Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: New-look girls basketball team remains optimistic

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Senior Jewel Watkins is being counted on to lead the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball team this season. A Coppin State signee, she averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district a year ago.

With the loss of the Division II district Player of the Year and its starting point guard from a year ago, the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball team realizes there are challenges ahead.

Junior forward Alexia Mobley has returned to Reynoldsburg after playing for the Rams last season, while Kiara Bagley was lost to graduation. Mobley transferred to Whitehall after her freshman year at Reynoldsburg.

Despite those key losses, second-year coach Quentin Taylor and his players believe Whitehall can remain one of the top programs in the MSL-Ohio Division and district.

All games have been suspended through at least Dec. 18 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, although the Rams are able to practice.

“Our team is really falling into place,” 5-foot-10 senior wing player Jewel Watkins said. “We don’t have as much talent in basketball players, but we have people who are willing and want to play and will play tough.”

Last season, the Rams reached a district final before losing 60-47 to Lakewood to finish 20-6 overall. They won the MSL-Ohio title at 13-1.

“I’m very excited about this new team,” said Taylor, who was named Coach of the Year in the district and league. “I’m really looking forward to this year. I feel like this year will be more of my stamp on the team just because we have so many upperclassmen who came in with (former) coach (Darrin) Green. Without his group of girls, we’re real young.”

Mobley, a 6-2 Louisville recruit, was named district and MSL-Ohio Player of the Year and also was first-team all-state after averaging 18 points, 19.1 rebounds and three blocks. She set program rebounding records for a season (402) and game (29).

Bagley averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state.

With Mobley and Bagley gone, Watkins is expected to increase her contributions on the court along with taking on a larger leadership role. The Coppin State signee averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.

“We can’t really live off of last year, so we’re just trying to be better this year,” Watkins said. “I definitely have to be a leader. We have a lot of new, young girls on the team, so it’s definitely a different team after having seven seniors last year to now having a lot of freshmen. I have to step up a lot and be a leader.”

Also back are junior guard Brooklynn Greer (5-3), who was second-team all-league, senior guard Ry’Yair Smith (5-4) and junior forward Kayla Bagley (5-9).

Senior Charjae Brock (5-7), a transfer from Africentric, should start at point guard. She was honorable mention all-City League last season.

“I’m very excited about my one-two punch,” Taylor said of Watkins and Brock.

The roster also includes seniors Shyaira Johnson (5-11, post player), Mackenzie Schmittauer (5-6, guard) and Brynn Whistle (5-10, forward) and freshmen Whitney Ater (5-5, guard), Shawnea Foster (5-10, forward) and Theresa Hunter (5-7, forward).

Taylor believes Worthington Christian is the favorite to win the league, but he expects the Rams to challenge the Warriors.

“We’re going to be a little shorthanded on a couple of things, but we can still defend,” Taylor said. “As long as we defend, we can contend for another title.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Coach: Quentin Taylor, second season

Top players: Charjae Brock, Brooklynn Greer and Jewel Watkins

Key losses: Kiara Bagley and Alexia Mobley

Last season: 20-6 overall

2019-20 MSL-Ohio standings: Whitehall (13-1), Worthington Christian (12-2), Bexley (10-4), Buckeye Valley (7-7), Grandview (6-8), Columbus School for Girls (5-9), Columbus Academy (3-11), Wellington (0-14)

2020 postseason: Defeated Linden-McKinley 63-16; def. Licking Valley 54-36; def. Sparta Highland 55-32; lost to Lakewood 60-47 in Division II district final