
"Coach always says Rome wasn't built in a day," Brigle said. "We're just building every single day. You can't just expect to be 20-0 right off the bat off of one season. That's kind of what we all have to understand."
"We have to keep pushing," Arledge said. "We've had a couple of good games where we're moving the ball. We've gotten a lot better at it. I think that's the best thing we can do."
While stressing that a lot of work remains to be done, Washington acknowledged that the team has made strides this year.
"I think we're playing a little bit better. I think we're learning to run our offense a little bit more," Washington said. "Our defense has been better, but still not where I want it to be.
"One thing we have to learn over the summer, besides learning how to play defense and be better in our stance, is learning how to shoot the basketball."
However, Washington said he believes the players are buying into what the coaches are teaching them.
"I think so," he said. "Rome wasn't built in a day, and we still have some building to do."
Swimming teams place second in City meet
Both the boys and girls swimming and diving teams finished second in the City meet Feb. 1 at Columbus Aquatics Center.
The boys scored 102 points to finish behind Centennial (115) and ahead of Beechcroft (12) and Eastmoor Academy (10), while the girls scored 86 to finish behind Centennial (118) and ahead of Beechcroft (34).
Winning titles for the boys were freshman Nick Timmons in both the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 22 seconds) and 100 butterfly (1:03.14), junior Matthew Conroy in the 200 freestyle (2:05.23), freshman Aaron Schaefer in the 500 free (5:26.4), the 200 medley relay of senior Alex Marcum, junior Javier Cruz, freshman Isaac Schaefer and Timmons (1:57.24) and the 400 free relay of Timmons, Cruz, Conroy and Aaron Schaefer (4:32.16).
Winning titles for the girls were senior Emilie Johnson in the 100 fly (1:15.36) and the 200 free relay of Johnson, senior Leah Schaefer, junior Lydia Schaefer and freshman Cristin Flanagan (1:59.32).
The swimmers for both the boys and girls teams will compete in a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 8, at Upper Arlington.
The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.
Bowlers wrap up regular season
The girls bowling team was 9-3 overall and 7-3 in the COHSBC-C entering its regular-season finale against Ready on Feb. 4, while the boys team was 4-9 overall and 4-8 in the COHSBC-C before the match against the Silver Knights.
Through 12 matches, senior Alea Millington-Fuqua was leading the girls team with a 165.7 average, followed by sophomore Stella Thompson (123.9).
Sophomore Josh Jones led the boys team with a 164.6 average through 13 matches, followed by freshman Abram Normand (153.2).
Both teams will spend the next two weeks preparing for the Division I sectional at HP Lanes. The boys compete on Feb. 21, followed by the girls the next day.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Linden-McKinley. The Braves lost to the Panthers 66-42 on Jan. 14.
Feb. 21 -- At fifth-seeded Pickerington Central or 24th-seeded DeSales in second round of Division I district tournament. The Braves are seeded 48th.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Upper Arlington