Despite losing two-time Division I district Player of the Year and two-time ThisWeek Super 12 captain Alexis Peterson to graduation last spring, the Northland High School girls basketball team hasn't stopped winning this winter.
With Peterson now playing for Syracuse University, the Vikings have taken a balanced approach in an effort to offset the loss of her offensive production -- she averaged 28.1 points last season and finished with more than 2,100 career points -- with senior guard Brooklynn Peterson, Alexis' sister, and junior forward Miesha Howard leading the way.
Also helping to fill the void is junior guard Carli Codner-Pinto, who transferred to Northland last July from DeSales.
Codner-Pinto averaged 12.1 points and made second-team all-district in Division II a year ago and has had a similar impact this season. She was averaging 12 points through 14 games for the Vikings, who were 13-1 overall and 9-0 in the City League-North Division before playing Centennial on Jan. 21.
Northland finished 18-6 last season.
"We all play together well," Codner-Pinto said. "We have guards who share the ball. Me and Miesha play on the same AAU team and I just fit in here. They've welcomed me."
Brooklynn Peterson has emerged as Northland's leading scorer, averaging 14 points through 14 games.
Howard opened the season with a 28-point performance in a 110-18 win over Cleveland Martin Luther King on Nov. 23 and was averaging 12 points through 14 games.
The Vikings had won 54 consecutive league games before playing Centennial.
"We play hard," coach Bill Spencer said. "If you play hard, you're going to give yourself a chance to win. (Howard) has had some great games. When she's playing well, she's hard to guard. I tell (Brooklynn Peterson and Howard) if you're not having a good game, that's when you've got teammates. Now it seems like they have really bought into that because they've finally figured out I know what I'm talking about.
"(Codner-Pinto) is an outside shooter who knows the game and is starting to fit in with the girls. It's hard coming from another system, but she's really fitting in."
Warriors, Scots boys battling in City-South
The last time a boys team from the City-South won a City championship was 2005 when Africentric edged Brookhaven 44-43 in overtime.
The top candidates to break that streak appear to be Walnut Ridge and Eastmoor Academy.
Walnut Ridge was 9-0 in the City-South before playing Columbus West on Jan. 21 and Eastmoor was 8-1 in the league before facing Marion-Franklin on Jan. 21.
On Jan. 10, the Scots edged the Warriors 52-48 in overtime. If neither team loses another league game before their rematch Feb. 11, the winner of that game will advance to the City final Feb. 18.
Eastmoor holds the tiebreaker of advancing to the title game because Walnut Ridge competed for the City championship more recently.
Since 2006, Eastmoor is 0-3 in City finals and Walnut Ridge is 0-2, with Northland having won the last seven championships.
"We've been trying to work on finishing," said Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda, whose team was 11-4 overall before facing Marion-Franklin. "I think this is a better team (than last season when Eastmoor was a Division II district semifinalist). We've got a lot of kids who are excited about playing."
Walnut Ridge was seventh in last week's area coaches poll in Division I and Eastmoor was fifth in Division II.
Entering play Jan. 21, Eastmoor senior Nate Jameson was among the area leaders in field-goal percentage (60.8) and junior teammate Khalil Wade was among the area's best in 3-point shooting percentage (43.8).
Punchers, Cowboys again wrestling well
The Mifflin wrestling team won the City League individual championship for the first time last season and won the inaugural City dual team title Jan. 9 at home.
Could a second consecutive City individual tournament title be next for the Punchers?
Mifflin returned eight wrestlers who placed in the top five in their respective weight classes in last year's City meet, as the Punchers scored 192.5 points to beat a field that included Columbus West (187), Whetstone (170), Marion-Frank-lin (148.5), Columbus South (124) and Brookhaven (98).
Those returnees are seniors Hannibal Tate (first at 152 pounds), Christian Stevens (fourth at 182) and Travis Taylor (third at 170), juniors Mortrese Frazier (fifth at 160), Maurice Chatman (second at 132), Makiyn Thomas (second at 120) and Mohammed Ali (fourth at 138) and sophomore Quaadir Thomas (fifth at 113).
This year's City individual tournament is Feb. 8 at Briggs.
In the City dual tournament, Mifflin beat West 37-35 for the championship. The Punchers defeated Walnut Ridge 45-36 and West defeated Whetstone 45-36 in the semifinals, with Walnut Ridge beating Whetstone 39-36 in the third-place match.
Other returnees who placed in the City tournament last season include West's Aden Abdi (third at 106) and Zach Em (first at 126), East's Bashir Ali (first at 106), Brookhaven's Giovaughni Bonner (second at 106) and Justin Baker (third at heavyweight), Centennial's Shafeek Shafeek (fourth at 106) and Jordan Emerson (third at 113), Marion-Franklin's Jhulyis Monroe (second at 182) and Whetstone's Christian Bobo (second at 152) and Chris North (first at 170).
Nubians girls team staying on track
The Africentric girls basketball team recently lost two non-league games over a two-week span, but coach Will McKinney isn't disappointed about where his team stands at this stage of the season.
The Nubians were 15-2 overall and 11-0 in the City-South before playing Independence on Jan. 21. Among their recent victories was a 55-39 win over Twinsburg -- the Division I state champion in 2011 and a state semifinalist in 2012 -- on Jan. 18.
Their only losses through 17 games had come against Flossmoor (Ill.) Homewood-Flossmoor (64-62 on Dec. 29 in the Braggin' Rights Classic) and Huntington (W.Va.) St. Joseph Academy (58-52 on Jan. 11).
Senior center Alexa Hart, an Ohio State-signee, was averaging a team-best 18 points through 14 games and senior Sierra Harley was averaging 13 for Africentric, which was second in the Division III state poll last week.
"I like where we're at," McKinney said. "It's been great having (Hart) out there."