Westland Roundup: Boys basketball team seeking improvement

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Westland boys basketball coach Rob Hayes wants his team to "maintain a focus on improvement" as it tries to overcome a rough start to the season. The Cougars lost their first four games by wide margins.

With a key player deciding not to compete because of COVID-19 concerns and another out with an injury, Westland boys basketball coach Rob Hayes had a basic goal for this team entering the new year. 

The Cougars, who were 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Westerville Central on Jan. 8, are looking for steady improvement. Central was ranked 12th in the Division I state poll released Jan. 4.

“The goal for us in the midst of everything going on is just to maintain a focus on improvement and not be going through the motions just because the year is weird,” Hayes said. “If we continue improving every bit of what we can do and controlling what we can control and we hold the kids to the same standard, we’ll get better as the year goes (on).” 

Westland has played all of its games without senior forward Derrick Bogay, who decided not to compete because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic after participating in two scrimmages. 

Hayes hopes Bogay returns if the number of COVID-19 cases goes down.

“Derrick hasn’t played at all and he was the heart and soul at the beginning part of the (season),” Hayes said. “He played our first two scrimmages and was really growing as a leader. ... We’re hopeful that things look good enough, but it’s a family decision. I respect the decision. If you’re trying to protect your kid, you’re trying to protect your kid. I can’t argue with that. I’m a father now. I get it.” 

Westland also has played without junior center Brad Weaver, who has been out with an ankle injury. Hayes said Weaver would be reevaluated soon for a possible return. 

Junior forward Noah Reynolds, who played as a freshman before sitting out last season to focus on football, has returned to the program. 

“I always want to strive for the highest level possible, so I try to put in as much effort as I can in practices and try to work for the spot,” Reynolds said. 

Hayes considers Reynolds one of the Cougars' most improved players. 

“The thing that Noah brings is toughness,” Hayes said. “He’s physically tough and he doesn’t back down from anything. He’s willing to take a challenge around the bucket and he’s rebounding well and probably finishing as well as anybody I have against length. He’s someone that we’re going to count on.” 

As expected, junior guard Sohn McGee has led the Cougars in scoring, averaging 12.8 points through four games. 

Westland will visit Pickerington North on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and Grove City on Friday, Jan. 15, for OCC-Ohio contests. 

Hayes hopes the program develops a rivalry with the Greyhounds since both are part of South-Western City Schools. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Hayes said of playing Grove City. “This year probably isn’t the one since we won’t have big crowds, but within our district that team has been the standard. Our kids need to start really taking it upon themselves to reach the standard that (the Greyhounds) have set.” 

Westland’s first four games were one-sided contests. The Cougars dropped league contests to New Albany (75-51 on Dec. 18) and Gahanna (73-20 on Dec. 19) and non-league games to Hilliard Bradley (81-32 on Dec. 22) and Dublin Scioto (64-30 on Dec. 30). 

Bradley was second and Gahanna was fourth in the state poll. 

“We’ve had four games and two we should have competed in. We just didn’t do a good job,” Hayes said. 

Girls basketball team 

out to slow start 

The girls basketball team also has been affected by the pandemic, as it played just two games in December. 

Westland was 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Central on Jan. 8. The Cougars lost to Central Crossing 45-30 on Jan. 5.

The Cougars will play host to Wellington on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and Grove City on Friday, Jan. 15. 

“We’re looking forward to having some competitive games and to really test ourselves and our abilities,” coach Nina Napolitano said. “In our first two games, our scores weren’t pretty, but I could see growth within the girls. I’m excited to see how we respond.” 

Westland lost to Bradley 69-10 on Dec. 22 and Gahanna 78-24 on Dec. 30. Alexxus Phifer had 10 points and six rebounds against Gahanna. 

Wrestling team looks  

to increase workload 

The wrestling team participated in just one event in December, competing in a quad Dec. 22 at Pickerington Central. 

Westland finished 1-2, defeating Central and losing to Bradley and Teays Valley. 

Jakob Hurley and Bryson Palmer each went 3-0. 

“I was pretty happy because we only had six guys and we won a dual, so that that was pretty cool,” coach Brent Allerding said. “I thought top to bottom, we wrestled really well. Our experienced guys looked really good and our young guys are showing a lot of improvement, so I was really pleased.” 

The Cougars will visit Pickerington North on Thursday, Jan. 14, for an OCC-Ohio match and compete in the Licking Heights Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 16. 

“It’s been frustrating,” Allerding said of the early schedule. “It’s such a weird season. There’s going to be adjusting on the fly and late cancellations and trying to pick up stuff. It’s a fluid situation.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank