Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Consistency key for Rams boys basketball team heading into postseason

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Whitehall's Dilean Jackson (left) and Gahanna's Jarius Jones scramble for the basketball earlier this season. The Rams are seeded 17th for the district tournament and will play Feb. 26 against 15th-seeded Licking Heights or 22nd-seeded Hilliard Davidson.

For Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball coach Drew Williams, his team’s size advantage and ability to play solid defense will be keys as it prepares to play in the Division I district tournament.  

“This team is good enough to compete against anybody, but we also have some flaws that will allow us to get beat by a lot of teams, too,” Williams said. “If we can take care of the consistency piece, we have a chance to do some things.”  

That size and defensive pressure was on display in the Rams’ 56-27 win over third-seeded Bexley in an MSL-Ohio Division tournament semifinal Feb. 9 at home. Leading 22-15 at halftime, Whitehall outscored Bexley 16-1 in the third quarter for a 38-16 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.  

“This was a nice win,” point guard Teddy Brown said. “This is Whitehall basketball, play aggressive on defense. We were able to move the ball and were able to share the ball with all of our teammates. We’re trying to get everybody balanced and be on the same page.”  

Royal Sibley, a 6-foot-6 forward, led a balanced attack with 12 points as 11 players scored for Whitehall.  

Kei’Von Wiggins, a 6-3 forward, and Jaion Lowe, a 6-8 forward, also were dominant in the lane against the Lions, while another key contributor this season has been 6-4 forward Da’Leon Jackson.  

The second-seeded Rams were 12-9 overall before playing top-seeded Worthington Christian in the MSL title game Feb. 12.  

Seeded 17th in the district tournament, the Rams took an opening-round bye and will play 15th-seeded Licking Heights or 22nd-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the second round Feb. 26 at the site of the better seed.  

“I like the bracket,” Brown said. “Any team we play, we have to be ready to go hard, go at them and beat them. We have a lot of potential. We have to stay on the same page 100 percent at practice.”  

Williams was relatively pleased with his team’s draw, but a little disappointed with the process.  

“I was happy, but the disappointment that I have is I go through and look at every single team to make sure I’m fair to every team,” Williams said. “There were some teams that voted us as low as 35 or 36, which is ridiculous. That means either they feel we’re that bad or they didn’t take the time to do it.  

“Other than that, I’m happy with the seed that we got, and we’ll go with it.”  

Whitehall advanced to the league semifinal with a 58-44 win over seventh-seeded Grandview on Feb. 6 at home.  

“We’ve been trying to grind through,” Williams said. “We’re starting to get people back. It’s good to be able to see kids who haven’t had a chance to play in a long time. To be able to get to 21 games is a major accomplishment.”  

Whitehall-Yearling's Ry’Yair Smith, top, and Columbus School for Girls' Bella Sloan chase a loose ball Jan. 13. The fourth-seeded Rams will open the Division II district tournament Feb. 19 as host to 13th-seeded Lakewood.

Girls basketball team  

returns to action  

The girls basketball team returned to practice Feb. 8 after being quarantined because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which forced the third-seeded Rams to withdraw from the league tournament.  

Top-seeded Worthington Christian beat second-seeded Bexley 60-43 in the title game Feb. 5.  

Seeded fourth in the Division II district tournament, the Rams will play host to 13th-seeded Lakewood in the first round Feb. 19 looking to avenge a 60-47 loss to the Lancers in last season’s district final.  

The winner plays fifth-seeded Heath or 11th-seeded Beechcroft in a semifinal Feb. 24 at the site of the better seed. The district final is Feb. 27 at the site of the better seed.  

“We’re looking to go back to the district final,” coach Quentin Taylor said. “The MSL is a nice accomplishment if you can win it, but our biggest thing is to try to avenge the loss to Lakewood and see if they can get back to that district final, but have a different outcome than last year.”  

Whitehall, which was 7-7 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on Feb. 11, finished 5-2 in the MSL-Ohio.  

Key players for the Rams have been guards Charjae Brock, Brooklynn Greer and Ry’Yair Smith, and wing player/guard Jewel Watkins.  

Wrestling team preparing  

for sectional tournament  

The wrestling team was 3-8 overall before competing against Utica on Feb. 11.  

Whitehall lost 61-18 to Hilliard Darby on Feb. 4, with Damion Black (120 pounds), Will Solomon (126) and David Winegarner (195) earning wins.  

The Rams will compete in an 11-team Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to district March 6 and 7 at Darby.  

“We haven’t looked our best in the last couple of duals, but we’ve been looking better than we did the first part of the season,” coach Steve Pennington said. “We haven’t peaked yet, but that’s still coming.  

“We’re shooting for sectional for everybody to peak. We’re getting there. It’s been a tough season with not being able to do tournaments and multi-matches in one day, but the kids have been resilient.”  

Whitehall closes the regular season against visiting Davidson on Feb. 19. 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekFrank