Boys Basketball: Westerville Central looks to build on first district title

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Central's Tasos Cook drives to the basket against North's Carter Reese during a game last season. Cook is the top returnee for the Warhawks, who are looking to take the next step after winning their first district title last winter.

Coming off winning its first district title but being unable to conclude the postseason, the Westerville Central boys basketball team has some unfinished business.

The Warhawks captured a Division I district title with a 43-40 victory over Delaware, but the remainder of the postseason was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We talked about that early in the year, but it’s behind us now,” third-year coach Kevin Martin said of last season’s success. “Each year is special in its own way, each year is unique in its own way and that’s what we’ve tried to communicate to our players. Our returning guys understand that. They went through it last year and that experience of having the ultimate success and then having that taken away from you.”

The start of this season also has been delayed by the pandemic. Central is scheduled to open Dec. 18 against visiting Gahanna in an OCC-Ohio Division contest.

Other teams in the OCC-Ohio are Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westland.

Last season, Central went 18-7 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish one game behind co-champions Westerville South and Olentangy Liberty (7-3).

The top returnee is 6-foot-2 senior guard Tasos Cook, who averaged a team-high 16.9 points and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district.

“I just want to play,” Cook said. “We still talk about (last season) because we want to have the same energy coming into this season and we want to make sure we can do the same thing as soon as we get back to that point. It’s something to work towards through all this that’s going on right now.”

Also back is 6-4 senior wing player M.J. Davis, who averaged 6.6 points and was second-team all-league.

Other returnees are seniors Will Jados (6-8, post player), Mamadi Kaba (6-1, wing player) and Landon Tillman (5-10, guard) and junior Brad Leonard (6-5, forward).

Leonard is expected to miss most the season with a knee injury.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Luke Patton (5-10, guard) and Tyler Sackett (5-11, guard), juniors Sam Hood (6-5, forward), Miles Poindexter (6-6, forward) and Sagar Shah (5-11, guard) and sophomores Abubakarr Bangura (6-2, forward) and Donovan Hunter (6-7, wing player).

Patton is a move-in from Minnesota.

A key loss is senior guard Quincy Clark, who has enrolled at Elevation Prep in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Last season, Clark averaged 11 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

“We talk about the uncontrollable and with what’s going on right now, it’s an uncontrollable,” Martin said of the pandemic. “You can do your part, but when things happen you have to keep the perspective of still trying to forge forward, get better and stay connected with your group. It will be an interesting season, but it’s really important that the kids have that opportunity to play the game and compete.”

Coach Ed Calo is now in his 34th season leading South. The Wildcats are scheduled to open Tuesday, Dec. 15, against visiting Jonathan Alder.

Wildcats return

solid group

South returns a solid nucleus as it looks to capture another league title.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open Tuesday, Dec. 15, against visiting Jonathan Alder.

Coach Ed Calo, who is in his 34th season, said defensive pressure and energy again will be key components for his team.

“If the energy is not here, there’s a major problem,” he said. “The kids are energetic and if I can’t bring the energy, I shouldn’t be coaching. The kids are resilient.”

South opens OCC-Capital play against visiting Westerville North on Dec. 18. The league also includes Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights and Worthington Kilbourne.

“I’m sure there will be lots of competition,” said Calo, whose team went 16-9 last season. “We’ve always enjoyed the OCC. There’s some new challenges, some new teams. I’m sure everybody wants to win the division. I don’t know much about a lot of the other guys and certain situations, but we’re going to have to learn quickly because nobody is going to wait for us.”

The Wildcats will play home games in a new gymnasium, where the court is named in honor of Calo.

The top returnee is 5-11 senior guard Peter Pedrozo, who averaged 10.8 points last season and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

“You have to bring energy every day, especially being a senior captain. This is my last year, (so) you have to bring it every day,” Pedrozo said. “With the COVID situation you never know what day is going to be your last, so you have to bring it every day.”

Senior guard Jaiden Guice (6-0) averaged 14.8 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

“Our energy is a really big part of our program,” Guice said. “(Calo) pushes us every day in practice. Workouts in general, he pushes us to be the best that we can be every day and make sure that we go out and show all of our talents and do what we do well.”

Junior guard Drey Carter (6-6) averaged 9.0 points and was special mention all-league.

Also back are seniors Shamar Brittman (6-1, guard), Ian Chuah (6-3, forward), Unisa Kamara (6-7, post player) and Will Ortiz (5-10, guard) and sophomore Jalen Wheeler (5-11, guard).

Other players are juniors Andy Bada (6-5, post player), Isiah Johnson (6-2, guard), Mohamed Mohamond (6-7, post player) and Reign Winston (6-3, guard) and sophomores Majadi Cunningham (5-7, guard) and Jujuan Ray (6-1, guard).

“It’s been a strange year,” Calo said. “Everybody is dealing with something. That’s not a complaint, it’s just a reality.”

A key loss is senior wing player Tabari Howard, who averaged 13.5 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

—Frank DiRenna

Warriors feature

versatile roster

Eighth-year North coach Shan Trusley said every season is different, but this one has a distinct wrinkle.

The Warriors had a quarantine from positive coronavirus tests early in the preseason. Then after returning, they had just six days of workouts before Westerville schools shut down all activities through Nov. 29 and limited contests through Dec. 17.

“We had two days of tryouts before we were quarantined for 14 days and in the 30 days in November we only had six days with either practices or scrimmages,” said Trusley, whose team finished 9-14 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye last winter. “We’ve had some challenges every year, but this year we just have some new ones.

“The most important thing is that the kids and their families remain healthy. We want to balance it, so in the end we have everyone stay healthy and we have a bit of a season for the kids.”

North returns two starters in 6-4 senior guard/forward Cam Ledford (9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds) and junior guard Noah Lawrence (8.9 points). Ledford was special mention all-league and Lawrence was honorable mention.

Seniors Collin Cook (6-6, post player) and Javen McNeil (guard), junior guard/forward Caleb Iheukwu (6-5) and sophomore guard/forwards Semaj Council and Carter Reese also are returning letterwinners.

“We have a group of guys who are really coachable, and they can do a lot of things,” Trusley said. “Noah runs the point and we’d like to get him off the ball sometimes, so Javen McNeil also can play the point and Cam Ledford, a three-year starter, can run the point.

“We have a combination of skill and size, so I’m excited about the group because we can have some depth. We’re young with only three seniors to go with five juniors and three sophomores.”

Junior guard/forwards Lee Rwema and Andrew Scurlock, junior post player Malachi Peacock (6-4) and sophomore guard Jordan Graham round out the roster.

—Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports 

CENTRAL

Coach: Kevin Martin, third season

Top players: Tasos Cook, M.J. Davis, Will Jados and Landon Tillman

Key losses: Tyler Beckel, Quincy Clark and Will LeMaire

Last season: 18-7 overall

2019-20 OCC-Buckeye standings: Westerville South and Olentangy Liberty (7-3), Westerville Central (6-4), Westerville North (4-6), Olentangy and Olentangy Orange (3-7)

2020 postseason: Defeated Grove City 61-41; def. Columbus South 65-62; def. Delaware 43-40 in Division I district final

NORTH

Coach: Shan Trusley, eighth season

Top players: Noah Lawrence and Cam Ledford 

Key losses: Bailey Lawrence, Chace Perkins and Charles Perkins

Last season: 9-14 overall

2020 postseason: Lost to Marysville 64-39 in first round of Division I district tournament

SOUTH

Coach: Ed Calo, 34th season

Top players: Drey Carter, Jaiden Guice and Peter Pedrozo

Key losses: Tabari Howard, Keyton Kowalski, Stephon Saint-Cyr and Kylin Whitehead

Last season: 16-9 overall

2020 postseason: Def. Groveport 73-50; def. Briggs 72-48; lost to Hilliard Bradley 50-41 in Division I district semifinal