Felesia Ondongo long has played point guard for her AAU team, the Capital City Comets, but rarely has seen time at that position for the Pickerington Central girls basketball team -- largely because 2019 graduate Madison Greene filled that role the past four years before heading to Ohio State.
But Ondongo, a 5-foot-9 senior shooting guard, won't rule out playing there or anywhere else over the final month of her Tiger career thanks both to her own versatility and injuries.
After coming off the bench last year and scoring in double digits six times to help Central to a Division I state runner-up finish, Ondongo averaged 9.6 points during the regular season to help the Tigers to records of 17-5 overall and 9-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, tied with Gahanna for their fifth consecutive league championship.
"I'm trying to expand my game to drive more, drive and kick and learn to play different positions," Ondongo said. "I had to be a forward (Feb. 4 during a 59-48 win at New Albany), so I'm just going to have to adjust myself to different situations. And I still need to score more."
According to coach Johnathan Hedgepeth, Ondongo has averaged approximately six rebounds per game during the past few weeks as Central survived a rigorous schedule and remained in contention for the league championship despite a 68-63 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 10. That and a 66-48 loss at Newark on Feb. 9 were the Tigers' only setbacks against in-state teams during the regular season.
Ranked 10th in the state last week and seeded fifth in the 48-team Division I district tournament, Central will play host to 45th-seeded Westland in a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 15.
"We run some sets where we have two people in the high post and (Ondongo) does that. We need girls to know every position on the floor and Felesia takes that to heart," Hedgepeth said, adding that Ondongo -- who holds scholarship offers from Coppin State and Wheeling -- has taken six charges this season. "She has a toughness and willingness to sacrifice herself for the team. That's the way we look at charges."
Ondongo's growth became even more valuable last week when Central lost starting forward/guard Aarionna Redman to a right leg injury. Redman, a senior, was injured Jan. 31 early in a 53-46 win at Reynoldsburg.
"We've always looked at (Ondongo) as someone who can put up numbers in bunches in terms of scoring," Hedgepeth said. "One of the things we've really been pleased with is her on-ball defense."
Guard Nadia Jackson has seen Ondongo's growth throughout the years, since they were rivals on opposing Pickerington Youth Athletic Association teams in sixth grade. They became teammates at Ridgeview Middle School the next year and have played both junior varsity and varsity together with the Tigers.
"She's grown so much," Jackson said. "The state championship team set a high bar for us and all of us have had to grow up. Felesia has definitely done that. You wouldn't expect a 5-9 guard to be getting rebounds on a girl who is 6-4, but she does. She has a beautiful shot, too. She will not fail you."
The Central-Westland winner will play 48th-seeded Whetstone in the second round Feb. 21 at the home of the better seed.
Eberhardt leads swimmers to district
Brett Eberhardt of the boys swimming team qualified for the Division I district meet in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free, leading four individuals and four relays who will compete Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
Eberhardt finished fourth in the 100 free (48.89 seconds) and fifth in the 50 free (22.46) in a sectional Feb. 8 at Upper Arlington as the Tigers finished sixth (89 points) behind the host and champion Golden Bears (467) as 10 teams scored. He also was on the district-qualifying 200 free (1:39.15) and 200 medley (1:51.25) relays, both of which finished sixth.
Bella Jones placed sixth in the 200 free (2:05.71) and earned an at-large berth to district to pace the girls team, which finished seventh (57) at sectional behind champion UA (403) as 11 teams scored.
Paige Christy placed sixth in the 100 back (1:01.62) to advance.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Boys team playing for share of title
The boys basketball team will finish the regular season Friday, Feb. 14, at Gahanna, and a win would give Central a share of the OCC-Ohio championship with the Lions and potentially Pickerington North.
Central is 16-5 overall and 7-2 in the league, tied with the Panthers for second place behind Gahanna (8-1).
The Tigers fell to the Lions 44-42 on a last-second shot Jan. 10.
Central kept pace in the league Feb. 7 with an 81-49 home win over Grove City in which Conner Maciag had 30 points, one off his career high, and Tahleik Walker scored 22. The Tigers lost 66-54 at Newark the next night as Garner Wallace had 15 points, Maciag added 13 and Devin Royal scored 11.
Central is seeded fourth in the 49-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 40th-seeded Mount Vernon in a first-round game Feb. 22.
Wrestling team set to face Panthers
The wrestling team's first competition in two weeks will come against its crosstown rival as Central plays host to North on Thursday, Feb. 13, in the final OCC-Ohio match of the season for both teams.
Central is 2-2 in the league and has not wrestled since a Jan. 30 win at Gahanna.
"It's a good time to get into that final phase of conditioning toward the postseason," coach Jason Allen said. "This is a great time to lay off some kids who need to ramp up their training later. Some kids are sick. It's really a perfect time to get kids healthy and where they need to be."
The North match also will be Central's final dual of the season. The Tigers will wrestle in the All-North Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Dublin Jerome before another two-week break leading into a Division I sectional Feb. 29 at Newark.
Athletes announce college decisions
Four football players announced their college decisions Feb. 5.
Abraham Alabi will play at Eastern Kentucky, Drew Bookman will play at Siena Heights, Collin Brice will play at Concordia and Demeatric Crenshaw will play at Youngstown State.