The Northland High School girls basketball team got a tough break in the offseason when one of its top expected returnees, 6-foot-1 senior post player Jasmine Weatherspoon, sustained a knee injury.
The return of another senior, however, should help the Vikings until Weatherspoon returns to the lineup sometime in January.
Alexis Peterson, the Division I district Player of the Year and ThisWeek Super 12 captain a season ago, is back to lead the way. The 5-foot-6 point guard, who signed with Syracuse University on Nov. 16, averaged 18.6 points, five assists and four steals last season.
Northland opened with a 57-46 loss to defending Division I state champion Twinsburg on Nov. 24 in the Gary West Classic at Reynoldsburg. Peterson led the Vikings with a game-high 29 points.
"We're still trying to figure out what we want to run and they're all working hard for me, so I can't complain about that," said ninth-year coach Dean Washington, whose team begins City League-North Division play Friday, Nov. 30, at home against Brookhaven. "Alexis is a good start. When she gets to the next level, she's going to be phenomenal. She's what I call a five-tool player."
Also back from last season when Northland finished 24-2 overall and won its second consecutive district championship are juniors Aliya Colvin (6-1, post player) and Brooklynn Peterson (5-6, guard) and sophomore twin sisters Ariel Skipper (5-6, guard) and Armani Skipper (5-4, guard).
Brooklynn Peterson is Alexis' sister.
Also looking to contribute are senior Chelsi Hairston (5-5), juniors Jelanah Cheatham (5-7), Kennedy Dulaney (5-6) and Gabby Evans (5-6) and sophomore Miesha Howard (5-10).
Weatherspoon is the team's second-leading returning scorer after averaging 6.7 points and making honorable mention all-league last season. Brooklynn Peterson averaged 4.4 points and Colvin averaged 2.7.
The Vikings' only regular-season loss last season came against Olentangy Orange (50-49), and they avenged that setback by beating the Pioneers 51-50 in a district final.
Northland went 14-0 in the City-North to finish ahead of Centennial (12-2), Brookhaven (10-4), Mifflin (8-6), Columbus East (5-9), Whetstone (4-10), Beechcroft (3-11) and Linden-McKinley (0-14). The Vikings defeated Africentric 45-37 in the City championship game.
Seeded fourth in the district, Northland defeated Briggs 92-14, Teays Valley 50-28 and 12th-seeded Zanesville 45-34 before beating third-seeded Orange. The Vikings then beat Gahanna 53-38 in a regional semifinal before losing to Reynoldsburg 47-37 in a regional final.
Northland lost six players from a year ago to graduation, including Symone Denham, who averaged 14.3 points before suffering a season-ending injury against Africentric. She was named first-team all-league and all-district and is now playing for the University of Michigan.
Kierra Simpson (8.0 points per game) and Brandie Curd-Watson (4.4 ppg), who made first-team all-league and honorable mention all-league, respectively, were others lost to graduation.
Brookhaven girls look to improve on last year
Last season, the first following the retirement of longtime coach Reggie Lee, the Brook-haven girls basketball team finished 13-8 overall and placed third in the City-North at 10-4.
Having returned seven players who saw varsity action, the Bearcats are hoping to take a step forward under second-year coach Darris Gattis.
The top returnees are seniors Myeisha Arnold (5-10, forward), Renee Cheeks (5-6, guard) and Jade' Gattis (6-0, post player) and junior Marquita Brown (5-4, point guard).
The coach's daughter, Gattis was a key player for Columbus East in the 2010-11 season when her father coached the Tigers, but she was limited last season as she recovered from an injury.
Brown was second-team all-league last season.
Also back are juniors Courtland Crego (5-7) and Fredtasia Luttery (5-9) and sophomore Nazerae Butler (5-9).
Others looking to contribute are junior Martesha Jenkins (5-5), sophomore Kiera Stradford (5-4) and freshman Ashley Johnson (5-6).
Johnson is the younger sister of 2012 Brookhaven graduate Jasmine Johnson, who averaged 18 points last season and made ThisWeek Super 12 and first-team all-district. Jasmine Johnson is playing for Wright State.
Seeded fourth in the Division II district tournament last season, Brookhaven defeated London 53-48 in the first round but lost to 12th-seeded Big Walnut 47-28 in the second round.
The Bearcats opened Nov. 23 with a 57-42 win over Independence behind 12 points apiece from Butler and Cheeks and played Walnut Ridge on Nov. 24.
"When I got to Brook-haven, I saw that they were athletic but that they didn't have the comprehension," coach Gattis said. "We went back to the basics. We're going to use our quickness, and they've put in a lot of work."
Beechcroft girls look for rebound season
After finishing 12-9 in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the Beechcroft girls basketball team slipped to 6-15 overall and placed eighth in the City-North at 3-11 last season.
The Cougars, who opened Nov. 27 at Grove City, return eight players from a year ago.
"We were obviously a little younger last year, but having a year of most of them getting varsity experience should help," seventh-year coach Mike Fleming said. "We'll have to use our athleticism."
After losing only Tiara Woodfork to graduation, the Cougars again have only one senior in guard Hailee Cannady (5-5).
Also back are juniors Keelah Bohanan, Melvon Cannady, Dale-Lyn Featherstone, Tivia Hylton, Ke'Azia Mosely and Odyssey Riley and sophomore Terika Broady. Riley (5-3) returns at point guard and Hylton is one of the team's tallest players at 5-10.
Jordan Glover, a 5-9 junior, is a move-in from Akron Garfield who could contribute.
Rounding out the team are juniors Starlah Germany, LaSondra Washington and Alyssa Wright.
Last season, Beechcroft lost nine of its last 10 regular-season games and lost to top-seeded and eventual district champion Jonathan Alder 75-39 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
Broady and Hailee Cannady were honorable mention all-league last season.