Westland runs past Westerville Central, 77-62

JJ Smith gets an offensive rebound and put-back towards the end of the first quarter.

JJ Smith gets an offensive rebound and put-back towards the end of the first quarter.

By: Zach Fleer / @YS614

Whatever struggles the Westland Cougars (18-6) had at home just a few weeks ago are long gone after tonight’s enormous victory over Westerville Central in the second round of tournament play, 77-62. Led by Kersey Long’s 26 points, the Cougars ran the Warhawks off the court with suffocating defense which in turn led to transition offense to guide Westland to the win. Continue reading

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Westland looks to continue momentum in road game vs. Central Crossing

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Kersey Long streaks to the hoop vs. Marysville earlier this season

After a painful four-game losing skid, Westland (15-6) rebounded Tuesday in a 58-49 victory over Franklin Heights. The Cougars look to continue their winning ways tonight at rival Central Crossing (2-18).  Continue reading

For Westland’s seniors, the time is now

In the midst of a three-game losing skid, including two losses at home, it’s time for the Westland basketball team to put an end to their toughest stretch of the season. After losing a crucial game on the road at Olentangy Liberty (18-1) last Friday, the Cougars dropped two more games at home on Saturday vs. Watterson (17-1), and then Tuesday against OCC opponent Dublin Coffman (15-3). In arguably the toughest three-game stretch that any team has had this season, the Cougars didn’t play their best basketball when they needed it the most. With an OCC-Central division title out of the question, this team must still play with a purpose.

Sitting at 14-5, the Cougars have a great chance to go into tournament time with momentum. Another tough league game comes Friday at home vs. Upper Arlington (10-8), whom the Cougars defeated on Jan. 7., 72-60. Without Devan Williamson in the lineup, Westland has had difficulty rebounding and matching up with the length and athleticism of their opponents. In losses vs. Liberty (58-44) and Watterson (65-54), the Cougars gave up an array of points in the paint, many coming from second chance opportunities.

Westland did a better job on the boards vs. Coffman, out rebounding the Shamrocks 35-26. A slow starting first quarter put the Cougars in a hole early, forcing Westland to battle back all night. Switching to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter helped Westland bring the lead back down to three. The Cougars amped up their defense in the second half, but questionable officiating and wasted possessions contributed to Westland’s 57-53 loss.

Without Williamson’s energy and streaky scoring, the Cougars need to make sure to come out fast and efficient to stay out of trouble in tournament time. Westland seems to not have found which sets work best for their limited personnel, but with games vs. Franklin Heights (7-12) and Central Crossing (2-18) in the final week of the season, the Cougars have a great chance to find their groove. In high school basketball, momentum is everything, and is exactly what Westland needs to continue this exciting season. 

Beesler chasing history

Westland senior Cory Beesler is on the verge of breaking the all-time Ohio high school record for three-point shooting percentage. Beesler has shot 56 percent from deep this season (47/84) and needs at least seven more makes and 16 more attempts to qualify for the all-time record. Jeff Miller of Tipp City-Bethel, shot 53.8 percent (56/104) in 1987-88, and has held the record since. In a state that has seen some remarkable three-point shooters, Beesler is having an unprecedented season from behind the arc.

Written by: Zach Fleer (@YS614)

Westland remains unbeaten at home with big win over Hilliard Davidson

Just three days away from Westland‘s biggest game of the season, the Cougars made a huge statement in a 70-42 blowout victory over Hilliard Davidson (3-11, 2-7). Fueled by deadly three-point scoring, the Cougars went into halftime leading by 15, and never took their foot off the gas.

Led by Cory Beesler’s 20 points, 18 of which came from behind the arc, the area’s leader in three-point percentage was a huge part in a balanced Cougar attack. Westland (14-2, 7-2) hit 11 three-point field goals in tonight’s victory, putting the game away midway through the third quarter. Kersey Long and JJ Smith each scored in double figures for the Cougars, while KyJuan Grace added seven points and another stellar performance on the defensive end. 

In their first game without Devan Williamson, Westland showed no hesitation on offense, controlling the pace from the outset and getting quality baskets each trip down the floor. Heading into a crucial road matchup with Olentangy Liberty, which may very well decide the OCC-Central, Westland put together an outstanding performance against a team that they could’ve easily overlooked. 

Replacing Williamson’s production is no easy task, but with Beesler’s deadly shooting from behind the arc, Westland showed tonight that scoring is not an issue. The Cougars will need a similar performance from Beesler and the rest of the supporting cast this Friday in a game that will determine the fate of Westland’s season. 

Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614

Westland gets revenge in home win vs. Thomas Worthington

When the first time these teams squared off, Westland came into the game undefeated and overly confident. After a 64-53 loss on Dec. 14th, the Cougars had been patiently waiting to get revenge on the Cardinals on their home floor. That is exactly what happened tonight.

In a game of runs, Westland would prevail 62-57. Led in scoring by guards Kersey Long (19 points) and KyJuan Grace (15 points), the Cougars gave the guard oriented Cardinals trouble on the perimeter all night long. Will Hill and Lance Leslie led the Cardinals in scoring, combining for 27 points, 12 less than what they scored in their previous matchup with the Cougars.

Long was matched up with Hill for the majority of the game, and did to him what he had done to Mike Wells earlier in the week. Long and Grace’s 34 points, combined with Cory Beesler’s 12 would help the Cougars neutralize the scoring duo of Hill and Leslie. Falling behind 21-14 midway through the second quarter, Westland would claw their way back, thanks to a 7-0 run led by Long.

Going into halftime leading 27-24, Westland traded punches with Thomas Worthington throughout the third quarter. Although JJ Smith had another stellar night on the boards, the Cougars had problems blocking out on the defensive end, leading to offensive rebounds and second chance points for the Cardinals.

After a 4-0 Thomas run at the end of the third quarter, the Cougars found themselves in a very close game, something they haven’t been accustomed to as of late. With the game tied at 51 with three minutes to go, the Cougars showed to everyone in the gym just what they were made of. In his last game of the season, Devan Williamson connected with a cutting Grace for an easy layup to give Westland the lead with 2:31 remaining. On the next trip down the floor, Long weaved in and out of traffic en route to a three-point play, giving the Cougars a 56-51 advantage with just under two minutes to go. Thomas would never come within three points for the remainder of the game as Westland sank crucial free throws to secure the win.

With the victory, Westland improves to 13-2, heading into the toughest stretch of the season. The Cougars are home vs. Hilliard Davidson on Tuesday, but the true test awaits when Westland travels to league leading Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 1st. Without one of their most exciting players in Williamson, it will be intriguing to see who will step up for the Cougars in his absence. Westland controls their own destiny in the OCC-Central from here on out, and it’s up to them to determine if their dreams will be manifested.

Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614

The Well Runs Dry: Westland runs over Delaware Hayes, 79-47.

For the last few weeks, great hype has surrounded tonight’s matchup between Westland (12-2, 6-2) and Delaware Hayes (9-4, 5-2), mainly due to the great point guards on each team. Heavily recruited Mike Wells came into tonight’s game leading the area in scoring. Kersey Long of Westland put an end to Wells’ scoring spree, limiting the guard to eight points in an electric 32 point win for the Cougars.

From the opening tip, Westland turned spectacular rebounding into transition offense. JJ Smith broke the school record for rebounds, with 22 in an impressive 18 point, seven assist performance. Smith went into halftime with a double double, scoring 16 points and 12 rebounds, but the second half turned into the Kersey Long Show.

With all the hype surrounding the matchup with Wells, many had doubted Long’s ability to stop Hayes’ high scoring guard. The doubters should remain silenced after tonight. When asked about the pre-game hype, Long stated, “All the things said were irrelevant. I’ve played against him since the sixth grade, I knew his game.” Wells had obvious trouble with the quickness of Long and his ability to stay right on top of him on and off the ball. Turning the ball over several times, Wells’ frustration came to a climax when the guard was called for a technical foul midway through the third quarter.

Long finished the game with 23 points, gashing the Pacers defense left and right, in addition to hitting three big shots from behind the arc. When asked about the defensive performance tonight, Long would say, “I just stayed quick on my feet and fell into my teammates’ help.” Wells also had his fair share of trouble with Westland guard KyJuan Grace, whose off-ball defense was mightily impressive.

After scoring 54 points in two quarters against Marysville last Friday, Westland continued that trend tonight, going into halftime leading 39-17. The third quarter was a shootout, as the Cougars outscored Hayes 24-20 in the period to head into the fourth leading 63-37. For the third time in four games, JJ Smith hit a buzzer beater, this time with a put back after an offensive rebound right as time expired.

Westland would not let their foot off the gas in the fourth, as the Cougars continued to up the tempo. No fourth quarter basket was bigger than the alley- oop Long set up for Williamson, which gave Westland a 75-41 lead with a little over four minutes to go. Williamson finished with 15 points. In their last six wins, Westland has outscored their opponents by 112 points, an impressive feat for a relatively underrated team.

Behind two of the OCC’s top players in JJ Smith and Kersey Long, Westland has the talent to make a magical run. Depth will certainly be an issue, but this team has heart.

Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614

Westland speeds past Marysville in 79-58 win

Speed, athleticism and lockdown defense has been Westland’s blueprint for success thus far in a promising 10-2 season. Tonight’s showing at Marysville (4-9, 2-5) was no different. From the jump, Westland’s intention was to outrun the Monarchs on their home floor, and that’s exactly what they did.

Scoring 27 points in each of the first two quarters of play, Westland was determined to make a statement tonight on both sides of the ball in an especially tough environment. JJ Smith once again led the way for the Cougars, scoring 20 points and ripping down over ten rebounds. Smith’s work on the glass helped Westland get out into the fast break and take advantage of the open floor. It was evident that Westland’s speed and athleticism was just too much for Marysville to handle, as the Monarchs had to call multiple time outs in the first half, in an attempt to slow down the pace of the Cougar attack.

In addition to attacking the basket, the Cougars shot exceptionally well from deep in the first half. Cory Beesler, Devan Williamson, and Kersey Long each had at least two triples in the first two quarters, only adding to how difficult Westland was to guard. No three point make was more impressive than the 36 footer that Smith nailed as time expired to close out the first half, giving Westland a 54-29 lead.

After a nail biting victory over Grove City on Tuesday, in which Westland blew a 21 point lead, the Cougars made sure to keep Marysville at a distance tonight.

Senior guard Kersey Long said of the win, “We didn’t want to take them lightly like the first time. We were much more aggressive on D tonight.”

In arguably their best game of this season, the Cougars played under control, and consistently made the extra pass for easy baskets down the stretch.

Four starters for Westland scored in double figures, as Beesler went for 17 points, Long added 12 of his own, and Wiliamson contributed with 11 points. Only scoring three points in their last matchup, Beesler stepped up and improved on a season in which he is leading the area in three-point shooting percentage.

Long would add, “Beesler was definitely the difference this time around. He had a big game.”

Williamson hit the boards harder tonight than he has all season, which was crucial for the Cougars’ rebounding advantage in the win.

Looking ahead, tonight’s victory is big for Westland’s momentum in their pursuit for their first OCC-Central title since 2005. With only two road games remaining on the schedule (2/1 @ Olentangy Liberty, 2/15 @ Central Crossing), Westland’s chances are looking better with each win. Crucial home games vs. Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Dublin Coffman will determine just how far this team can go.

When asked about his team’s chances to win the division, Kersey Long summed it up with this:

“It’s always been our goal to defend Cougar Country. We feel if we can steal three to four conference road games and defend our home court, the OCC is ours.” 

Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614