Keeping in mind that he is one of seven seniors who were part of a team that advanced to a Division IV state semifinal a year ago, the way Africentric Early College boys basketball team player Kenny Robinson described his team after its 77-64 win over Marion-Franklin on Jan. 15 put a smile on the face of coach Michael Bates.
"We're young, and we're still learning," Robinson said. "It's mostly mental. By the time the (district) tournament starts, we'll be the most mentally tough team in Division IV."
The Nubians, who were second in the Division IV area coaches poll last week behind Newark Catholic and fourth in the state poll, were 12-2 overall and 8-1 in the City League-South Division before playing Briggs on Jan. 22. Their only league loss came against Columbus South on Jan. 18, 57-54.
Eastmoor Academy was second in the City-South at 7-1 before playing Columbus West on Jan. 22.
During the first round of league play, Africentric earned close victories over Eastmoor (53-50 on Dec. 4), Walnut Ridge (50-47 on Dec. 11) and Marion-Franklin (56-55 on Dec. 21).
The Nubians play host to Eastmoor on Feb. 1.
Robinson, a 6-foot-1 guard who had 13 points in a 53-50 loss to Jackson Center in a state semifinal last season, was averaging a team-best 14 points through 13 games.
Senior guard Trevon Saunders, who also was a starter last season, is among the area leaders in assists and junior Akil Cornish is among the area leaders in 3-point shooting percentage. Sophomore post player Ulmer Manzie was averaging 10 rebounds through 13 games.
Seniors guards Cyquil Tucker and Kejuan Skinner-Byrd are others who saw action in the state semifinal. Also contributing are senior forward Houston Smith, sophomore guard/forward Jaquan Harrison and senior guard Neshaun Walls.
"I can't really put my finger on it, but we've just got such great chemistry," Bates said. "We use the quote that the great teams don't care about who gets the credit. Everybody has their own roles."
"This year we definitely have a brotherhood inside of school and outside," Robinson said.
Several girls teams having strong seasons
The Northland and Africentric girls basketball teams could be on track to meet in the City League championship game for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in five years.
The Vikings, who were 11-0 in the City League-North before playing Beechcroft on Jan. 22, are led by senior guard Alexis Peterson, who was averaging an area-best 27 points through 15 games.
Northland has been playing all season without senior Jasmine Weatherspoon, but the 6-3 post player could be back in February from a knee injury.
Africentric. which was first in the Division III area coaches poll and second in the state poll last week, was 11-4 overall and 10-0 in the City-South before playing Briggs on Jan. 22.
The Nubians won four consecutive City League championships from 2006-09 and lost to Brookhaven in the 2010 final. They then beat Northland for the 2011 title before losing to the Vikings 45-37 in the final last season.
Senior post player Marley Hill was averaging a team-best 16 points through 13 games and junior guard Darianne Seward is among the area leaders in assists. Hill and sophomore guard Sierra Harley and Dayunna Johnson all are shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
"We're preparing for the playoff run," Africentric coach Will McKinney said. "With our three losses, I could have done things differently to actually win, but at the same time we've got to work on stuff."
Eastmoor has finished second in the City-South each of the last six seasons and could be on its way to doing so again this winter.
The Warriors, who were 13-3 overall and 9-1 in the league before playing Columbus West on Jan. 22, lost to Africentric 86-65 on Dec. 4 and will face the Nubians again on Feb. 1 at home.
Eastmoor was second in the Division II area coaches poll last week behind Hartley. The Warriors and Hawks will meet Saturday, Jan. 26, at Hartley.
The district tournament draw is Feb. 3.
"We're continuing to progress and jell and mold as a team," Eastmoor coach Tia Jameson said. "We have some big games coming up. Currently (Hartley) is No. 1 (in the area poll) and we're (No.) 2. They're a solid team. I think it'll be a great game."
Eastmoor is led by senior forward Tajanee Wells and has gotten key contributions from sophomore guard Imani Hill and freshman guard Amani Burke. Senior post player Aliyah Barnes is back this season after not being with the program last winter.
"We've had a lot of new additions help us this year," Jameson said.
Five wrestling teams competing in state duals
There are five City League wrestling teams competing in the inaugural state team tournament that began Jan. 23, but five-time defending City champion Marion-Franklin isn't one of them.
The Red Devils are being led by a new coach in Quinton Ryman, a 2009 Marion-Franklin graduate who took over in the offseason after Derek Oney stepped down after seven seasons.
Linden-McKinley, Mifflin and South all were competing in Division II, Region 14-A of the dual-format tournament. West was in Division I, Region 6-A and Whetstone was in Division I, Region 5-B.
The second round and regional semifinals will be held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at sites to be announced. The regional finals are Feb. 6.
Marion-Franklin has three returning Division II district qualifiers in senior Charles Parkham (145 pounds) and juniors Deante Gray (heavyweight) and Jhulyis Monroe (182).
The individual postseason begins with sectionals Feb. 15 and 16 for Division III schools and Feb. 16 for Divisions I and II.
Africentric is in Division III, Briggs, Northland, West and Whetstone are in Division I and the remaining City schools are in Division II.
"We're doing pretty well," said Ryman, who was an assistant the past two seasons at Walnut Ridge. "The City is going to be a really big toss-up this year. We've always got a few strong guys."
Briggs girls bowling team standing out
With two of the area's top three bowlers in scoring average through Jan. 17, the Briggs girls bowling team is on track to win a pair of championships.
The Bruins led the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division at 9-0 before facing Teays Valley on Jan. 22. They also could qualify for the City League tournament next month on a date to be announced.
Last season, Briggs won the sectional at Columbus Western Bowl with a 3,494 but settled for fifth (3,286) in the district tournament at HP Lanes as the top three teams advanced to the state tournament.
Sophomore Tori Pappas was averaging an area-best 206.8 per game and senior Jordyn Estep also has been among the area leaders with a 187.6 average before the match against Teays Valley.
Juniors Samantha Rainey (167.9) and Jaid Radde (161.8) also have been key contributors.
Briggs beat Reynoldsburg, which entered the week second in the COHSBC-South at 8-1, 1,840-1,539 on Jan. 15. Entering the week, it was the only match in which the Bruins failed to break 2,000.