The Eastmoor Academy boys basketball team has been through this drill before.
The season before and the season after the Warriors finished 7-16 in 2015-16, they made it to the state tournament.
There's more than enough fuel to support another long postseason run this season for Eastmoor, which is led by four players who helped the Warriors reach a Division III state semifinal in 2015 and a Division II state semifinal a season ago.
"You've got to feel good about these guys," seventh-year coach Jim Miranda said. "It's their third opportunity to get back to the state final four. It's a talented team and everybody is familiar with what we're trying to do. We had a great summer and we think we're in a good position."
The Warriors opened Dec. 2 with a 61-44 loss to Cincinnati Moeller at Southern State Community College and begins City League-South Division action Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Independence.
Taevion Kinsey is a 6-foot-4 senior guard who emerged as Division II district Player of the Year last season when he averaged 16 points, six rebounds and four assists and shot 55 percent from the floor.
Kinsey helped the Warriors earn the third seed for the district tournament and finish 22-7 overall, including beating South 61-49 for a district championship. They went on to lose to Wauseon 42-35 in a state semifinal.
While Kinsey was a role player on the 2015 team, seniors Tariq Brown (6-6, wing player) and Isaiah Hairston (6-3, wing player) are in their third seasons as starters. Brown averaged eight points and six rebounds last season.
Senior Tim Smith (6-4, wing player) is another who is in his third season as a key player.
Senior Randy Olverson (5-6, guard) averaged 4.6 points last season for Gahanna, but moved into the school district during the offseason and figures to be a key player in the backcourt.
Senior Stanley Williams (6-7, post player) averaged 7.5 points and six rebounds last season and is joined in the post by senior Stephan Williams (6-7) and junior Isaiah Kelly (6-3).
Senior Tripp Hopkins (6-1, guard) and sophomore Julian Binford (5-8, guard) are others who saw action in the state semifinal last season.
Kinsey was named first-team all-league, Stanley Williams was second-team all-league and Brown and 2017 gra duate Zion Parham were honorable mention all-league.
"Randy Olverson gives us another point guard," said Miranda, who has guided the Warriors to four district titles in six seasons. "He allows Taevion to get up some more shots. Taevion has a lot of mid-major (scholarship) offers and is just a great kid. Tariq and Stanley Williams both have Division II offers.
"(The City-South) should be very competitive with South, Africentric and Marion-Franklin and Walnut Ridge also looking pretty good. If we can stay healthy, we'll have a good chance."
Eastmoor and South split their two regular-season matchups a year ago and both finished 13-1 in the City-South. However, the Bulldogs advanced to the City championship game because the Warriors had competed in it more recently.
Briggs and Walnut Ridge (both 7-7) tied for third in the league, followed by Africentric and Independence (both 6-8), Marion-Franklin (3-11) and West (1-13).
The Bulldogs made their first appearance in the City championship game since 1988 and beat Northland 65-51 to win their first City title since 1980 and were the top seed for the district tournament.
South, which finished 24-2 overall last season, returns junior Treohn Watkins (5-10, guard), seniors Jeremiah Green (6-1, wing player) and Mike Cochran (5-10, guard) and sophomore Marcus Johnson (6-3, wing player). Watkins was second-team all-league a year ago.
Senior Jaedyn Carter (6-0, guard) is a transfer from Thomas Worthington who averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals last season while making special mention all-OCC-Cardinal Division.
Senior Wesley Williams (6-7, forward) has committed to St. Leo University, while seniors Dashn White (6-3, wing player) and Naiquan Galloway (5-9, guard) are other key players.
The Bulldogs lost five players from last season to graduation, including Dezujwann Robinson, who was first-team all-league, and two second-team all-league selections in Lamont Broomfield Jr. and Bruelle Thompson.
South opened Dec. 2 with a 75-49 win over Fairfield Union in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Whitehall.
"They're excited about this season," eighth-year coach Ramon Spears said. "They know this is a make-or-break season to see if they can hold up to what the team did last year. A lot of people are engaged in South basketball now. We're much shorter than we were last year, so besides Wesley Williams, that's probably one of our Achilles' heels. We've got to take away everyone else's height with our defense.
"Eastmoor has got the height, speed and coaching and is probably the frontrunner (in the City-South). Africentric was young last year, so they're going to be right in that battle. I think we can stay in that race."
Walnut Ridge went 10-12 overall last season but returns 6-5 sophomore forward Von Cameron Davis, who was first-team all-league, and 6-0 sophomore guard Qian Magwood, who was honorable mention all-league.
Nubians plan for another big year
Since making appearances in state semifinals in 2011 in Division III and 2012 in Division IV, Africentric has remained one of central Ohio's most consistent small-school programs.
The Nubians, who lost in Division IV district finals in 2013 and last season and lost in Division IV regional finals in 2014, '15 and '16, have moved back to Division III where they're figuring to be among a slew of talented area teams.
Wellington, which was the Division IV state runner-up last season, and Harvest Prep, which was a Division IV district runner-up a year ago, also have moved up to Division III.
Heath, which was a Division II district runner-up last season, and Johnstown, which was a Division II district semifinalist a year ago, have dropped to Division III.
The Nubians should be helped by the fact that they return several key players from last season, when they finished 14-12 overall and lost to Wellington 52-50 in a district final.
Tre Baumgardner, a 6-1 senior guard who averaged 17.8 points, five rebounds and five assists last season and has signed with Minnesota State, and 6-8 senior post player Jah Bennett, who averaged 10 rebounds last season and has committed to Kentucky State, lead the way.
The Nubians opened Dec. 2 with a 91-72 win over Xenia in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase. They also are scheduled to play Upper Arlington (Jan. 6) and Gahanna (Jan. 27), among others, in their non-league schedule.
"(The schedule is) going to be a meat grinder," 12th-year coach Michael Bates said. "When we step into the City League, Eastmoor has everybody back and South is pretty good. It's our first full year in the new building and the guys are excited."
Juniors Anthony Bowman (6-1, guard) and Dorian Holloway (6-4, wing player) and sophomore Cali Davis (6-1, guard) also started at times last season.
Senior John Figueroa (6-0, guard) and freshman Alvin Glover (6-3, guard) are others who should contribute.
Vikings, Cougars to battle in City-North
The City-North race last season was expected by many to come down to a tight battle between perennial title-favorite Northland and Beechcroft, but the Vikings beat the Cougars by double digits in both meetings and ended up winning the league by four games.
Northland, which lost the City title game to South and then fell 72-46 to Upper Arlington in a Division I district semifinal to finish 20-5 overall, again figures to contend for the title with the Cougars.
The Vikings opened Dec. 2 with an 83-43 win over Cincinnati Taft in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Shootout.
"We've got a solid five, and we're trying to find a little depth," said sixth-year coach Sean Taylor, who entered the season with a 120-18 record with the Vikings. "They really like to play with each other."
Northland went 14-0 in the City-North a year ago to finish ahead of Beechcroft (10-4), Linden-McKinley (9-5), Mifflin (8-6), East (6-7), Centennial (5-9), Whetstone (3-11) and International (0-13).
Jejuan Weatherspoon, a 6-3 senior guard, is the Vikings' top returnee after averaging 13 points and making first-team all-league last season.
Seniors DiShon Daniels (6-6, wing player) and Gabe Towns (6-8, forward) and juniors William Mfum (6-2, guard) and N'Keeley Elmore (5-6, point guard) are other key returnees after each averaged seven points last season.
Junior Mark Lee (6-0, guard) is another who should contribute.
"Everybody is supposed to beat us, but we've got a lot of pride," Taylor said. "If we play hard, we can play with almost anybody."
Beechcroft was the eighth seed for the Division II district tournament last season and lost to seventh-seeded Heath 74-55 in a second-round game to finish 14-8 overall.
Several key players return for the Cougars, including 6-5 senior guard and Youngstown State signee Jelani Simmons.
Also back are seniors Elijah Bishop (6-6, forward), Datrey Long (6-3, guard), Teon Jennings (6-3, guard) and Ther'Ron Jennings (6-3, forward) and junior Na'elle Simmons (6-7, forward).
Juniors Elijah Hairston (6-5, forward) and Jovaughn Hill (6-1, guard) also should contribute.
Last season, Jelani Simmons averaged 16 points and was first-team all-league, and Long averaged 14.5 points and Ther'Ron Jennings averaged 13.5 points and both made second-team all-league. Teon Jennings, who was honorable mention all-league, and Bishop both averaged seven points.
Beechcroft opened Dec. 2 with a 73-70 win over Newark in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Shootout.
"We've got to finish," said sixth-year coach Humphrey Simmons, who is Jelani's father and Na'elle Simmons' uncle. "It's a different feel than in previous years, with more experience and more leadership. You can tell they want to accomplish something this year. They're real focused."
Linden, which was a Division II district semifinalist last season, is led by 6-3 junior guard/forward Faizon Tucker, who averaged 14.5 points a year ago.