Pickerington Central Roundup: ‘Playmaker’ Ben Hayes pacing Tigers boys lacrosse squad

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Ben Hayes has been a key playmaker for Central, with 48 goals and 15 assists through 12 games. “He scores goals and he makes it look a lot easier than it is,” coach Garyck Todd said.

Ben Hayes seemed surprised before a recent Pickerington Central boys lacrosse practice that he was on pace to surpass the 49 goals he scored as a freshman.

“I didn’t know that, no,” Hayes, a junior attacker, said with a chuckle.

Nor did Hayes realize that he had 15 assists to go with his 48 goals through 12 games, but that is the number of which he is proudest as the Tigers prepare for the Division I regional tournament.

“That’s one of my favorite stats, especially since we spread the ball around a lot,” Hayes said. “Initiating the dodge and passing the ball to teammates for assists, I’m proud of that. I just want to build on this. I want to get points for the team.”

Thanks in part to Hayes’ playmaking, Central was 6-6 overall before playing Westerville North on May 7 and finished 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Tigers wrap up the regular season May 13 and begin postseason play next week.

The tournament draw was May 8.

“He’s just a playmaker. He scores goals and he makes it look a lot easier than it is,” coach Garyck Todd said. “That’s a great quality to have in a player. He’s patient. He makes the right looks and he has a ton of assists. He’s just an all-around good player.”

Hayes tied a program record by scoring nine goals in a 17-5 win at Gahanna on April 27 and set a new mark with 12 total points. 

That same night, freshman attacker/midfielder Dominic Shaw set another record with seven assists, five of which went to Hayes.

“We’ve been working on it in practice. I’ve been finding him and he’s been finding me,” Shaw said. “He puts in a lot of work. You can see it in the games. When he plays, he can get open and create his own shots, too.”

Todd attributed Hayes’ success to his intelligence, both lacrosse-wise and when it comes to academics. Admitting his mind is oriented to science, Hayes plans to major in physics in college and is unsure whether he will play lacrosse at the next level.

During a recent practice, Hayes’ facemask was adorned with drawings of the eight planets.

“He was just very smooth,” Todd said of Hayes as a freshman. “He was a little bit smaller (at 5-foot-9, 140 pounds) then but he never had any problem handling the big guys. He handles pressure very well. He has such a high lacrosse IQ that he picks up everything we give him very quickly.”

Instead of planting himself near the net and finishing as he did in 2019, Hayes’ game has evolved this season to include more drives and dodges.

“Now I have to step up and make more plays on the ball,” said Hayes, who is 5-10, 150 in his final season. “I need to be more of a playmaker instead of just a finisher.”

Rhani Roy and Central are entering the championship part of their schedule, beginning with the OCC-Buckeye and Division I district meets.

Track teams

prep for postseason

The championship portion of the track and field teams’ schedule begins this week with the OCC-Buckeye meet at Lancaster, followed quickly by the postseason.

The league meet begins May 13 with some field events, the 3,200-meter relay and preliminaries for other running events and concludes May 15 with the remaining field events and running finals.

Girls coach Darrin Green applauded his team’s balance, including the efforts of sprinters Ramiya Roy and Zora Shakhan. Roy primarily has run the 100, 200 and the 800 and 1,600 relays, while Shakhan runs the 400 and 800 relays as well as various open events.

Roy was ranked 10th statewide in the 100 (12.12 seconds) and 12th in the 200 (25.56) last week by Athletic.net. The 400 relay was sixth (49.37) and 1,600 relay 11th (4:06.29).

“(Roy) has been consistently strong every time we go out. She does a wonderful job and she still has room to improve,” Green said. “We’re still looking for every little area we can improve right now to give her any (possible) edge. 

“Zora starts us on the (400 relay). She puts us in first place every time, it feels like. She’s excellent out of the blocks.”

Other top girls contributors have included long jumper Grace Adegoke, sprinter/jumper Kaela Caldwell, distance standout Amber Carter and sprinter Kaiah Hicks.

The boys and girls teams both are seeded second for the Division I postseason, behind Pickerington North and Gahanna, respectively.

The girls are in district 1, for which the 3,200 relay final and running preliminaries are May 18, field events are May 20 and finals for other running events take place May 22.

The boys are in district 3. Field event finals are May 19, the 3,200 relay final and running preliminaries are May 20 and the remaining running finals are May 22.

The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 26 and 28 at North.

Boys tennis team

heading into sectional

Coming off its first league championship since 2018, the boys tennis team will play host to a Division I sectional May 13 and 15.

The doubles team of Brady Phelps and Spencer Phelps, who played singles throughout the regular season, is seeded third along with Quinn Jones in singles.

Jacob Bennett and Cole Dashner also will play singles at the sectional, while the Tigers’ other doubles team is Caden Nixt and Jack Philabaum.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 20 and 22 at Reynoldsburg.

Central was 10-4 overall before playing Gahanna on May 10 and went 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave