Westland Roundup: 'Growing process' continues for Cougars boys basketball team

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Junior guard Sohn McGee is expected to be among the top returnees for Westland. He averaged 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists and was named second-team all-league.

Having concluded his fourth season as Westland boys basketball coach, Rob Hayes believes he has the program heading in the right direction. 

The Cougars finished 3-17 overall and went 0-10 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place sixth behind champion Gahanna (9-1) and runner-up Westerville Central (8-2) – the top two seeds, respectively, in the Division I district tournament. 

Westland has lost 49 consecutive league games. 

“As long as they’ll have me back, I love doing this,” Hayes said. “I believe we can improve. If I didn’t believe that I would get out of the way, but I think we improved.” 

Seeded 44th in the tournament, the Cougars lost at 38th-seeded Mount Vernon 64-50 in the first round Feb. 23. 

“I expected once we got going, I thought we’d have a little more success,” Hayes said. “It was a tough start to our schedule, but once we got to some of the games that should have been a little more competitive, there were some things we left on the table. It was a growing process for a lot of kids. We have a lot of really young kids, a lot of really inexperienced kids.” 

Westland defeated Groveport 52-51 on Jan. 19, Central Crossing 61-47 on Jan. 26 and Horizon Science 71-58 on Feb. 10. 

The Cougars dropped close decisions to Pickerington North 68-58 on Jan. 29 and Lancaster 60-59 on Feb. 2. 

“We’re very grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to play,” said Hayes, whose team endured a season hampered by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “That was never guaranteed and considering what (Columbus City Schools) had to go through and the amount of adjustments everybody had to make to everything, it’s a blessing to be able to get through a season.” 

Junior guard Sohn McGee averaged 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists and was named second-team all-league. 

“I feel like we’re improving because a lot more people are engaged (and) wanted to do more,” he said. “Everybody wants to play.” 

Maleek Knight was one of three seniors for Westland, which finished 3-17 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Ohio Division under fourth-year coach Rob Hayes.

Forward Derrick Bogay led a three-player senior class. He averaged 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds and was special mention all-league.  

Junior forward Drew Panning averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league. 

“We know we have to get pieces around McGee and Panning to help them be successful because we’ll go as far as they can take us next year,” Hayes said. 

Westland also will lose guard Mike Dingess and forward Maleek Knight to graduation. 

Others eligible to return are juniors Brad Weaver (center) and Trevon Webb (guard), sophomores Dean Curtiss (guard) and Chike Obiagwu (guard) and freshman Gristian Perez (guard). 

“I can’t wait for next season,” McGee said. “I have to do more work as a leader. ... I have a better IQ on the floor where I can get my points from, where I can create for other people.” 

Five wrestlers

advance to district

The wrestling team opened the postseason by finishing fifth (107) in an 11-team Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Marysville behind the champion and host Monarchs (247). 

Trent Jude finished first at 113 pounds to lead the Cougars and advance to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby along with second-place finishers Tyler Jude (106), Bryson Palmer (126), Jakob Hurley (152) and Jacob Mullens (195). 

“We thought going into it that we could get at least five out, so sending five to district is exciting,” coach Brent Allerding said. “I am pleased with our guys’ execution. The postseason brings nerves that aren’t there in the regular season. I thought we fought through the nerves and pressure and delivered. We won some big matches and lost some big matches.” 

At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state March 13 and 14 at Darby.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

BOYS BASKETBALL 

Record: 3-17 overall 

OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (9-1), Westerville Central (8-2), Pickerington North (7-3), Grove City (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10) 

Seniors lost: Derrick Bogay, Mike Dingess and Maleek Knight 

Key returnees: Sohn McGee and Drew Panning 

Postseason: Lost to Mount Vernon 64-50 in first round of Division I district tournament