The Westerville Central High School girls basketball team turned to its much-heralded transfer from Columbus DeSales to pull out a win against rival Westerville South on Tuesday night. Senior center Maxine Ohakim scored a game-high 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to power the Warhawks to a 47-40 win at Central.
Contributor Frank DiRenna has more.
WESTERVILLE – The Westerville Central High School girls basketball team turned to its much-heralded transfer from Columbus DeSales to pull out a win against rival Westerville South on Tuesday night.
Senior center Maxine Ohakim scored a game-high 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to power the Warhawks to a 47-40 win at Central.
The Warhawks trailed for most of the first half before rallying in the second half.
Central improves to 8-1 overall and will return to OCC-Central Division action on Friday when it visits Thomas Worthington.
The Warhawks will play host to OCC-Central power Pickerington North on Saturday in a rescheduled game from a Dec. 8 postponement at North. The teams will play on Jan. 8 at North.
South falls to 6-2 and will visit OCC-Cardinal foe Pickerington Central on Friday.
The South-Central clash was the first meeting since senior Talisha Hodge and junior Jessica Wooden transferred from South to Central earlier this year.
“Every year regardless it's a big game and our last two games have been wars (four overtimes) and these two students transferring obviously added to it,” Central coach Andy Jados said. “It was an emotional game and I think that was early on, but we were able to settle in. South is a great program, great coach, one of the top teams in the last three, four years, so we knew it was going to be like this.”
Wooden helped spark her team's second half surge and finished with 11 points. Hodge added nine points.
“I was just thinking about getting this win today,” Hodge said. “I was putting all our friendships and everything aside. It's a game; it's a competition. I know they're my old team and I keep that in the back of my mind, but it's all about winning the game and now we're 8-1.”
“I just shook their hand and told them good luck,” South coach Jeff Brenning said of his pre-game meeting with his former players. “There are no bad kids in either one of these groups. We wished them well. Obviously, we wanted to win badly, but I thought our transfer (Shanae' Ash from Westerville North) played pretty darn well. She's going to be a really good player.”
The Wildcats used an effective patient offense in the first half to slow down the tempo and build a 19-13 cushion at the break.
Ash's second of four 3-pointers in the first half gave the visitors their first lead of the game at 8-6 with 3:10 remaining in the opening quarter. South never trailed again until midway through the third quarter.
Ash connected on two more 3-pointers in the second quarter and Dawn Rollyson and Katherine Calo each drew offensive charges to help the visitors build their lead at the half.
Rollyson's pretty back door pass to Brooke Robbins for a lay-up capped South's strong first half.
Led by Ohakim, the Warhawks chipped away at their deficit in the third quarter.
Dara Toman scored on an assist from Wooden and Ohakim completed a three-point play to pull their team even at 19-19 two minutes into the third quarter.
Wooden's two free throws gave Central its first lead since early in the game at 21-20.
Central continued to dominate inside as Ohakim scored off an inbounds pass to give her team a 30-25 lead after three quarters.
Sara Myles opened the final quarter with her team's final 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 30-28, but that would be as close as the Wildcats would get.
The Warhawks continued to pound the offensive glass, with Ohakim and Kelley Westervelt each scoring off putbacks to help Central open a 36-28 advantage with five minutes remaining.
Another three-point play from Ohakim gave Central a 43-34 lead with 1:13 left.
“Maxine has great hands, she has a nice touch around the basket and she's hard to keep off the boards,” Brenning said. “She bumps you a little bit. My 105-pounders were bouncing all over the place.”
After being out-rebounded 13-9 in the first half, Central finished with a 34-24 edge in rebounding, including 15 offensive rebounds.
“I thought we started rebounding better and got the ball inside better,” Jados said. “We did much better as far as that goes. We settled down a little bit. We were able to guard them a little bit better in the second half as far as letting Ash having 3-pointer after 3-pointer. We played better in the second half – a little scary at the end – but we ended up doing enough to win.”
Despite playing most of the game in foul trouble, Toman finished with eight rebounds and six points.
South connected on 12 free throws in the final quarter and finished 14-of-18 for the game to remain within striking distance.
“There was a segment where we just got beat on the boards and gave second and third shots for about three or four minutes, and then we lost the momentum totally,” Brenning said. “They didn't quit because we fell behind by 10 (38-28) and we came back and closed it to five with chances to do some things again.
“With having one senior (Rollyson) and all these underclassmen, we're thrilled with the way they work and how they play together. It's a learning process. We have to learn to do some things better, but I'm very proud of them.”