During the City League championship game Feb. 16 at Columbus East, the presence of Jaylen Tucker during overtime was among the biggest reasons the Northland High School boys basketball team pulled out a 55-53 win over Africentric.
Because of struggles at the foul line, Tucker didn't play during overtime in the Vikings' 59-57 win over Brookhaven on Feb. 8.
That didn't sit well with the 6-foot-6 junior post player, who since that time has spent extra hours working on free-throw shooting.
Tucker made seven of 12 foul shots and finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds against the Nubians, including a putback with a second left in overtime.
Northland senior forward Armani Towns had a shot blocked by Africentric sophomore guard/forward Jaquan Harrison during the closing seconds, but Tucker was there for the game-winner.
"It means a lot," said Tucker, who made a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds left in regulation to give his team a 48-46 lead. "We lost (several) seniors from last year and everybody thought we were going to fall back this year."
Northland improved to 22-0 and won its seventh consecutive City title. It also extended its string of victories in City League games to 104.
The No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Vikings open the Division I district tournament at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, against visiting and 42nd-seeded Hilliard Bradley. The winner plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, against 41st-seeded Central Crossing at the site of the higher-seeded team.
If Northland advances to a district semifinal at 6 p.m. March 6 at Marysville, its potential opponents are 12th-seeded Westerville South, 20th-seeded Walnut Ridge, 25th-seeded Pickerington North and 31st-seeded Groveport.
Senior guard Kenny Robinson had 19 points to lead Africentric, which fell to 19-3 and is the district's top seed in Division IV.
Africentric senior guard Cyquil Tucker sent the game to overtime tied at 48 when he scored with 2.8 seconds left in regulation.
"(The Vikings are) the champs, and when you play a champion you've got to take it from them," Africentric coach Michael Bates said. "In the end we had a few too many missed opportunities on clean, free, layup looks."
Swimmers happy with district results
The season ended at district for the Beechcroft and Northland swimming and diving teams.
Senior Viet Nguyen of the Northland boys team made his fourth appearance in the Division I district meet, which was held Feb. 16 at Ohio State.
He finished 22nd in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 52.02 seconds) and was 25th in the 500 free (5:12.52). Nguyen also swam on the 200 free relay that was 20th (1:38.29) and the 200 medley relay that placed 18th (1:50.04).
Also competing for the Vikings was junior Clay Siens, who was ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.4) and 28th in the 200 individual medley (2:12.15).
The 400 free relay was 26th (3:55.6).
"The boys had a lot of success this year, and our girls did fine as well," coach Aaron MacCaughey said. "For our purposes, (finishing well at district) is what we shoot for."
"It's a great feeling to be (at district) once again," Nguyen said. "Just being with the team is probably the No. 1 thing I enjoy about it."
Beechcroft had a district qualifier for just the second time in coach Dan Zedeker's nine seasons. Freshman Erin Baggs finished 24th in the 200 IM (2:37.54).
"I'm very happy for her," Zedeker said. "She's very talented. She had shoulder therapy early in the season so she didn't start swimming the IM until January, but she's got a big heart."
Bearcats advance three wrestlers to district
Brookhaven qualified three wrestlers for the Division II district tournament Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Heath.
At district, the top four in each weight class will advance to state Feb. 28 through March 2 at Ohio State.
In a sectional tournament Feb. 15 and 16 at Licking Valley, Giovaughni Bonner went 2-0 to capture a championship at 106 pounds, Keandre Powell was 2-1 and placed third at 145 and Jalen Bonner was 3-1 and took third at 152.
Brookhaven finished ninth (69) behind champion Sparta Highland (182) as 12 teams scored. Beechcroft was 12th (3) and didn't advance anyone from Licking Valley.
Also competing for Brookhaven but failing to advance were Josh Thornton (126, 0-2), Trivette Knight (160, 1-2), Steven Pelletier (220, 0-2) and Justin Baker (heavyweight, 0-2).
Competing for Beechcroft but not advancing to district were Kasaad Tyree (132, 0-2) and Daniel Bishoff (145, 1-2).
In a Division I sectional at Marysville, Northland senior Anthony Alexander's season ended. He won his first match at 138 but was pinned by Gahanna's Drew McDougle in 3:22 in a semifinal and then forfeited his final two matches to place sixth. A state qualifier a year ago, Alexander finished 38-1.
Also competing for Northland but failing to advance were Kaylin Glass (106, fifth, 0-2) and Mike Harris (heavyweight, 0-2).
Vikings advance to girls district bowling
The Northland girls bowling team placed seventh (2,914) in the 26-team sectional tournament Feb. 15 at Eastland Lanes to advance to district Saturday, Feb. 23, at HP Lanes.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams at district advance to the state tournament at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, which will be held for girls March 1 and for the boys March 2.
Seniors Cherie Wright (13th, 464) and Angela Holley (26th, 427) led the Vikings.
Also advancing to the girls district tournament from Eastland Lanes was Brookhaven senior Kylie Matthews, who tied for 27th (422) and earned one of nine individual berths.
The Bearcats placed 16th (2,421) as Lancaster (3,159) won the title.
The Beechcroft girls were 24th (2,119) of 25 teams in the sectional Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Briggs (3,757) and didn't have any district qualifiers.
The Brookhaven boys placed 21st (2,896) of 30 teams in its sectional Feb. 16 at Eastland Lanes behind champion Westerville South (3,766). Beechroft was 25th (2,743) and Northland placed 27th (2,527).
On Feb. 19 at Eastland Lanes, the Northland girls played Briggs and the Brookhaven boys faced Walnut Ridge in City League championship matches.
Cougars, 'Cats boys ready for postseason
The top-seeded Brookhaven boys basketball team will open the Division II district tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at home against 27th-seeded Linden-McKinley.
The winner will play 19th-seeded Utica or 21st-seeded London at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the site of the higher-seeded team.
If Brookhaven advances to a district semifinal, it will play 14th-seeded Caledonia River Valley, 15th-seeded East or 17th-seeded Whitehall at 8 p.m. March 6 at Olentangy.
The Bearcats were 18-3 before playing Marion-Franklin on Feb. 19.
Beechcroft is seeded 12th and will open the postseason at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at home against 18th-seeded Independence. The winner plays at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at fourth-seeded Buckeye Valley.
If the Cougars advance to a district semifinal, they would play fifth-seeded Hartley, 11th-seeded Marion-Franklin of 25th-seeded Jonathan Alder at 6 p.m. March 6 at Newark.
Beechcroft is 9-13.
Vikings, 'Cats girls competing in tourney
The fifth-seeded Northland girls basketball team opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 20 at home against Delaware.
The winner advanced to a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Hilliard Davidson against fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman or 24th-seeded Watterson, with the winner to play for a district title at 3 p.m. March 2 at Davidson.
Northland was 17-5 before playing Delaware.
Brookhaven is seeded second for the Division II district tournament and opened with a 67-8 win over Linden on Feb. 16. The Bearcats played host to 14th-seeded Bexley in the second round Feb. 20, with the winner advancing to a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at New Albany against fifth-seeded Centennial or 15th-seeded River Valley.
The district final is 7 p.m. March 1 at New Albany.
Brookhaven was 17-4 before playing Bexley.
Beechcroft's season ended with a 54-33 loss Feb. 15 at ninth-seeded Licking Valley in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
The 12th-seeded Cougars, who finished 10-12 overall and fourth at 6-8 in the City League-North Division, lose just one senior in guard Hailee Cannady.
Junior guard Odyssey Riley and sophomore guard Terika Broady both averaged 12 points, according to coach Michael Fleming.
"I told them that we've got to simply get better, offensively and defensively," said Fleming, whose team went 6-15 last season. "We definitely took some positive steps this year."