Brookhaven High School boys basketball coach Hali Robinson repeatedly has stressed to his players that they are "no better than the sum of our parts and it takes everybody contributing every night" to make a Division II district championship run like they did last season.
Senior guard Randal Clarkson and senior forward Kevin Greenhow each averaged double figures in points a year ago when the Bearcats went 19-6 and won their first district title since 2006. Guards Blake McEwen and Rahman Clay and forward Malik Bush are other returning seniors.
Through 12 games this season, Greenhow was averaging 14.6 points and Clarkson was averaging 14.2, and junior forward Ronnie Williams and sophomore forward Shadrick Kimble both had two games in which they scored 20 or more points.
Deiondray Martin, a 6-foot-4 senior forward who transferred from a charter school called Detroit Community after attending Lima Senior for two years, was averaging a team-best 16 points through 12 games.
"There's always a period of acclimation when a player is not a part of the culture of your team," Robinson said. "The reality of it is that (Martin is) a humble kid. He still has a lot of work to do, but he's turned the corner."
As former teammates of Martin at the AAU level, Greenhow and Clarkson have played a large role in helping his transition to the Bearcats' program.
"I actually knew most of the guys already," Martin said. "I moved up to Detroit and had a big season up there. I'm the most physical player for Brookhaven, so they put me as a forward. The system is good. I wasn't real worried about not (fitting in)."
The Bearcats were 12-2 overall and 6-2 in the City League-North Division before playing Beechcroft on Jan. 29. Their losses came against Centennial (62-60 on Dec. 7) and Northland (63-61 on Jan. 8).
Last week, Brookhaven was tied with Watterson for first in the area coaches poll and sixth in the state poll.
"I think we're just starting to find ourselves as a team," said Martin, who has made a verbal commitment to Eastern Michigan University but doesn't plan to sign until after the season. "I feel like with the two losses we had, we had a chance to win both but it came down to timing and free throws."
"We can improve a lot," Greenhow said. "We're still not doing what we need to do to be a state championship team, but I think we can get it done if everybody does their job. It's been good having (Martin) on the team. When we found out he enrolled here, it was exciting. He's a very excellent player."
Northland boys not resting on ranking
The Northland boys basketball team was ranked first in the Division I state poll and second behind Westerville North in the area coaches poll last week.
Despite those accolades, coach Sean Taylor hopes his players continue to take strides forward.
"It's something to enjoy, but we try to tell them it doesn't matter if you're not No. 1 at the end," Taylor said. "They understand that teams are going to play above themselves when they play us."
After holding off Brookhaven in the first round of City-North play Jan. 8, Northland outscored its next five opponents by an average of 34.4 points. The Vikings were 11-0 in the league before playing Columbus East on Jan. 29.
Through 14 games, senior forward Armani Towns was averaging 13.4 points, followed by junior forward Derek McKeithen (12.5), senior guard Ty Hairston (11.5), freshman post player Seth Towns (10.4) and junior post player Jaylen Tucker (9.8).
"Armani has been a leader and is just tough," Taylor said. "He leads us in scoring and leads us in rebounding. He leads us in effort. I like the fact that we're unselfish."
Beechcroft boys team trying to bounce back
The Beechcroft boys basketball team had lost four of its last five games before playing Brookhaven on Jan. 29.
Included in that stretch were a 91-48 loss to Northland on Jan. 22 and a 77-65 loss to Watterson on Jan. 23. Watterson was ranked second in the Division II state poll last week.
The Cougars trailed Watterson 22-6 after one quarter but outscored the Eagles 27-15 in the second quarter to keep it close. Senior forward Patrick Ngene-Igwe had 21 points and senior guard/forward Khaleed Franklin scored 18.
Ngene-Igwe was averaging a team-best 16.9 points through 14 games, followed by Franklin (15.0) and sophomore guard Robert Martin (11.8).
Ngene-Igwe is a transfer from Linden-McKinley.
"(We want to) execute plays better and also be more patient on the offensive end, even when teams are trapping us," coach Humphrey Simmons said. "I am pleased with our team and our effort. They've finished games and the chemistry is getting better each game we play.
"Patrick is adjusting well. We turned to him with open arms. He's coming from a different program, but he's doing very well."