Notebook: Westerville Central Warhawks boys basketball team not satisfied despite hot start

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Donovan Hunter and Central won their first eight games before losing to Gahanna 56-55 on Jan. 20. The Wahawks entered the game ranked eighth in the Division I state poll, and the Lions were ranked fourth.

Having seen his team win its first eight games, Westerville Central boys basketball coach Kevin Martin was confident the Warhawks could rebound from their first loss.

Central lost to visiting Gahanna 56-55 on Jan. 20 in a battle of unbeatens. The Warhawks were ranked eighth in the Division I state poll released Jan. 18, and the Lions were ranked fourth.

“We’ve played a few high-level games this year and we haven’t faced this type of adversity yet,” Martin said. “You can learn from this type of adversity and the great teams respond to this type of adversity. Teams are going to continue to come after us and I think we have the right group for it.” 

The Warhawks were 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Pickerington North on Jan. 22. 

Against Gahanna, Central connected on eight 3-pointers in the first half as the teams were tied at 30 at halftime. The Lions then built a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding off a Central rally. 

“It was two really good teams and a heck of a game,” Martin said. “It was high-level players. We made too many mistakes on both ends of the floor. Too many where we deserved to win that game. I give our kids credit. We continued to fight and played to the end. 

“There’s a lot that we left out there and a lot we can continue to work on and get better and improve on.” 

Quincy Clark led the Warhawks with 17 points, followed by Tasos Cook with 16 and Landon Tillman with 11. 

Through nine games, Cook was among the area scoring leaders, averaging 21.6 points. 

Central plays host to Grove City on Jan. 29. The Warhawks beat the Greyhounds 66-40 on Jan. 14 as Cook had 22 points, followed by M.J. Davis with 14 and Donovan Hunter with 10.

Central bowler Zack Smock recorded his first 300 game during the King’s Classic Tournament on Jan. 18 at TP Lanes in Bellefontaine.

•Zack Smock of the Central boys bowling team recorded his first 300 game during the King’s Classic Tournament on Jan. 18 at TP Lanes in Bellefontaine. 

The junior finished with the high series of 731 (243, 300, 188). 

“Zack has been working really hard on his game since the end of last season,” coach Tony Gonzalez said. “He’s continued to improve as the season has progressed, so I’m not surprised he was able to reach the 300 goal. He’s become a leader on the team as well, so we're glad we’ll have him for another year.” 

The Warhawks finished third (3,696) of seven teams behind first-place Bellefontaine (3,805). 

Central was 2-3 in the COHSBC-A before competing against Olentangy on Jan. 25. Smock led the team with a 221.3 average, ahead of Kyle Richardson (202) and Payton Hartgrove (188.8).

–Frank DiRenna 

•With limited practices and games because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, South boys basketball coach Ed Calo knows his team is still a work in progress. 

The Wildcats were 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 22. 

“It is what it is. That’s not going to change,” Calo said of the lack of games. “Our kids are going to overcome the adversity. It’s as simple as that. We can complain that we’ve had 17 practices (as of Jan. 19) and other people have had 60 practices. It’s legit. But what good does it do us?

“Our conditioning has to improve. For how we want to play, we have to be in better shape. Defensively, we have to improve. We have our work cut out for us.” 

South rebounded from a 50-39 loss to visiting Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 15 to beat visiting Dublin Scioto 58-36 on Jan. 19. 

Drey Carter scored 18 points, Jaiden Guice had 13 and Peter Pedrozo added 10 against Scioto, while Guice scored 16 against Kilbourne. 

Assistant coaches Pat Palumbo and Brad Burris have left the program amid COVID-19 concerns, and Calo said they are both welcome to return in the future. 

“The door is always open in this situation,” Calo said. “They have to take care of their families, both of our guys. We love them and we miss them, but they have issues and situations where they have to protect some people that may have some health issues. Families have to come first.” 

–Frank DiRenna 

Leila Jones and South were 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 22.

•The South girls basketball team rebounded from a 63-56 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 18 by beating Scioto 64-46 on Jan. 19 behind a balanced attack led by Nelia Guice (20 points), Aja Austin (19 points) and Leila Jones (18 points). 

Austin scored 25 and Guice had 13 against Gahanna. The game was part of the One Westerville Martin Luther King Jr. Basketball Classic at Westerville North. 

“We weren’t ready to handle their pressure and it showed early, but we settled down, fought back and had some opportunities to get back in the game and just didn’t finish,” coach Jermaine Guice said. 

The Wildcats were 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 22. 

“It’s about buying into everything that we’re doing and knowing that we’re doing this for a purpose because it does work,” coach Guice said. “It’s worked in the past and it can work moving forward, but we have to buy in and really play our defensive principles and do the things we’re capable of doing.” 

South plays host to North on Jan. 29, looking to avenge a 48-45 loss to the Warriors on Jan. 2. 

–Frank DiRenna 

•The North girls basketball team remained unbeaten through 12 games, and the Warriors also were 8-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Delaware on Jan. 22.

“We continue to get everyone’s best shot because they look at our record and they circle it on their calendar,” coach Lamont Tillman said. “Everyone wants to give us our first loss, but we continue to fight through and battle. We’ve been finding ways to win.”

North defeated Whitehall 48-41 on Jan. 18 at home in the Martin Luther King Classic. Imari Martin led with 15 points, and Kayla Curry-Brown and Emoni Finch added 11 points apiece.

The Warriors play league games at South on Jan. 29 and Canal Winchester on Feb. 2. They also will travel to New Albany on Jan. 30.

–Scott Hennen

•The North boys basketball team had won four of six before playing Delaware on Jan. 22.

The Warriors were 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital after defeating host Franklin Heights 66-40 on Jan. 19. Three days earlier at home, they defeated the Falcons 68-33.

Through nine games, Cam Ledford was averaging a team-high 14.1 points and adding 5.3 rebounds per game, while Noah Lawrence was averaging 10.6 points and leading the team in assists (2.7) and steals (1.3). Caleb Iheukwu was averaging 9.0 and 5.3 rebounds, and Carter Reese was adding 2.2 assists per game.

North plays league games at home against South on Jan. 29 and Canal Winchester on Feb. 2. The Warriors also visit Dublin Jerome on Jan. 30.

–Scott Hennen

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