Notebook: Season threw obstacles at Westerville South Wildcats girls basketball team

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Sophomore forward Nelia Guice averaged 11.5 points and eight rebounds for the South girls basketball team, which went 11-7 but was unable to compete in the Division I postseason because of COVID-19.

Coming off four consecutive Division I district final appearances and three OCC titles, the Westerville South girls basketball team entered the season with high hopes. 

Instead, the Wildcats’ season was hampered by injuries and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, capped by being forced to withdraw from the district tournament. 

Eighth-seeded South, which had been scheduled to face 32nd-seeded Olentangy Berlin in the first round Feb. 17, finished 11-7 overall. 

Logan, which was seeded 34th, went on to reach a district final in the Wildcats’ portion of the bracket. 

“It was a tough decision, but it needed to be done,” coach Jermaine Guice said. “All of the girls were disappointed because the postseason is one of the things that you work so hard for. It’s no one’s fault. It just happened with bad timing. We had our share of setbacks this season.” 

South played the final stages of the regular season with a limited roster, but still went 9-5 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Delaware for second behind Westerville North (12-2).  

The Wildcats lost senior center Aja Austin when she suffered a left ACL injury in a 44-38 win at Canal Winchester on Feb. 5. She had surgery Feb. 23. 

Austin, a Delaware recruit, averaged 21.9 points and 12 rebounds. 

“I never saw this coming,” she said. “It’s very disappointing. I know I had a lot of personal goals I wanted to achieve. Also, I know the team had goals together. We wanted to win the league and win district, so it’s really disappointing for everybody.” 

Sophomore point guard Tamara Ortiz missed the season with a knee injury. 

Lelia Jones averaged 12.5 points and Nelia Guice averaged 11.5 points and eight rebounds. Both are sophomore forwards.

Freshman guard Zoe Guice averaged 7.0 points. 

Others eligible to return are juniors Madison O’Neal (guard), Ava Robey (forward/center) and Dominique Woodard (guard), sophomores Nariah Brown (guard), Savannah Mays (post player) and Lauryn Swanson (guard) and freshman Noor Benlemlih (guard/post player). 

“This is the life,” coach Guice said. “Learn, grow and get stronger from this. High school basketball is a short time in your life. Cherish every moment because the ball stops bouncing at some point.” 

Anna Priedeman and Central produced a season-high score of 114.175 in the OCC-Central meet Feb. 20 at Thomas Worthington. The Warhawks competed in the district meet Feb. 27 at Worthington Kilbourne.

•The Central gymnastics team had a season-high score of 114.175 points to finish sixth behind first-place Dublin Coffman (137.275) in the OCC-Central meet Feb. 20 at Thomas Worthington. 

The Warhawks also were sixth (4, 0-5) in the overall standings behind the champion Shamrocks (24, 4-0). 

Taylor Hinder was 16th in the all-around (31.95) to lead Central in the league meet, including a fourth-place finish on balance beam (8.45). 

Also in all-around, Mal Lewis was 26th (27.375), Anna Priedeman was 27th (27.1), Joli Myers was 28th (25.9) and Jessica Shown was 29th (24.325). 

Shea Stammen was named league Coach of the Year. 

The Warhawks competed in the district meet Feb. 27 at Worthington Kilbourne. The top three teams advanced to the state team meet March 5 at Hilliard Bradley, with the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around qualifying for the individual state meet March 6 at Bradley.

—Frank DiRenna

•The South boys and girls bowling teams closed their seasons in the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes. 

The girls finished eighth (3,136) behind champion Gahanna (3,938) as the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state. 

Senior Alexia Steele finished 29th (495) to lead South, followed by sophomore Addison Poulsen (40th, 458), sophomore Alexzandria Stewart (43rd, 449) and senior Taylor Hughes (tied for 62nd, 417). 

Hughes had a team-best 173.4 average, followed by Poulsen (165.4) and Stewart (161.1). 

Others eligible to return are junior Zoe Gehring and freshman Karsyn Poulsen. 

The boys finished ninth (3,712) behind champion Marion Harding (4,195) as the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state. 

Freshman Justin Anthony (31st, 574), junior Ethan Gary (42nd, 556) and sophomore Dominic Candella (56th, 520) were the top finishers for the Wildcats. 

Candella (202.6), Gary (202.5) and senior Henry Tran (188.4) led the team in average. 

Others eligible to return are juniors Nic Ball, Ashton Mellquist, Jaelen Powell, Dominic Steele and Tony Tran and freshman Hudson Deere. 

“We’re pleased,” coach Jamie West said. “The girls were eighth and the boys were ninth. It could have been worse. We met to go over some offseason plans for them and expectations and goals.” 

—Frank DiRenna

•The Central boys bowling team closed its season by finishing 18th (3,550) at sectional Feb. 19 at HP Lanes behind champion Marion Harding (4,316). 

The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district. 

Sophomore Kyle Richardson led the Warhawks by finishing 67th (542), followed by junior Zack Smock (72nd, 535) and sophomore Payton Hartgrove (78th, 527). 

Smock was among the area leaders with a 212.5 average, followed by Richardson (195.1) and Hartgrove (189.9). 

Others eligible to return are freshmen Ben Cantieri and Logan Henslee. 

“I’m extremely proud of the kids,” coach Tony Gonzalez said. “They made the most out of a challenging and unique season. Not only with COVID, but learning to bowl as a blended, co-ed team. We were also a young team. They came a long way. We were competitive and had some great accomplishments.” 

Central did not have a girls team this season.

—Frank DiRenna

•Sophia Soisson represented the North girls bowling team in the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes but did not advance to state.

The senior rolled a 518 to finish 21st of 104 bowlers.

Soisson rolled a 558 at sectional Feb. 18 at HP Lanes to finish eighth of 214 participants and qualify for district.

The Warriors did not have the necessary five bowlers to earn a team score at sectional. Also competing were sophomore Marvet Hejazin (372, tied for 95th), junior Megan Holmes (322, tied for 136th) and sophomore Faith Clapsaddle (246, 173rd).

The boys team finished 41st (2,705) of 44 teams in the Division I sectional Feb. 20 at HP Lanes. Junior Alex Workman (410, 151st of 250) led North, and sophomore Cole Wright (390, 159th) also rolled three games.

—Scott Hennen

•Melania Szawranskyj placed sixth at 126 pounds for the North girls wrestling team in the state tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Hilliard Davidson.

Szawranskyj went 3-2 at state, losing to Liberty Center’s Alexus Shaneyfelt 4-0 in the fifth-place match. Last season, she went 3-2 at 126 with three pins but did not place.

—Scott Hennen

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SOUTH GIRLS BASKETBALL 

Record: 10-8 overall 

OCC-Capital standings: Westerville North (12-2), Delaware and Westerville South (9-5), Dublin Scioto (7-6), Worthington Kilbourne (7-7), Big Walnut (6-8), Canal Winchester (5-8), Franklin Heights (0-14) 

Seniors lost: Aja Austin, Iman Benlemlih and Megan Rispress 

Key returnees: Nelia Guice, Zoe Guice, Lelia Jones and Ava Robey 

Postseason: Did not participate in Division I district tournament 

CENTRAL BOYS BOWLING 

Record: 7-4 overall 

League finishes: Fifth (7-4) in COHSBC-A behind champion Olentangy Orange (11-0), fifth (3-4) in OCC-Buckeye behind champion Orange (7-0) 

Senior lost: Stephanie Showalter 

Key returnees: Payton Hartgrove, Kyle Richardson and Zack Smock 

Postseason: 18th (3,550) at sectional behind champion Marion Harding (4,316)

NORTH BOWLING

Record: Boys — 0-12 overall; Girls — 0-11 overall

League finishes: Boys — 13th (0-11) in COHSBC-A behind champion Orange (11-0), eighth (0-7) in OCC-Buckeye behind champion Orange (7-0); Girls — 12th (0-10) in COHSBC-A behind champion Olentangy (10-1), seventh (0-5) in OCC-Buckeye behind champion Big Walnut (6-0)

Seniors lost: Boys — Bryce Byington; Girls — Sophia Soisson

Key returnees: Boys — Alex Workman and Cole Wright; Girls — Faith Clapsaddle, Marvet Hejazin and Megan Holmes,

Postseason: Boys — 41st (2,705) at sectional behind champion Marion Harding (4,316); Girls — Did not score at sectional

SOUTH BOWLING 

Record: Boys — 9-5 overall; Girls — 10-3 overall 

League finishes: Boys — Sixth (7-5) in COHSBC-A behind champion Orange (11-0), fourth (4-3) in OCC-Buckeye behind champion Orange (7-0); Girls — Fourth (8-3) in COHSBC-A behind champion Olentangy (10-1), third (4-2) in OCC-Buckeye behind champion Big Walnut (6-0) 

Seniors lost: Boys — E.J. Quimba, Jacob Spiegel and Henry Tran; Girls — Taylor Hughes and Alexia Steele 

Key returnees: Boys — Justin Anthony, Dominic Candella and Ethan Gary; Girls — Jessica Applegate, Addison Poulsen and Alexzandria Stewart 

Postseason: Boys — 10th (3,824) at sectional behind Marion Harding (4,316), ninth (3,712) at district behind champion Harding (4,195); Girls — Ninth (3,036) at sectional behind champion Jonathan Alder (3,580), eighth (3,136) at district behind champion Gahanna (3,938)