Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders girls basketball team focused on making long postseason run

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Reynoldsburg's Imarianah Russell drives against Hilliard Davidson's Brianna O'Connor earlier this season. Russell scored her 1,000th career point Feb. 2 against Gahanna and was averaging 21.5 points through 14 games for the Raiders, who are seeded third for the Division I district tournament.

With its goal of winning the OCC-Buckeye Division title likely off the table, the Reynoldsburg girls basketball team has its eyes set firmly on what it hopes will happen at the end of this month.  

Junior guard Imarianah Russell is new to the program, but she understands what is at stake over the coming weeks after she and her former teammates at Dublin Coffman settled for a Division I district runner-up finish last season.   

“We’re getting ready for the tournament, and we’ve got to come with everything we have,” Russell said. “We still have to come together a little more and still have to get better ball movement, but we’re looking a lot better than how we started.”  

Russell – who grew up in Columbus before starting at Coffman for two years – has nearly doubled her scoring average during her first season with the Raiders.  

She needed 11 points heading into a game Feb. 2 at home against Gahanna to reach 1,000 for her prep career and reached that total in the first half. Russell finished with 22, just above her scoring average of 21.5 through 14 games, as the Raiders routed the Lions 73-31 to improve to 10-4 overall.  

Gahanna had won 10 of 11 to earn the No. 6 seed for the district tournament but couldn’t handle the experience and pressure of the Raiders.

"(Russell) works hard,” said coach Jack Purtell, whose squad lost to Newark 46-41 on Jan. 29 to slip to 5-2 in the league and two games behind the Wildcats. “She puts the work in. She trains in the offseason at 5 in the morning. She trains, she lifts, all that stuff, and then she’ll come in afterward and get extra shots. She’s got real good support from her family. They really take the lead on trying to make sure she gets every opportunity to get better. She’s pretty special.”  

Russell is part of a junior class that also includes guards Makiya Miller and Mya Perry, key holdovers from last year’s team that lost in a regional semifinal, as well as forward Alexia Mobley, a Whitehall transfer, and Trinity Ramos, an Olentangy Liberty transfer.  

The Raiders are seeded third for the district tournament and open Feb. 16 at home against 40th-seeded Westerville Central. The winner plays 36th-seeded Eastmoor Academy on Feb. 19 at the site of the better-seeded team.  

Eighth-seeded Westerville South and No. 12 Olentangy are the next highest seeds in Reynoldsburg’s bracket, with the Raiders holding home-court advantage throughout the district tournament.  

Should the Raiders win a district title, they would not face Newark again until a regional final. The Wildcats won the regional last year, but the state tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  

Reynoldsburg lost to Newark 45-31 on Jan. 22.  

“We’re getting there,” Purtell said. “We’ve played a really good schedule. The first time (against Newark) we didn’t compete with them. We weren’t ready for them. We really weren’t even in their class the first time.  

“The last game we played was a really good basketball game and was fun to be a part of. We had a wide-open (3-pointer) and if we’d made that, it’s going to be tough for them to come back, but we talked about it afterwards that we might get to see them again.”  

Wrestlers gearing  

up for postseason  

The wrestling team hopes to pick up steam heading into the postseason following an up-and-down regular season.  

After dropping a trio of duals at Watkins Memorial on Jan. 30, the Raiders were 2-8 overall. They also lost 45-26 to Central Crossing on Jan. 28 to fall to 0-3 in the OCC-Buckeye.  

On the flip side, seniors Mike Dawkins (132 pounds) and Dalton Hall (heavyweight) have put together strong seasons and sophomore Logan Smalley (120/126) still appears on the road to being able to compete by the postseason, according to coach Jon Forgy.  

Hall, who signed Feb. 3 with West Virginia State to play football, was 8-4 on the season and 60-33 for his career after his team’s matches at Watkins Memorial.  

“It’s been kind of crazy with (the pandemic),” Hall said. “We’ve had two cancellations, but I feel confident going into the postseason coming up and confident I can make a run.”  

Hall, who said he usually weighs about 280 but believes he is “nimble” enough on his feet to handle smaller heavyweights, was a Division I district qualifier last season.  

The Raiders will compete Feb. 27 in the Upper Arlington sectional.

“Dalton has shown improvement over the season,” Forgy said. “Dalton’s looking forward to more opportunities to get on the mat this season due to us having to miss events over the past month. I’m looking forward to his progression the rest of the season.”  

Dawkins, who missed last season with an injury, was 15-1.  

Sophomore Chris Karr (152) missed time earlier this season with injury but returned to win his weight division Jan. 23 in the 11-team Newark Catholic Invitational, where the Raiders finished third (170) behind co-champions Hartley and Mount Vernon (230).  

Smalley went 30-5 last season at 120 but was unable to compete at district because of injury.  

“Logan is making progress, and we’re looking forward to him coming back and getting him ready for sectionals,” Forgy said.   

Boys basketball team  

having strong year  

The boys basketball team had four remaining regular-season games scheduled before the Division I district tournament begins Feb. 23.  

The Raiders dropped to 8-4 overall with a 64-50 loss Feb. 2 to Gahanna.  

With a 42-37 victory over Newark on Jan. 29, Reynoldsburg was second at 6-1 in the OCC-Buckeye. Pickerington Central, which beat the Raiders 57-47 on Jan. 15, was 7-0  after beating Central Crossing 64-24 on Jan. 29.  

Against Newark, junior guard Jonye Madison finished with 13 points and senior forward Zaveon Croff had nine points. Against Gahanna, senior guard Josiah Mobley finished with 14 points. Mobley was averaging 14 points through 12 games.

julrey@thisweeknews.com  

@UlreyThisWeek