The two meetings last season between the Brookhaven and Northland high school girls basketball teams each came down to last-minute plays and ultimately resulted in a split of the season series.

The two meetings last season between the Brookhaven and Northland high school girls basketball teams each came down to last-minute plays and ultimately resulted in a split of the season series.

The matchups might be just as close this season.

The Vikings return seven of their top eight scorers from a team that was a Division I district semifinalist and finished 19-4 last season.

The Bearcats are led by a trio of Division I signees in seniors Travecia Franklin (Indiana State), Briana Holmes (Marist) and Marah Morris (Indiana State). The team was 21-3 and a district runner-up a year ago.

"I think the (City League-North Division) should be much more competitive this year, and obviously Brookhaven is the defending champion," said Dean Washington, who is in his seventh season as Northland's coach. "There are no easy teams in our league."

The Vikings open the regular season and City-North schedule Dec. 7 at Columbus East, which finished third at 10-4 in the league behind Northland and Brookhaven (13-1) and ahead of Beechcroft and Mifflin (7-7), Centennial (4-10), Whetstone (2-12) and Linden (0-14).

Brookhaven coach Reggie Lee is in his 30th season and will try for his 500th career victory in his team's opener Dec. 2, which pits the Bearcats at Africentric in a rematch of the City championship game won by Brookhaven 46-41.

The Bearcats open the league schedule Dec. 7 at Centennial. The Bearcats advanced to the City final last season because Northland had won the league in 2009.

"(We) should be really focused this year," Lee said. "(We're) coming off being the returning City champions and we were probably a layup from getting to the regional, and we've got pretty much the same nucleus back."

Franklin averaged 11.3 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists and made second-team all-district, honorable mention all-state and the ThisWeek Super 12. Morris averaged 10.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and two steals and was honorable mention all-district. Holmes averaged 8.9 points and made a team-best 33 3-pointers while earning honorable mention all-district.

Also back for Brookhaven are junior guard Jasmine Johnson (7.1 ppg), junior post player Essence Bates-Hatcher (5.4 ppg) and 6-0 senior post player Chanae Ward, who did not play the last two seasons because of injuries. Others looking to contribute are senior Sharessa Sullivan, junior Charletta Henley, sophomores Myeisha Arnold, Renee Cheeks and Christina Tweedy and freshmen Marquita Brown and Arin White.

The Bearcats beat Olentangy Liberty 67-29, Hilliard Darby 46-32 and Olentangy Orange 44-26 at the district tournament before falling to Reynoldsburg 56-50 in a final. Jourdan Stanhope (5.7 ppg) was lost to graduation and senior Jessica Rivers (3.7 ppg) is not back with the team.

"Each of our seniors are taking over leadership roles and are starting to do things without being told," Lee said. "When you have that as a coach, you're confident."

Sophomore Alexis Peterson is a budding star for the Vikings after averaging 12.7 points and making honorable mention all-district. Tatiana Chapple is a 5-11 senior who signed a letter of intent to play for East Carolina on Nov. 16 after averaging 5.9 points and seven rebounds last season.

The other seniors are Ayanna Colvin (6.3 ppg) and Taren Mahone (5.6 ppg), and juniors Symone Denham (8.5 ppg), Brandie Curd Watson (4.2 ppg) and Kierra Simpson (4.9 ppg) also are key returnees. Simpson, who is 6-0, and sophomore Jasmine Weatherspoon, a 6-1 sophomore, give Northland a pair of strong players in the post along with Chapple and the 5-9 Denham. Both Denham and Peterson are getting extensive looks from Division I colleges.

Also on the team are juniors Alexis Bridges, Raven Bryant-Williams and Cortland Mullins.

Northland beat Central Crossing 64-33 and Newark 45-35 at the district level before falling to Gahanna 53-51 in a district semifinal. Tiffany Hudson, who was third-team all-district and Super 12 honorable mention, was one of four 2010 seniors.

"As a coach I think we can always play better," Washington said. "We've got to work together, play together and stay humble to build that team chemistry."

Beechcroft returns four of its top five scorers after going 12-9 last season.

Senior TaRonna Neal is a 5-10 post player who averaged 14.8 points and was third-team all-district in Division II. Senior Jasmine Smith also is back after averaging 12 points, and the other seniors are Jasmine Johnson (6 ppg), Ashlyn Shaw (5.3 ppg), Kandace Jemison, Natalee Banks, Sha'Niqua Price and Briana Stevens.

Freshmen Keela Bohanon and Tivia Hylton are newcomers looking to contribute.

The Cougars open Tuesday at Thomas Worthington and play their City-North opener Dec. 7 at Linden.

Last season, Beechcroft was the ninth seed for the Division II tournament but lost to 12th-seeded Canal Winchester 58-56 in a first-round game. The Cougars were district semifinalists in 2009.

The Cougars lost three seniors from last season, including Miyoshi McGee (8.4 ppg).

"All of the seniors have been in the program since they were freshmen, and the other good thing is that they've seen the other teams from our division and conference," said Mike Fleming, who enters his fifth season. "Hopefully that maturity and experience should help us turn that corner. We're hoping to get a few more City League wins and advance a little further in the tournament."

•CHAPPLE PICKS EAST CAROLINA - Chapple signed to play for East Carolina in a ceremony at the school a day after she was offered a scholarship by the Pirates.

East Carolina, which won two of its first three games, has a first-year coach in Heather Macy. The Pirates went 23-11 and lost in the second round of the WNIT last season.

"(Chapple's) everything that's right about kids in society," Washington said. "She's never had any discipline issues. It's not always about being the superstar. It's about work ethic, and plus she's 5-11."