The Northland High School girls basketball team is hoping past results aren't an indicator of what might happen when it faces Africentric in the City League championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at South.
Since 2009, the Vikings have made seven appearances in the City final but picked up their only win in 2012 when then-junior Alexis Peterson -- who now plays in the WNBA -- helped them beat the Nubians 45-37. Peterson was the ThisWeek Super 12 captain that season.
After losing to Africentric 60-46 in the 2016 City final, Northland endured a 74-41 drubbing by the Nubians in last year's title game.
One thing that's different this season for the Vikings is that they have a new coach in Jaybee Bethea, a long-time AAU coach who took over for Bill Spencer during the offseason.
Bethea believes he has a grasp of what Northland will be up against when it faces Africentric, which is 18-2 overall and finished 14-0 in the City League-South Division after beating Walnut Ridge 77-31 on Feb. 2.
"It's going to be an uphill battle," Bethea said. "They've got Jordan Horston, who's the No. 1 point guard in the country, and they've got other players around her. We've got three good ones with Charlea (Henley), Jeana (Weatherspoon) and Alexia (Hamilton), and they'll be ready to step up to the challenge."
Northland is 19-2 overall and finished 14-0 in the City-North after beating East 73-10 on Feb. 2.
Weatherspoon, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward who recently surpassed 1,000 points for her career, was averaging 17.5 points through 20 games. Hamilton, a 5-6 guard, and Henley, a 5-7 guard, were averaging 13.5 and 12 points, respectively.
All three also were key players for the Vikings a year ago.
The Nubians have one of central Ohio's top players in Horston, a 6-0 junior who has scholarship offers from numerous Division I college programs and was averaging 18.5 points through 19 games.
Africentric also has a strong No. 2 option on offense in 5-9 sophomore guard Alexia Smith, who was averaging 14 points.
The height advantage will belong to the Nubians, who added 6-3 post player Sakima Walker. The sophomore sat out the Nubians' first 11 games per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules following her transfer from Hartley.
Arianna Smith, a 5-11 freshman forward and Alexia Smith's sister, also has been a welcomed addition, according to coach Will McKinney.
"We've definitely got to get better at just holding on to the basketball," McKinney said. "That's something we definitely want to address in practice.
"(Northland will) put a little pressure on you. It's the City League championship, a game with some high stakes. It'll be competitive."
Mifflin captures City dual title in wrestling
For the second time in program history, the Mifflin wrestling team captured the City League dual championship.
On Feb. 1, the Punchers beat Whetstone 50-24 in one semifinal and West earned a forfeit win over East in the other. According to Braves coach Tom Jones, the Tigers didn't have enough healthy wrestlers to compete.
Mifflin then beat host West 38-36 in the championship match.
After the Cowboys opened with wins at 220 pounds by Matthew Shaw and heavyweight by Dawson Shaw, the Punchers won the next four matches.
Mifflin led 32-24 when Eric Shaw pinned Dominick Kegler at 170 to lock up the victory.
"It means a lot just pulling through," said Mifflin freshman Ajoure Long-Lawrence, who beat Lifnny Marroquin 17-11 at 132 in the title match. "(Coach Caska Thompson) pushes us a lot so we don't slack off."
The Punchers' other City dual title came in 2014, the first year of the event.
The City individual tournament is Feb. 17 at Mifflin.
Punchers senior Doug Patterson, who is certified to compete at 106 but was competing at 120 on Feb. 1, was named the City's Most Outstanding Wrestler for the second year in a row.
"(Winning the dual title) feels amazing," said Patterson, who pinned both of his opponents Feb. 1. "I really have no words. It's my senior season, so it means the world. Our 132-pounder (Long-Lawrence) was able to pull it out. He's a freshman, but he got the win. I'm looking forward to all the rest of the tournaments and looking (to finish) No. 1 every single tournament."
Vikings boys team trying to hit stride
With its hopes of making the City League championship game gone, the Northland boys basketball team is turning its focus to the postseason.
The Vikings were 11-7 overall and 9-3 in the City-North after beating East 76-70 on Feb. 2 and before playing Mifflin on Feb. 6 and figure to be seeded somewhere in the middle for the 48-team Division I district tournament. The drawing is Sunday, Feb. 11.
"We want to play fast but play together," coach Sean Taylor said. "Sometimes it looks like we've got five (individual) players out there instead of one (unit) on both ends offensively and defensively. I think it's starting to happen. Hopefully, we can stay consistent, because that's a big thing with us."
Northland won nine of the past 11 City championships, including three titles under Taylor, but lost to South 65-51 in last year's City final.
On Jan. 30, the Vikings lost 86-72 at Beechcroft, which clinched a berth in the City final with a 93-18 win over International on Feb. 2. The Cougars were 12-0 in the City-North before playing East on Feb. 6.
Through 17 games for Northland, senior forward Jejuan Weatherspoon was averaging 16 points and junior guards William Mfum and N'Keeley Elmore were averaging 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Vikings gave up an average of 73 points in their seven losses. They trailed 17-0 and 27-11 after the first quarter in the second loss to Beechroft, which also beat Northland 83-74 on Dec. 22.
"Rebounding and transition defense are the obvious two (things we're working on)," Taylor said. "If we can rebound and have a plan in the half-court, we'll put ourselves in great situations."
Whitfield leading Cougars swimmers
The Beechcroft boys and girls swimming and diving program has seven athletes expected to compete in a Division II sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 10, at Columbus Academy.
The winner of each swimming event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio University. There is no diving at sectional.
The athlete with the best chance of moving on to district for the Cougars is sophomore Zora Whitfield, who is one of three girls in the program.
In the City League meet Feb. 3 at Columbus Aquatics Center, Whitfield won both the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 38.49 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (1:26.02).
"She's only lost a couple times this year in the 200 IM," coach Dan Zedeker said. "She works as a lifeguard and works hard in practice. She's just a wonderful young lady."
The Beechcroft boys team scored 21 points in the league meet to finish fourth behind Whetstone (123), Centennial (109) and Eastmoor Academy (22), and the Cougars' girls team scored 17 points to finish fourth behind Whetstone (124), Centennial (95) and Eastmoor (39).
Also on the girls roster for Beechcroft, which had just two swimmers in its program a season ago, are junior Patricia Cornejo and freshman Ally Stephens. Both likely will compete in the 50 freestyle and 100 free at sectional.
The Beechcroft boys team is comprised of junior Luke Bocook, sophomores Jaime Cornejo and Preston Ratcliff and freshman Josh Stephens. They should comprise the team's 200 and 400 free relays in the postseason.
"I have more swimmers this year, so it's been a lot more fun," Zedeker said.