The Africentric Early College and Northland high school girls basketball teams know how important it will be to keep their emotions in check when they meet in the City League final at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at Columbus South.
In the Nubians' 83-67 win over the Vikings in last year's City final, Africentric's Kyrah Jones and Northland's Brooklynn Peterson were ejected midway through the fourth quarter because of an altercation.
With Jones and Peterson both being senior guards and key players again this season, Nubians coach Will McKinney is hoping a similar situation won't arise in the rematch.
"The biggest thing is that we have to do what we're supposed to do and do the things we're capable of," he said. "I feel like we're a better team than we were last year because a lot of the kids played last year and we're a lot more experienced."
Africentric beat Eastmoor Academy 64-47 on Jan. 31 to finish 14-0 in the City League-South Division. The Nubians fell to 18-3 overall with a 47-44 loss to Toledo Rogers on Feb. 1.
Northland defeated Beech-croft 70-36 on Jan. 31 and was 17-1 overall and 13-0 in the City-North before playing Mifflin on Feb. 4.
The past two seasons, Northland was led by two-time ThisWeek Super 12 captain Alexis Peterson, who now is playing for Syracuse University. This season, her sister, Brooklynn Peterson, has emerged as the Vikings' leading scorer.
Through 17 games, Brooklynn Peterson was averaging 14 points. Junior forward Miesha Howard (12 points per game), junior guard Carli Codner-Pinto (11 ppg) and senior post player Aliyah Colvin (10 ppg) also were averaging in double figures.
Junior guards and twin sisters Ariel Skipper and Armani Skipper also have been key contributors, Vikings coach Bill Spencer said.
Africentric returned most of its roster from a year ago when it earned its sixth City title in eight seasons and was Division III state runner-up.
The Nubians also have a key newcomer in 6-foot-3 senior post player Alexa Hart, who was averaging 17 points through 19 games and has signed with Ohio State.
Senior guards Sierra Harley (11 ppg), Alexis Parks (9 ppg) and Darianne Seward (10 ppg) and senior forward Ayrielle Stith (10 ppg) are other key players. Parks has signed with Western Michigan and Seward has signed with Detroit Mercy.
"Alexa's an outstanding player," Spencer said. "(Ohio State) is going to be glad to get her.
"I believe the strong thing about our team is our defense. Our defense has pulled us through until our offense has been able to arrive. We're in a pretty good place right now. Before the season started, not too many people thought we'd be here."
Thornton glad to be back in City League
During Gene Caslin's 14 seasons as coach, the Mifflin boys basketball team won two Division I and two Division II district championships.
Caslin stepped down after last season and the Punchers replaced him with another coach who has experience on the big stage in Mike Thornton.
A Columbus East graduate who helped the Tigers win a district title as a player in 1996 and as an assistant coach in 2001, Thornton is leading his third program.
He coached Africentric for three seasons, leading the Nubians to a 74-66 win over Cleveland Heights Lutheran East in the 2005 Division IV state final, only to forfeit the championship and their other 26 wins for using an ineligible player. He then coached Harvest Prep for five seasons, including 2011 when the Warriors lost to Berlin Hiland 63-48 in the Division IV state final but had to forfeit their 22 wins for using an ineligible player.
Thornton stepped down as coach at Harvest Prep after the 2010-11 season and began working as a basketball trainer before being coaxed back into coaching by Mifflin athletics director James Washington.
"This was an opportunity to get back into the City," Thornton said. "I really didn't want to come back (into coaching) because I enjoyed training, but as I talked to (Washington), he recognized what I brought to basketball. I missed it so I gave it a shot and I love it.
"There was nothing I could do in those other (coaching) situations because there were administrative errors for different reasons. People who don't know the whole process don't know that it was out of my hands."
Mifflin was 10-8 overall and 5-6 in the City-North before playing Northland on Feb. 4.
Junior point guard P.J. Wilkes and junior wing player Stanley Jackson have led the way for the Punchers, according to Thornton.
"(The City League) is where I grew up and played at and it's good to see some familiar faces," Thornton said. "We should make a pretty good run in the (Division II) tournament. We're getting better, so I'm excited."
Scots boys clinch berth in City final
The Walnut Ridge boys basketball team locked up a berth in the City final by beating Columbus South 63-58 on Jan. 31.
The Scots then beat East 52-50 on Feb. 1 for their 11th consecutive win as they improved to 16-2 overall. They are 12-0 in the City-South and close their league schedule Friday, Feb. 7, at home against Briggs, and Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Eastmoor.
"(Two years ago) we had eight seniors, so (last) year we started two freshmen and two juniors," coach Jason Bates said. "Last year, it was a rough year on everybody. It was not terrible, but we were 15-9 and lost to a lot of City teams. This year, we're really happy with how we've gutted out wins."
Seniors guards Dymiere Finch and Brandon Paschal and sophomore guards Tarik Wright and Malik Harrison have led the way for the Scots, according to Bates.
Walnut Ridge lost to Northland in the City final in 2011 and '12.
Vikings boys closing in on City-North title
The Northland boys basketball team is looking for its eighth City-North title in a row.
The Vikings took a big step toward making it back into the City final with a 41-37 win Jan. 30 at home against Brookhaven.
Northland was 15-3 overall and 11-0 in the City-North before playing Mifflin on Feb. 4.
The Vikings travel Friday, Feb. 7, to Brookhaven for a rematch before closing their league schedule Tuesday, Feb. 11, at home against East.
Against the Bearcats, sophomore Seth Towns had 12 points and junior Doug Taylor scored 11 to lead the Vikings, who held Brookhaven senior guard and Ohio Dominican signee Ronnie Williams to five points.
"We knew we were going to get their best," said Northland senior guard Shemar Waugh, who also has signed with Ohio Dominican and often guarded Williams.