Two seasons ago, the Africentric Early College girls basketball team had five players who eventually became college recruits, went 27-1 and earned the Division IV state championship in just its fourth season as a program.

Two seasons ago, the Africentric Early College girls basketball team had five players who eventually became college recruits, went 27-1 and earned the Division IV state championship in just its fourth season as a program.

The road to its second state title in three seasons -- something it achieved with a 55-46 comeback win over Berlin Hiland last Saturday at Ohio State -- was more perilous.

The Nubians suffered consecutive losses for the first time since the 2004-05 season when they fell to Toledo Waite (78-76 on Dec. 20) and New York City St. Michael (49-39 on Jan. 2).

On Jan. 17, Africentric suffered its worst loss since it lost three games by more than 40 points in its inaugural season in 2003-04 when it fell to eventual Division III state champion South Euclid Regina 70-27 in the Classic in the Country at Hiland.

Combine those struggles with a lineup that usually included four players who entered the season with little varsity experience, and the Nubians had to clear their share of unique obstacles to win another championship.

"To get to this point, it doesn't just happen on state tournament weekend," said Will McKinney, who has guided the Nubians to a 124-27 mark as their only coach. "We got blown out by Regina by 40 and we have two seniors who have had to lead ladies who are freshmen and sophomores. We came together at the right time as a group and everybody fell into their roles."

After beating Northland 69-38 in the City League championship game Feb. 24, Africentric's postseason run included a blowout victory over Ridgedale (73-32 on March 6) in a district final, regional wins over Waterford (61-48 on March 12) and Harvest Prep (61-35 on March 14) and a state semifinal victory over previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked Convoy Crestview (39-33 on March 19).

Last Saturday, Hiland -- which beat the Nubians 44-37 in the state final last year -- was up 26-11 at halftime.

Africentric shot just 5-for-29 from the floor in the first half but cut the deficit to 40-35 by the end of the third period. Seniors Ashar Harris and Shardai Morrison-Fountain -- the two holdovers from the 2007 team -- combined for 14 points in the third quarter.

Sophomore Raven Ferguson, the other returning starter from a year ago, had six points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth and finished with 17.

Morrison-Fountain had seven more points in the fourth and finished with 13. The Nubians rallied from a 17-point deficit to take their first lead with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining at 47-46. Harris finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Africentric closed the game on a 10-0 run. Hiland missed its final five shots and was outscored 20-6 in the final quarter.

The collapse was uncharacteristic of a team which has won four state titles since 2000 and finished 26-2.

Africentric finished 23-4 and is eligible to return all but Morrison-Fountain (Marshall signee) and Harris (Morehead State recruit). The other starters were Ferguson and sophomores Brein Babbs and Chelsea Chambers. Junior forward CharVonna Chandler and sophomore Brittani Thomas were others who saw significant playing time.

"In the locker room (at halftime), it was somewhat quiet," Ferguson said. "But then everybody was like, 'It's not over. It's in your heart to win.' In the second half, we didn't look back to last year. We kept looking forward."

•KATRIS TO COACH BRIGGS -- The Briggs football program took a step toward respectability a year ago when it won four of its last five to earn a tie with Walnut Ridge for fourth in the City-South Division at 4-3.

Derek Katris, a 2002 Ready graduate who assisted at Grove City a year ago, will look to continue that growth as the new coach. After Briggs went 6-4 in 2005, Joe Coplan took over and coached the team to records of 0-10, 3-7 and 4-6 before stepping down after last season.

Katris took over earlier in the month. He will be a head coach for the first time.

"I feel like I've got a lot of good qualities to bring to the program," Katris said. "It's (a program) that's on the rise. One of the key things we need to do is pound the weights and get them working out more. Everybody's really excited. I feel like we can do some good things.

"I had my first meeting with the kids (in mid-March) and we had about 20 guys there. We talked about eligibility and study tables and I got to meet most of the guys. They're all real personable."

Katris is a teacher at Triple A Academy, a charter school in the Columbus Public School district.

He was a first-team all-district offensive lineman in Division V as a senior in 2001 and then played collegiately for Ashland University and California University of Pennsylvania. In 2007, he was an assistant for a high school in Virginia.

"He's a great kid, and hopefully he'll translate what we had at Ready over there," Silver Knights coach Larry Wolf said. "They've got athletes. He's just got to get them to play. He's a very smart young man. He'll do a good job."