Notebook: Westerville North Warriors girls basketball team looks to build on strong start

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Coach Lamont Tillman said he wasn't surprised that his North girls basketball team had a strong start to the season. “With us having so many returnees from last year, I knew we’d be able to get going even in these crazy times,” he said.

Five games don’t make a season, but Westerville North girls basketball coach Lamont Tillman said his team is headed in the right direction.

The Warriors were 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 8.

“With us having so many returnees from last year, I knew we’d be able to get going even in these crazy times,” Tillman said. “I knew we could get off to a strong start because we’re just refreshing and kind of tightening and tweaking. Most of our rotational players have been there before, and that can only help us.”

North started off the new year by outlasting league-rival Westerville South 48-45 on Jan. 2. Sophomore guard Kayla Curry-Brown made two free throws with 30 seconds remaining and senior guard Imari Martin added another to secure the victory.

Junior forward Charia Smith had 16 points to lead the Warriors, who forced 22 turnovers leading to 15 points. Curry-Brown had 15 points and sophomore guard Emoni Finch added nine.

“At the end of the day, as much as we’ve worked on our offensive execution, we’ll hang our hat on the defensive end,” Tillman said. “When it comes down to it, we rely on getting big stops in big moments when we need them.”

Through five games, Smith was averaging 13.6 points to lead North, followed by Curry-Brown (12.5), Martin (10.6) and Finch (8.4).

The Warriors also defeated Canal Winchester 46-30 on Dec. 22 and Big Walnut 50-39 on Jan. 5 for their other league victories.

“We’re just trying to continue to do things the right way,” Tillman said. “Being able to plan has been tough with the (COVID-19 coronavirus) pandemic. We normally would be practicing with j.v. players, but we have had to stay separate. That’s been the most difficult thing. It’s tough finding that 5-on-5 time in practice to simulate game situations.”

The Warriors are scheduled to play league games at Dublin Scioto on Friday, Jan. 15, and at Franklin Heights on Saturday, Jan. 16.

"We can always get better, especially in rebounding,” Tillman said. “We have size inside and sometimes we can take rebounding for granted. We have to do a better job of team rebounding to reach our maximum potential.”

Tasos Cook and the Central boys basketball team were 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Westland on Jan. 8.

•Despite a strong start to the season, Central boys basketball coach Kevin Martin believes his team has yet to reach its potential. 

The Warhawks, who were 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Westland on Jan. 8, return to league action Friday, Jan. 15, against visiting New Albany. 

“We have a lot that we can better at,” Martin said. “We have a lot that we can still clean up, but I like where our group is moving forward. We have some really good upperclassman leaders and players and some younger guys who are finally starting to get a lot more comfortable playing at this level. I’m pleased overall with where we’re at.” 

Central’s game with South scheduled for Jan. 9 was postponed after the Wildcats were forced to pause their season because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Warhawks opened league play with a 49-45 win over visiting Pickerington North on Jan. 5. Tasos Cook led Central with 15 points and Landon Tillman added 11. 

Quincy Clark scored 22 points and Cook had 21 in a 53-48 win at Thomas Worthington on Dec. 29. 

The Warhawks and Cardinals had been scheduled to meet in a regional semifinal last winter before the pandemic led to the cancellation of the remainder of the postseason.

Cook scored 19 points, Tillman had 12 and Clark and Donovan Hunter each added 11 in a 56-50 win at Westerville North on Dec. 28. 

—Frank DiRenna

Central girls basketball coach Jermaine Hester has seen some bright spots despite his team’s slow start. 

The Warhawks, who were 0-6 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Westland on Jan. 8, will travel to New Albany on Friday, Jan. 15. 

Central opened league play with a 54-32 loss at Pickerington North on Jan. 5. 

“We’re young,” Hester said. “We’ve competed. We were tied at half with Pick North. We have pieces. There are definitely good moments for such a young team. We just have to put four quarters together.” 

Freshman Katie Yaussy was averaging a team-high 11.3 points through six games. 

“She’s playing well,” Hester said. “When you look at a lot of rosters, a lot of teams are playing juniors and seniors and we play some juniors. We don’t have a senior and we could have two to three freshmen on the floor at any given time.” 

Sydney Bell, who was the program’s only senior at the beginning of the season, has left the team, according to Hester. 

—Frank DiRenna 

•Senior guard/forward Cam Ledford and junior guard Noah Lawrence both were averaging 9.7 points through three games to lead the North boys basketball team.

Lawrence also was adding 1.7 steals and a team-high 2.7 assists per game for the Warriors, who were 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Capital before facing Kilbourne on Jan. 8. 

Ledford was averaging 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists, junior guard/forward Caleb Iheukwu had a team-leading 5.7 rebounds per game to go with 8.0 points and 1.7 steals and sophomore guard/forward Semaj Council was averaging 9.0 points.

North is scheduled to play back-to-back league games against Franklin Heights, at home Saturday, Jan. 16, and on the road Tuesday, Jan. 19. They also play host to Whitehall on Friday, Jan. 15.

—Scott Hennen

•The South boys basketball team had its season put on hold because of a COVID-19 issue. 

The Wildcats will return to practice Thursday, Jan. 14, before playing host to Kilbourne on Friday, Jan. 15. 

South, which is 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital, opened league play with a 70-44 win at Delaware on Dec. 22.  

Jaiden Guice led South with 28 points, followed by Drey Carter with 13 and Peter Pedrozo with 11. 

Carter scored 21 points and Guice had 18 in a 52-40 win over visiting Marysville on Dec. 28. 

—Frank DiRenna

•The South girls basketball team bounced back from its first loss to beat visiting Canal Winchester 72-44 on Jan. 5. 

Aja Austin led the Wildcats with 27 points, followed by Leila Jones with 17 and Nelia Guice with 13. 

Austin scored 21 points and Guice had 11 in a 48-45 loss at North on Jan. 2. 

South, which was 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Franklin Heights on Jan. 8, visits Kilbourne on Friday, Jan. 15. 

—Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports