Since the announcement Feb. 7 that Brookhaven High School was among seven Columbus schools that could be closed, boys basketball coach Hali Robinson has stressed the importance of not playing "beneath the cloud of possibility."
Instead, the Bearcats have turned the emotion of the situation into motivation. They beat Northland 67-66 on Feb. 10 on the way to earning a share of the City League-North Division title and edged Walnut Ridge 44-42 in overtime Feb. 15 in the City championship game at Columbus East.
"As the game (against Walnut Ridge) was going on, we just said we can't go home (with a loss)," junior forward J-Saun Davis said. "We've got to keep Brookhaven alive and we've got to do everything we can to make people know that Brookhaven can't be closed."
After the Bearcats got an early lead and hung on to snap Northland's 118-game winning streak in City play, they used defense to win their first league title since 2006.
Although the Brookhaven-Walnut Ridge game was tied at 21 after the first quarter, the Bearcats outscored the Scots just 3-2 in the second.
Brookhaven scored only three points in the fourth, but a missed shot at the buzzer by Walnut Ridge senior guard Dymiere Finch sent the game to overtime tied at 40.
In the extra session, Brook-haven senior guard Ronnie Williams scored his team's only basket and made a pair of free throws with 38.7 seconds left for the winning points.
Brookhaven takes a 17-4 record into its Division II district tournament opener Friday, Feb. 21, at home against 26th-seeded Independence, which also is among the schools the district has recommended closing.
The winner plays 15th-seeded Jonathan Alder or 21st-seeded London in a second-round game Feb. 27 at the site of the better-seeded team.
Walnut Ridge, which lost City finals to Northland in 2011 and 2012, also is 17-4. The Scots are the seventh seed in Division I and open the postseason Saturday, Feb. 22, at home against 41st-seeded Lancaster, with the winner to play 40th-seeded Olentangy Orange in a second-round game Feb. 28 at the site of the better-seeded team.
Walnut Ridge held Williams to nine points -- eight under his average -- but scored just one basket during the final six minutes.
Davis led Brookhaven with 13 points and Finch led the Scots with 10.
"We knew it was going to be a defensive game because both teams are very gritty and tough-minded teams," Walnut Ridge coach Jason Bates said. "The game was won on put-backs and second-chance opportunities.
"I just (reminded them) that this one hurts, but we're in full control of our destiny (in the tournament)."
Vikings' Siens leads City in district meet
One mistake might have cost Northland senior Clay Siens his first Division I state berth in the district swimming and diving meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State.
The fact he got that close, though, was a feat not lost on Siens or coach Aaron MacCaughey.
Siens was seeded fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke and swam 1:00.53 to place sixth as the top two automatically advanced to the state meet Thursday, Feb. 20, through Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"It's been at least a decade since (Northland has) had someone on the podium (by finishing in the top eight)," MacCaughey said.
Siens also came up short of earning one of 16 at-large state berths in the event. Keith Jessee of Liberty Township Lakota East earned the final berth in 1:00.22.
"On my last turn, my hands crossed over, and it probably cost me close to half a second," Siens said.
"It's been a good year. I swam for Westerville Aquatic Club this year instead of just for my high school team, and that helped."
Siens helped Northland score 13 points to place 24th behind champion St. Charles (304) as 25 teams scored. He also swam on the 22nd-place 200 medley relay (1:51.51) with senior Silas Williams, junior Aaron Seum and sophomore Christopher Asebrook and on the 26th-place 200 freestyle relay (1:40.92) with the same group.
For the Northland girls, the 400 free relay of seniors Emilee Aldridge and Madelyn Smith, junior Sara Carr and sophomore Lashaya Ayers placed 28th (4:23.04).
Making her second consecutive district appearance, Beechcroft sophomore Erin Baggs placed 24th in the 100 free (1:01.02) and 23rd in the 100 backstroke (1:09.59).
"I love swimming, so I have a good time (at district)," Baggs said.
City girls basketball teams open postseason
Second-seeded Eastmoor Academy and third-seeded Centennial were among the City girls basketball teams to begin the postseason with victories in Division II.
Among those opening the postseason Feb. 19 were fourth-seeded Northland in Division I and top-seeded Africentric in Division III.
Eastmoor defeated 20th-seeded Columbus International 95-24 on Feb. 15 to advance to a second-round game Feb. 19 against 19th-seeded Heath. The winner plays 11th-seeded Beechcroft or 13th-seeded Lakewood in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 26, at New Albany.
In the other portion of that bracket, seventh-seeded Brook-haven played 10th-seeded Buckeye Valley and 22nd-seeded Marion-Franklin faced top-seeded Johnstown on Feb. 17. The Brookhaven-Buckeye Valley winner played 14th-seeded East on Feb. 19 and the Marion-Franklin-Johnstown winner plays 21st-seeded Linden-McKinley on Thursday, Feb. 20. The winners of those matchups meet in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 26, at New Albany.
The district final for the bracket is March 1 at New Albany.
Centennial defeated London 71-20 on Feb. 15 to advance to a second-round game Feb. 19 against 18th-seeded Whitehall.
Africentric opened the postseason Feb. 19 against 22nd-seeded Mount Gilead. The winner plays 11th-seeded Galion Northmor, 15th-seeded Bexley or 16th-seeded Columbus Academy in a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Granville. The district final is March 1 at Granville.
In Division I, Northland opened the postseason Feb. 19 against 29th-seeded Hamilton Township. The winner plays 10th-seeded Mount Vernon, 22nd-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 32nd-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at Jonathan Alder.
21 City wrestlers advance to district
There will be five wrestlers from the City competing in the Division I district tournament Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Hilliard Darby, including three from league-champion Whetstone.
Advancing from the Upper Arlington sectional were Whetstone's Chris North (160 pounds), Christian Bobo (170) and Demetrius Burrell (182) and Columbus West's Zac Em (132). Walnut Ridge's Romero White (138) qualified from the Pickerington Central sectional.
In Division II, Brookhaven had a pair of district qualifiers from the Madison Plains sectional in Keandre Powell (152) and Steven Pelletier (220).
There are 14 who qualified from the Division II sectional at Licking Valley. They will join Brookhaven's duo in the district tournament Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Uhrichsville Claymont.
Mifflin had four district qualifiers in Deshawn Phillips (106), Maurice Chatman (145), Hannibal Tate (152) and Montrese Frazier (160), and Marion-Franklin had three in Brandon Fort (152), Jhulyis Monroe (182) and Joe Stepp (195).
Also moving on were Centennial's Shafeek Shafeek (113) and Marlin Holloway (heavyweight), East's Bashir Ali (113), Eastmoor's Gavin Grace-Giles (195), Independence's Cedric Roundtree (138) and Amado Ndongo (170) and Linden's DaAj'ohn Scott (138).
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.