The Beechcroft High School boys basketball team features the Division II district Player of the Year in senior guard Jelani Simmons.
However, players such as senior forward Elijah Bishop also have found ways to shine even when they've not been the most prominent in the scoring column.
Bishop, who is the Cougars' fifth-leading scorer at 11 points per game, scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half March 10 to help top-seeded Beechcroft beat fourth-seeded Hartley 70-56 in a district final at Africentric.
Bishop went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line during the final two minutes to help the Cougars hold off a late rally by Hartley, which cut its deficit to 62-56 with 1:14 left after trailing by 15 points through three quarters.
"He's my X-factor," coach Humphrey Simmons said of Bishop. "He does everything for me -- gets rebounds, gets assists, scores, plays defense. We have him guard the best player out there, so he has a big job so that's why I make sure we're keeping him focused."
Beechcroft, which averages 81.5 points, won its eighth district title, but first since 2007.
Although the Cougars gave up 29 points to Hartley's Morgan Safford, Bishop helped hold Hawks senior guard Garrett Tipton -- a 1,000-point career scorer -- to 12 points.
Beechcroft improved to 25-1 and advanced to play Bay Village Bay in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Bowling Green.
The Cougars beat 15th-seeded Bloom-Carroll 66-40 in a district semifinal March 6 at Pickerington North.
"We played together," Bishop said.
"We talked about in practice how we were going to play against (Hartley). We had to rebound and we had big guys and big pieces, so we had to attack the boards and play together. It's my first district title, and I hope to cut down more nets."
The Beechcroft-Bay winner plays Lexington or Wauseon in the regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Bowling Green.
The regional champion plays Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Cortland Lakeview, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary or Richfield Revere in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. March 23 at Ohio State.
The Cougars have won three regional championships. The first came in 1999 under former coach Joe Dudas, and the other two came in 2002 and '03 under former coach Kent Burgert.
Simmons, who is averaging a team-high 18.5 points, scored 22 against Hartley. Teon Jennings added 15 points and Datrey Long scored 12.
"We started pressing them and it really affected them big time," coach Simmons said. "We were able to get our offense rolling and cause them to have a lot of turnovers. Once we noticed they really couldn't handle the pressure, we stuck to it.
"It feels great just seeing these boys smiling. It brings a big smile to my face. I know they worked hard for this."
State tourney is next for Africentric girls
The Africentric girls basketball team has reached the state tournament for the ninth time in 15 seasons and will face Ottawa-Glandorf (25-2) in a Division III semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Ohio State.
The winner plays Elyria Catholic (22-5) or Versailles (27-1) in the state final at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Ohio State.
After beating Minford 72-45 in a regional semifinal March 7 at Marietta College, the Nubians edged Berlin Hiland 61-60 in overtime March 10 at the same site to capture the regional championship and improve to 25-3.
"It feels fantastic," coach Will McKinney said.
After winning their fifth state title in 2016, the Nubians lost to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 65-54 in a state semifinal last season. Gilmour Academy then beat Versailles 56-54 to win the title.
Against Hiland, Africentric got a free throw by Nyam Thornton with 1.4 seconds left in overtime to earn the win.
The Nubians had trailed by six points with 1:19 remaining in regulation.
Thornton finished with 19 points, Maliyah Johnson scored 13 and Jordan Horston added 12 against Hiland.
Against Minford, the Nubians built a 38-18 lead by halftime. Thornton had 17 points and Horston and Alexia Smith both scored 12.
Africentric boys add to title count
The Africentric boys basketball team won its fifth district championship in seven seasons and its seventh district title under 12th-year coach Michael Bates.
After beating fifth-seeded Galion Northmor 68-49 in a Division III district semifinal March 6 at Westerville North, the second-seeded Nubians built a 35-19 lead by halftime and cruised to a 59-43 victory over ninth-seeded Johnstown in a district final March 9 at Ohio Dominican.
Africentric was 19-6 before playing Carey in a regional semifinal March 14 at Bowling Green.
The Nubians lost to Well-ington 52-50 in a Division IV district final last season.
"After you lose a district title game, all year long the motivation is there," Bates said. "When you say 52-50, they remember that. They know exactly what it's about because we lost by that score in a district championship game to Wellington last year. It's extremely exciting (to win a district title), especially when you lost the year prior. These boys just fought through and played extremely well."
Senior guard Tre' Baumgardner had 33 points, including five 3-pointers, against Johnstown.
The Africentric-Carey winner plays Archbold or Ottawa-Glandorf in the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Bowling Green. The regional champion faces Harvest Prep, Oak Hill, Sugarcreek Garaway or Wheelersburg in a state semifinal at 8:30 p.m. March 22 at Ohio State.
"It's a tough region," Bates said. "It's in that same area in northwest Ohio where my dad (Leroy Bates) was varsity basketball coach and he goes to games all the time and scouts for me. It's some good basketball. Ottawa-Glandorf and Archbold are teams we played in 2011 the last time we went to that regional."
South boys head back to regional
After settling for back-to-back Division II district runner-up finishes, the South boys basketball team won its second district title in four seasons March 10 when it beat second-seeded Eastmoor Academy 64-54 at Africentric.
The third-seeded Bulldogs, who beat ninth-seeded Watterson 46-25 in a district semifinal March 6 at Central Crossing, improved to 22-4 and advanced to play Trotwood-Madison in a regional semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Kettering Fairmont.
The winner faces Cincinnati Woodward or Cincinnati Hughes in the regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Fairmont.
The regional champion plays Byesville Meadowbrook, Chillicothe Unioto, New Concord John Glenn or Proctorville Fairland in a state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. March 23 at Ohio State.
South lost twice during the regular season to Eastmoor, which won the City League-South Division title and finished 20-6 after reaching state semifinals in both 2015 and last season.
"We lost in the regular season to (Eastmoor) twice, so we had a lot to play for," coach Ramon Spears said.
"We talked about how we turned the ball over (in the first half). We were up two (points) and took two bad shots, and we kind of turned it over here and there. But for the most part, we held to it to end the game."
South got 19 points from Treohn Watkins and made 25 of 32 free-throw attempts against Eastmoor.
"(Winning district in) 2015 was special because we kind of arrived," Spears said. "The last four years now we've been (in district finals). This one feels good because we'd lost two (district finals) in a row and Eastmoor had beaten us four times in a row. When we lost (to Eastmoor 57-50 on Jan. 26), we were only 4-for-12 (from the foul line) in the fourth quarter, so today was a better day for us in free throws."
The Bulldogs lost in a regional semifinal in 2015.
City bowlers close seasons at state
Three City League bowlers ended their seasons at the state tournament at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
In the Division I boys competition March 9, Northland senior Cameron Singer rolled a 582 three-game series to finish 34th.
Singer also competed at state as a sophomore, tying for 16th with a 671 to miss making honorable mention all-state by five pins.
He also was sectional runner-up (591) on Feb. 23 at HP Lanes and district medalist (656) on March 3 at the same site.
"I struggled with the shot a bit after a 656 at district," Singer said. "I threw the ball really good. I just didn't get the result I wanted. Sometimes it goes like that. I loved the environment and being around these guys. It was my second time coming here and I had a blast."
In the Division I girls competition March 10, Eastmoor senior Averi Brown finished 23rd (583) and Briggs sophomore Dakota Fink was 47th (535).
At district, Fink was runner-up (574) and Brown was third (564).
"It was a little bit of a struggle (at state)," Fink said. "We made it to district as a team and just missed the cut, so I was trying to do well for my team."
Brown, a four-time state qualifier who tied for 12th (623) as a sophomore, has committed to bowl for Arkansas State.
"Things didn't come together as well as I would have hoped, but I thought I executed what I needed to," Brown said. "It's really fun to be here."
West wrestlers each win one state match
West seniors Dawson Shaw (heavyweight) and Matthew Shaw (220 pounds) closed their careers at the Division I state wrestling tournament held March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Dawson Shaw pinned Cincinnati Elder's Alec Moore-Nash in 2:47 in his opening match, but was pinned by Amherst Steele's Matt Lee in 1:20 in a quarterfinal.
He then lost 4-3 to Ashtabula Lakeside's Luciano Cunningham 4-3 in the second round of consolation the next day to finish the season 38-6.
Matthew Shaw opened state by losing to Lakeside's Parker Meaney 6-1 and then earned a win by default over Cincinnati LaSalle's Garrett Bledsoe before losing to Wadsworth's Clay McComas 6-1 in the second round of consolation to finish 38-7.
West's last state placer was in 1941, according to coach Felix Catheline.
"West may have had two state qualifiers in the same season in the 1950s and definitely in the 1930s, but not (recently)," Catheline said. "(I'm) unbelievably proud and grateful to coach two wonderful kids."