Wellington Roundup: Jaguars boys basketball team eager to build on late-season progress
By season’s end, the Wellington boys basketball team seemed to be making up for the time that many of its young players lost during the offseason as well as a season that started in late December because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Jaguars beat Division IV district finalist Patriot Prep 64-54 on Feb. 18 to begin a three-game winning streak but fell behind 25-2 and couldn’t recover during a 72-49 loss to seventh-seeded Ready in the second round of the Division III district tournament Feb. 27.
Wellington, which was seeded 14th, lost five of its first six games but finished 8-11.
“Not being able to practice and play at team camps (last) summer hurt us, as it’s during those days that are jam-packed with games that a lot of guys are able to become more comfortable with their roles,” junior forward Chase Ouellette said. “(For) many of the young guys on this team, (their) first real-time game experience was in the heat of competition.
“Because of this, it wasn’t until the back half of the season when I felt like we began to understand our team identity and build on our previous experience.”
The continued development of the 6-foot-5 Ouellette, who raised his scoring average from 8.5 last season to 13.0, figures to be instrumental for Wellington to return to the success it enjoyed last season when it reached a Division IV regional final before the remainder of the postseason was canceled because of the pandemic.
Ouellette had 35 points and 14 rebounds in an 82-48 win over Grove City Christian on Feb. 22 to close the regular season.
Senior guard Marcus Stewart emerged to average 17 points, scoring 28 in the tournament loss.
Guard Evan Henry, who averaged 7.0 points, was the only other senior who saw significant playing time for a Jaguars’ team that went 2-6 in the MSL-Ohio Division, including losing both of its games in the league tournament.
Wellington also lost 74-66 to Ready on Jan. 30, and coach Artie Taylor said the start of both games was similar.
“It was our second time playing (Ready) and they (got out to big leads) both times,” Taylor said. “The first time it was 15-2 by the time we got it going. They’re really good at all five spots. Marcus Stewart had a great game (in the tournament loss). I was telling him at halftime to just take over and that you’re bigger and stronger. He’s going to go somewhere (to play collegiately).
“We have some guys who, with a nice offseason, can line us up to be something special, so we’re still working on these younger guys, hoping the freshmen can come up really fast. We’ve got a couple of sophomores that can really show something if they have a good offseason.”
The team’s third-leading scorer was sophomore guard A.J. Taylor, the coach’s son who averaged 9.0 points.
Junior Aurius Calloway and sophomore Max Schaefer are guards who should join Ouellette and A.J. Taylor in creating next season’s nucleus.
Sophomore guard Ben Beckman is another who saw extensive varsity action for the first time, and sophomore guard William Garner and freshman guard Roarke Marincit also could move into more prominent roles next season.
“Our team greatly improved throughout the year,” A.J. Taylor said. “(We) started off a little shaky and then found our groove near the end of the season. My role has increased this year by starting varsity and learning how to be a leader this season.
“I think the next step for me is to be more active in my position. Putting the pandemic behind us, being able to practice in the preseason and having a full schedule (and) with the guys coming back, getting in the gym and working on our craft will be key. I have high hopes for the upcoming season.”
•Record: 8-11 overall
•MSL-Ohio standings: Worthington Christian (8-0), Whitehall (6-3), Bexley (5-4), Buckeye Valley (5-4), Wellington (2-6), Grandview (0-6)
•Seniors lost: Vinny Giang, Evan Henry, Kethan Mokadam and Marcus Stewart
•Key returnees: Ben Beckman, Aurius Calloway, Chase Ouellette and A.J. Taylor
•Postseason: Lost to Ready 72-49 in second round of Division III district tournament