With the song "We Are the Champions" playing in the background, the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball team held a long-awaited celebration Feb. 7.
The Rams clinched their first league title since the 1981-82 season with a 66-37 win over visiting Buckeye Valley. They finished 13-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division, ahead of runner-up Worthington Christian (12-2).
It is the program's third league title, with the first coming in the 1974-75 season. Whitehall's previous titles came while playing in the OCC-Capital.
Kiara Bagley led a balanced attack with 13 points, followed by Alexia Mobley with 12 and Sahlena Harvey and Jewel Watkins with 10 apiece. The Rams connected on 12 3-pointers.
"This is really emotional because we worked so hard for this," said Bagley, a senior point guard. "We've worked so hard for years. ... We're just overwhelmed and we're really happy. This is a great experience and we're only going up from here."
Whitehall secured a share of the league title with a 45-28 win at Bexley on Feb. 4.
Bagley and Watkins each scored 13 points.
It's been a special season for coach Quentin Taylor, who took over the program in June after guiding the freshman boys team at Whitehall the previous three seasons.
After the victory over Buckeye Valley, Taylor completed the net-cutting ceremony and then was doused with water and received a game ball during a postgame celebration in the locker room.
"I came into this knowing that we had the potential to win," Taylor said. "I never wavered from that. You can call it arrogant; you can call it cocky, whatever you want, but I knew that these girls had something.
"I just wanted to make sure that they had the fight and could sacrifice for one another to play for one another. Once I saw it starting to happen then it was up to us for our own destiny."
Taylor replaced Darin Green, who stepped down after two years. Green, who was in attendance for the Buckeye Valley game, helped begin the program's turnaround.
The Rams went 1-22 in Green's first season in 2017-18 before finishing 14-10 last winter.
"All props to (Taylor) and the coaching staff," Green said. "They did a very good job. Everything happens for a reason. I was just fortunate to be a part of what this is and what it means for the school. For this to be happening for these girls, because I know what these girls have gone through the last two years, this is special for them."
Whitehall improved to 17-5 overall with a 62-54 win at Dayton Dunbar on Feb. 8 in its regular-season finale. Mobley scored 23 points, Bagley had 15 and Kari Gullick added 10.
The Rams now will look to win their first district title since the 1978-79 season. Whitehall then lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 44-33 in a Class AA regional semifinal.
The Rams are seeded third for the Division II district tournament and play host to 16th-seeded Linden-McKinley in the first round Monday, Feb. 17.
The winner plays 14th-seeded Licking Valley in the second round Feb. 21.
"We're not done," Bagley said. "We can win a district title. If we put in the work that we did for this (league title), we can do anything."
Taylor is looking forward to the postseason.
"This is cute, but we only have part of the battle," he said of the league title. "This senior class helped make history, but I want to get a district (title). I don't want to have high rankings just for no reason. That doesn't do anything for us if we're not winning. My objective here is to win."
Boys team battles for league title
The boys basketball team rebounded from a 59-56 loss at Grandview on Feb. 4 to defeat Columbus Academy 71-57 on Feb. 8 at home. Whitehall had lost to Academy 55-54 on Jan. 7.
The Rams were 12-7 overall and 8-2 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Worthington Christian on Feb. 11. They close league play Friday, Feb. 14, at Buckeye Valley, which they defeated 38-36 on Jan. 17.
Whitehall entered the week first in the league, one game ahead of Worthington Christian.
Royal Sibley scored 23 points and Josiah Mobley added 13 against Grandview.
Whitehall is seeded 22nd for the Division I district tournament and will visit 14th-seeded Canal Winchester or 19th-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round Feb. 28.
Wrestling team to vie in league tournament
The wrestling team will compete in the five-team MSL-Ohio tournament Saturday, Feb. 15, at Bexley.
The tournament again will be a dual-match format.
The Rams also will compete against host Mount Gilead and Sparta Highland on Thursday, Feb. 13.