The Northland High School boys basketball team cleared a mental hurdle when it beat Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep 53-52 on Dec. 17 in the Otterbein College Rike Center before a national audience on ESPN.

The Northland High School boys basketball team cleared a mental hurdle when it beat Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep 53-52 on Dec. 17 in the Otterbein College Rike Center before a national audience on ESPN.

In a matchup of two of the nation's highest-ranked teams -- Findlay Prep was first in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 and second in the USA Today Super 25, while Northland was 13th and fifth, respectively, in those polls -- the Vikings won without four-year regular J.D. Weatherspoon.

"A lot of people had been doubting us," said junior guard Trey Burke, who finished with 10 points against Findlay Prep. "A lot of kids at our school had been making bets that we wouldn't win. When J.D. got hurt in practice, we started thinking that we maybe weren't going to win without him. But after the first few minutes, we showed that we could play with them."

Northland should be better prepared mentally and physically when it faces Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy -- which was third in USA Today and ESPN last week -- on Jan. 16 in Springfield (Mass.).

Weatherspoon sprained his left ankle during practice Dec. 16 at the Rike Center.

Although doctors cleared him to play based on his pain tolerance, it was determined that he should sit out so that he wouldn't risk further missed action later in the season.

The Vikings won't play again until Jan. 5 against visiting Columbus East, giving the senior Ohio State-recruit extra rest.

Sophomore Jalen Robinson, who has verbally committed to West Virginia, started in Weatherspoon's place against Findlay Prep, and the Vikings made the play of Jared Sullinger stand up.

Sullinger finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds before a packed house that included his future Ohio State coach, Thad Matta.

After Northland built a 29-15 halftime lead, the Pilots rallied to take a 44-41 lead.

Findlay Prep led 52-51 when Sullinger was fouled with four seconds remaining, and he made a pair of foul shots for the victory.

Coach Satch Sullinger said during the preseason and again after the game that Northland's biggest focus still is on defending its Division I state championship.

The decision to sit out Weatherspoon might have been further proof of that.

"I felt bad that J.D. wasn't out there, but I can't extend that emotion to my team," coach Sullinger said. "J.D.'s not playing, but we have a sophomore in there who's already committed to West Virginia.

"We just couldn't take the chance of (Weatherspoon) not being at his best. Winning the state championship is still our focus. (The game against Findlay Prep was) a measuring stick of our hard work."

•For most of the past three seasons, the girls basketball team knew it could depend on 2009 graduate Destiney Gaston for key rebounds and significant points in the paint.

The Vikings are using a committee of players to fill her role this season.

In a 47-45 victory over City League-North Division-contender Brookhaven on Dec. 15, coach Dean Washington was pleased with the play of junior Tatiana Chapple (5-foot-10) and sophomores Brandi Curd-Watson (5-9), Symone Denham (5-9) and Kierra Simpson (6-0) down low.

Jasmine Weatherspoon, a 6-1 freshman, is another player who could figure into the post rotation later in the season as well.

"We're getting better on the boards," Washington said. "They play hard all the time, but we want them to be a little bit smarter. I think we're going to be a solid team down the stretch."

Northland faces one of its toughest opponents to date when it plays Reynoldsburg at 1:45 p.m. Monday at Harvest Prep in the Braggin' Rights Classic.

On Dec. 17, the Raiders lost to five-time defending Division I district champion Pickerington North 50-41 in overtime.

Northland lost to the Panthers 60-45 on Nov. 28.

The Raiders have back four starters from a team which went 19-5 and was a district runner-up last year, including Kent State-signee T'Shera Lucas.

In the Vikings' win over Brookhaven, they led 38-28 heading into the final quarter before the Bearcats rallied to make it close.

Last year, Northland finished first at 14-0 in the City-North and Brookhaven was second (12-2).

"We are young," Washington said. "Only one of our players has really been in (games like the one against Brookhaven). I wrote on the board before that game, 'Can you handle the moment?' A win's a win, and at this point we don't care if it's ugly. Now, we have to be able to understand situations more."