The chance to savor the state tournament was a long time coming for Africentric Early College girls basketball player Alexa Hart.
During her first two seasons, Hart and her teammates at North Ridgeville Lake Ridge didn't get the chance to compete in the postseason because of recruiting violations handed down by the OHSAA.
Hart transferred to Africentric for her junior year but was forced to sit out last season because of the OHSAA transfer rule.
This season -- and during the Division III state tournament at Ohio State in particular -- she literally swatted away numerous attempts at keeping her and her team from succeeding.
Hart blocked 11 shots as Africentric beat Smithville 44-22 in a state semifinal March 14. She then had nine points and six blocks as her team defeated Versailles 49-37 for the title the next day.
"It's been a great experience being able to go to state for the first time and being able to play," said Hart, whose team finished 27-2. "My team told me to be ready and that it was going to be a big crowd with a lot of yelling."
The 6-foot-2 Hart was among six seniors for the Nubians, all of whom were key players. The other seniors were guards Sierra Harley, Kyrah Jones, Alexis Parks, Darianne Seward and Ayrielle Stith.
In the state final, Harley had 14 points and Parks scored 12.
Hart was on the bench last March when Africentric lost to Anna 67-49 in the state final. This season, she helped the Nubians win their fourth state title, with the others coming in 2007, 2009 and 2012.
Alumni such as Tyeasha Moss, who played for the 2007 team, were among those in attendance last weekend to watch the Nubians' sixth state tournament appearance.
Coach Will McKinney has led the program since its inception in 2003-04.
Hart, who was named state co-Player of the Year after averaging 15 points and nine rebounds, signed with Ohio State in November.
Seward is a Detroit Mercy signee and Parks has signed with Western Michigan. Seward joined Hart as a first-team all-district selection and averaged 10 points. Parks averaged eight points and was third-team all-district, while Harley and Stith both averaged 10 points.
The only key players eligible to return are junior guards Dejanique Franks, Dayuna Johnson and Renee Waters. Freshman forward Kennedy Azubike also gained experience.
"It's actually been a rough journey because sometimes in practice we were not always competing as much as we should have," Seward said. "Our coaches were like, 'How are you going to win state if you don't compete?' It's taken us a while to get into our groove."
Northland boys fall to UA in regional final
A season after reaching a Division I state semifinal, the Northland boys basketball team settled for a regional runner-up finish.
On March 15 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, the Vikings lost to Upper Arlington 50-36 to finish 22-5.
Northland trailed 32-31 after three quarters, but UA went ahead 38-32 and closed the game on a 12-2 run.
The Golden Bears improved to 26-1 and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1939.
"I love those guys," Vikings coach Sean Taylor said. "They continue to fight. But the better team won."
Northland was held to 12-for-43 shooting from the floor and made just 10 of 20 free throws.
Senior guard Shemar Waugh scored 11 points, senior forward Jaylen Tucker had nine and senior guard Derek McKeithen added six. Sophomore forward Seth Towns had three points and seven rebounds.
Northland loses a seven-member senior class that also included guard Jhustus Cornley and forward Kenny Sloan.
Northland defeated Dublin Coffman 57-47 in a regional semifinal March 12 at the Fairgrounds.
McKeithen (11.3 points per game), Tucker (9.5 ppg) and Waugh (5.5 ppg) all made honorable mention all-district. Waugh was first-team all-City League-North Division and McKeithen and Tucker were second-team all-league.
Towns averaged 13.9 points and made second-team all-district and first-team all-league. Also eligible to return is junior forward Doug Taylor, who averaged 9.1 points and made honorable mentio n in the league and district.
Africentric boys fall in regional final
With just two seniors back from last year's team that was a Division IV district runner-up, Africentric boys basketball coach Michael Bates sometimes wondered what the Nubians would look like when the postseason rolled around.
They didn't disappoint, making a run to a regional final and finishing 16-11 despite a 3-6 start.
"We were only one of eight teams still playing (in Division IV), and that's a hell of an accomplishment," Bates said.
Africentric beat Peebles 57-40 in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio University.
On March 14 in a regional final at the same site, the Nubians lost to Harvest Prep 43-40.
In the regional final, junior guard Jaquan Harrison had 13 points and sophomore Houston Smith had 10.
Harrison was first-team all-City-South and all-district, junior Ulmer Manzie was second-team all-district and honorable mention all-league and Smith was honorable mention all-league.
The Nubians' only seniors were Akil Cornish and Darik Artis. Cornish was second-team all-league.
"I'm extremely proud of the kids," Bates said.
Eastmoor boys lose in regional semifinal
For the second time in three years under coach Jim Miranda, the Eastmoor Academy boys basketball team made it to the Division II regional tournament.
The Warriors lost to Dayton Dunbar 52-35 in a 2012 regional semifinal at Kettering Fairmont and came up just short in a regional semifinal March 13 at the same site, falling to Cincinnati Taft 47-44.
"It was a back-and-forth game," said Miranda, whose team finished 20-7.
Senior Nate Jameson scored 12 points, senior Jahmal Hughes had 11 and freshman Lavoris Brown added eight.
Hughes made first-team all-City-South and Jameson was second-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Eastmoor's other senior was Shamonty Manning, who was honorable mention all-league.
Brown also was honorable mention all-league.