Approaching a decade since Brookhaven won the 2002 Division I state championship, the names still easily roll off the tongue for followers of central Ohio high school boys basketball.

Approaching a decade since Brookhaven won the 2002 Division I state championship, the names still easily roll off the tongue for followers of central Ohio high school boys basketball.

With Ron Lewis, Raheem Moss and Dontae Patterson, the Bearcats had a trio of senior Division I college recruits who provided their share of big moments in helping their team end a 23-year drought of state titles for the City League.

Andrew Lavender and Brandon Foust were juniors and eventually would earn college scholarships as well. Jamelle Cornley, who would go on to become a two-time district Player of the Year, was an impact freshman.

And the biggest name had to be Bruce Howard, the team's beloved head coach who led the program to a 197-51 record in 11 seasons before dying of liver failure April 11, 2003.

If its deep roster filled with college-caliber athletes wasn't what made this outfit one of the most dominant during ThisWeek Community Newspapers' 21 years, then its detailed defensive discipline and unselfishness did the trick.

On the way to a 27-1 season that included one victory by 73 points and another by 55, the Bearcats outscored their opponents by 22 points despite having just one player who averaged more than 13 points per game.

That player was Lewis, who averaged 17.8 points and made first-team all-state despite spending most of the season as the team's sixth man.

"We were a deep team," said Lewis, who recently won a championship for a team in the Czech Republic and has played for teams in Belgium and Israel. "We were all athletic and had different players that played different roles. We had about nine scholarship players, and I actually came off the bench for most of that year. I think it was all about our skill, basketball IQ and the coaching. Coach Howard and (assistant) coach (Drew) Williams always prepared us. We knew what they wanted to do, and nobody did video sessions back then like we did."

The Bearcats were in the eighth season of a 12-year run atop the City League-North Division. Brookhaven won consecutive district championships from 2000-06, including making it to the state final each year from '01-04.

The '01-02 season, when the Bearcats destroyed Independence 89-63 in the City championship game behind a 30-point performance from Patterson, was clearly the peak.

Brookhaven opened the season with a 70-67 victory over Chicago Farragut, its first of four over out-of-state teams.

Along the way, it earned double-digit wins in each of its first 12 City-North games before submitting to its only blunder of the season.

On Feb. 1, 2002, with a 16-0 record and ranked No. 1 in the state poll, Brookhaven ran into a league rival which had a hot shooting night - Mifflin.

The Punchers opened up a double-digit lead and got 23 points from Lucius Sullivan and 16 points and 15 rebounds from Shaun Pinson. Pinson made a layup with five seconds in overtime and Lavender missed potential game-winning 3-pointers at the end of regulation and overtime as the Bearcats lost 80-78.

Following that Friday night loss, Williams remembers seeing a group of players who were seeking answers.

It didn't take them long to find them.

"We had a couple of internal problems, and that loss would have probably occurred later on if it hadn't happened that night," Williams said. "There were a couple of shouting matches with some of the players. It was a combination of the fact that (Howard) had a style of play that was a very disciplined style, but they weren't totally on board with it. Sometimes the kids wanted to let loose. But we never would have won state if it wasn't for that loss."

Cornley jokes that he still thanks Mifflin for Brookhaven's eventual state-title run.

"It was just a tough game, and I've still got the article hanging in my office," said Punchers coach Gene Caslin, who led his program to district titles in '01, '04 and '05. "They were the team back then, and their team was stacked with Division I players. It was just a dominant team. They had a good bench. That Brookhaven team was just too fast and too athletic, and I can't really think of a team that was a better team than that."

Although Mifflin lost in a Division II district semifinal that season, some of the other City-North teams which Brookhaven handled had memorable postseasons.

Beechcroft's tallest player was just 6-foot-2, senior Mike Brown, but it advanced to a Division II state semifinal. Linden, which featured 6-5 senior John Davis, went 10-10 during the regular season but earned a Division II district runner-up finish.

Brookhaven's first tough tournament game came when it edged Zanesville 50-47 in a district final as Lavender had 19 points and Lewis scored 15.

The Bearcats overcame another potential stumble in a state semifinal when they edged Lakewood St. Edward 85-80 in overtime as Lavender scored 20, Lewis had 16 and Moss added 15.

After spending the entire season on the bench, Lewis moved into the starting lineup for Brookhaven's 68-59 win over Pickerington in a regional semifinal because Moss went down with illness. Lewis started the rest of the season.

Moss scored 15 points off the bench in both the win over St. Edward and in the Bearcats' 66-49 state-final victory over Cincinnati Winton Woods to earn state-tournament MVP honors.

All 15 of Brookhaven's players played at least one minute of the state final, including seven who went on to play Division I college basketball.

Moss and Lewis originally signed with Bowling Green, before Moss ended up at Cleveland State and Lewis played for Ohio State. Patterson was a Wright State recruit.

Lavender and Foust signed with Oklahoma, with Lavender eventually completing his college career at Xavier, and Foust went on to play for Southeast Missouri State.

Cornley played four seasons for Penn State.

Sophomore Denzel Lyles, who made the ThisWeek Super 12 as a senior, was a key shooter off the bench and scored 13 in the state final.

Even little-used players such as sophomore Everett Spencer (Wright State) and freshman Laquawn Perry (Urbana) later played in college, while freshman Dominic Jones became a Minnesota recruit in football. Perry helped Africentric win the 2005 Division IV state title, which later was revoked because of paperwork issues involving transfers.

Sophomore guard Jermaine Cox was a key player in '03 and '04.

"All of our bench players could have started," said Foust, who played one season in Kuwait before playing in Cypress last winter. "That team really played together. Everybody played to their strengths and we stuck together off the court, which helped us. We had a lot of young players and a lot of sophomores who were able to come in and play."

"We just had weapons," said Cornley, who has spent time in the Ukraine and in the NBA's D-League. "You take anybody from that team and they could have averaged double figures. We had great athletes, but even more it was about coach Howard's discipline."