Wellington Roundup: Jaguars boys basketball team growing in season of challenges
Playing Columbus Academy on Jan. 15 allowed the Wellington boys basketball team to gauge its progress in a season that started late and features a group of sophomores taking on key roles for the first time.
The game also is among the most emotional every season for senior guards Evan Henry and Marcus Stewart, both of whom attended Academy before enrolling at Wellington.
Both players understand the importance of the mental side of the game, particularly this season.
While Stewart attended Academy from kindergarten through eighth grade, Henry joined the Jaguars last season after attending Academy from kindergarten through 10th grade.
The teams also were originally scheduled to play Jan. 26, but the MSL-Ohio Division decided to have each of its eight boys programs play one another only once rather than twice this season. Then there will be a conference tournament in which each team is guaranteed three games in February based on league finishes.
“I went to Academy from K-8 and then transferred here to Wellington,” Stewart said. “I know a whole lot of those guys. It’s still a good game and I still felt the emotion of it, but it’s not the same without the fans. Cutting out all of our fans is difficult for me in that it’s my last season and I have friends who I want to come and have them watch me play and they can’t. … It’s heart-wrenching our fans can’t come to see the games.”
Wellington lost to Academy 50-37 but followed with a 66-43 victory over Circleville New Hope Christian on Jan. 16.
The Jaguars then lost 78-32 on Jan. 20 to Worthington Christian to drop to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the league.
Stewart was averaging 16.5 points through seven games but then sustained an ankle injury against Worthington Christian, leaving his status going forward uncertain. He scored a career-high 27 points against New Hope Christian and averaged 11.5 points last season when the Jaguars reached a Division IV regional final.
“It’s been a challenge, I’m not going to downplay that,” coach Artie Taylor said. “We have a tradition here. The kids who have been in the program understand our principles, our standards and they were excited about the opportunity to have a chance to play this season. From an athlete standpoint, everything is about wins and losses and we’re keeping perspective on that. It’s been a struggle. Guys have been fighting some demons in that, but (the game against Academy) was definitely some progress, some growth that I was pleased with.
“It’s tough. We’re playing four or five sophomores and juniors. We’re going to be good for it in the long run. It’s just keeping them focused and keeping their perspective in the journey.”
Henry also has taken on a much bigger role this winter, starting at point guard after serving as a spot-up shooter off the bench last season.
Junior forward Chase Ouellette had 16 points against Worthington Christian and was averaging 10 through eight games.
Sophomore guards Ben Beckman, Max Schaeffer and A.J. Taylor are in the rotation for the first time.
“We’re still trying to mesh,” Henry said. “We lost a lot of people from last year. This year I’m the point guard, so I set up the plays. I like it a lot better. I like being in charge of the offense, getting plays set up and getting my teammates involved. I feel like we’re coming together as a team great. If we knock down our shots, we have as good a chance as anybody.”
Girls basketball team
After earning one win last season, the girls basketball team picked up its first victory this winter in its second game, 24-19 over Shekinah Christian on Jan. 11.
After losing to Columbus School for Girls 50-12 on Jan. 19, the Jaguars were 1-4 overall and 0-4 in the MSL-Ohio.
“We’re growing,” coach Matt Conkling said. “We’re young. We’re starting to get it a little bit. Our total team effort was much more amazing (in a 52-12 loss to Columbus Academy on Jan. 13). We saw a lot of good things from our team. We were aggressive on the boards and passed the ball pretty well. We didn’t have as many turnovers and we’re starting to just jell. We’ve just got to get into game rhythm.”
Wellington opened Jan. 5 with a 67-12 loss to Buckeye Valley.
Against Shekinah Christian, sophomore post player Daniela Casline had seven points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Junior guard Abigail Burkhardt was averaging a team-best eight points through five games.
Junior guards Jameela Askira and Rhea Singh, sophomore forward Katie Kuttrus and sophomore guard Dylan Ehlers also have been key contributors.
“Abigail Burkhardt, my point guard, has been playing phenomenally,” Conkling said. “Dani Casline has been a force, getting some rebounds and blocking shots. I’m really loving the effort and energy that Jameela Askira has been giving us. Dylan is fresh to basketball but she’s coming along. The team’s giving a great effort and they keep working hard.”
Swim teams prep
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams kicked off their season in early January, preparing for a postseason that will start with Division II sectional competition during the second week of February.
In a meet Jan. 16 at Aquatic Adventures in Hilliard, the boys beat Bloom-Carroll 96-47 and the girls defeated the Bulldogs 77-42.
For the boys, senior Heath Thomas won the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free, sophomore Eric Albers won the 100 free and 100 breaststroke, junior Alex Lott won the 100 backstroke and the Jaguars won the 200 free relay and 400 free relay.
For the girls, senior Paige Bennett was first in the 50 free, senior Christine Cooke won the 100 breast, junior Drew Ober won the 100 free and 100 back and the Jaguars won the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.