It's been so long since the Columbus South High School boys basketball team played for the City League championship that its current coach was one of its standouts as a senior when it lost to a program that no longer exists.
Bulldogs coach Ramon Spears knows what his team will be facing when it plays Northland for the league title at noon, Saturday, Feb. 18, at Africentric. The Vikings have won nine of the past 10 league championships.
South's last appearance in the City final came in 1988, when it lost to Brookhaven 82-72.
"It's going to be a battle of us not being there in 30 years and our young players trying to make a name for ourselves versus a program that knows how to win," Spears said. "It's really important because this was one of our goals, to compete for the (City-South) Division (title) and play for the City championship."
South had its hopes of a perfect regular season dashed with a 50-48 loss Feb. 7 at home to Eastmoor Academy, but going undefeated wasn't one of the goals the team talked about, according to Spears.
Although the Bulldogs and Warriors tied for first at 13-1 in the City-South, South will represent the division in the City final because Eastmoor has competed in the game more recently.
South closed City-South play Feb. 10 with a 93-42 victory over West and is 20-1 overall.
Northland lost to Springfield 75-56 on Feb. 11 but is 18-3 overall and finished 14-0 in the City-North.
The Vikings defeated Walnut Ridge in the City final each of the past two seasons.
"I'm proud to see that we're still climbing," Northland coach Sean Taylor said. "To be undefeated in the (City-North) is a big deal. We've played some pretty good basketball. I like our energy and our intensity and our defense. We really don't have one guy pouting about not getting a shot."
Both teams have used balanced offensive attacks to find success this season.
Junior guard Jejuan Weatherspoon is averaging 14 points to lead Northland, while senior center Quentin Jones and senior guard Brandon Waugh are averaging 12.2 and 10.4 points, respectively.
South's top offensive threat has been sophomore guard Treohn Watkins, who is averaging 14.0 points. His older brother, Tamal, helped the Bulldogs win a Division II district title two seasons ago and finish as a district runner-up last season and is now playing for Shawnee State University.
Senior wing player/guard Bruelle Thompson and junior guard Naiquan Galloway lead a South defense that Spears believes has been the strength of the team.
Thompson and senior wing player Dez Robinson both are averaging 9.5 points.
"Jejuan Weatherspoon is going to be a handful," Spears said. "They've got coach Taylor and program pride. It's going to be their tradition against our defensive-minded approach. On any given night anybody can score on our team."
City girls title
The Africentric girls basketball team enters the Division III district tournament as the No. 1 seed and coming off a convincing performance in the City championship game.
After beating Northland 74-41 on Feb. 11 at South for the City title, the Nubians are 19-3 heading into their postseason opener against 23rd-seeded Columbus Academy at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at home. The winner plays host to 24th-seeded Madison Plains in the second round Feb. 23.
Africentric, which won its ninth City title in the last 12 seasons, including its second in a row, won its fourth state title in program history last season but isn't taking another tournament run for granted.
"We've got to get back in the gym and stay hungry," sophomore guard Jordan Horston said. "I'd say we're pretty ready for the tournament, but we just have to stay focused. We know what we need to do. We're experienced. We've got five seniors, so I think we're actually a little hungrier."
One of those seniors, 5-foot-11 guard De'jae Denham, is expected to be out for the remainder of the season because of an injury that occurred in late January.
Freshman guards Alexia Smith and Nyam Thornton are among those who are taking on bigger roles because of the loss of Denham. Thornton had six points, five rebounds and two steals off the bench against Northland.
Horston had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Nubians in the City final.
"(Thornton and Smith) are big parts of what we do," Nubians coach Will McKinney said. "For us to win (the state title) and get over the hump, they're going to have to play well."
Northland, which dropped to 18-4 with the loss to Africentric, is seeded ninth of 47 teams in the Division I district tournament and opens the postseason Saturday, Feb. 18, at home against 35th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne.
The Northland-Kilbourne winner plays at fifth-seeded Watterson in the second round Tuesday, Feb. 21, with that winner facing seventh-seeded Westerville North, 38th-seeded Walnut Ridge or 40th-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal March 1 at a site to be determined.
Senior Taylor Pearson had 23 points and 12 points against the Nubians.
"This game doesn't define them," Vikings coach Bill Spencer said. "We'll have to work on what didn't work going into the district tournament. (Pearson) had an excellent game, but somebody else is going to have to get on board with her because I think we only had (three) other players score. Once the tournament starts, it's anybody's game."
City bowling final
set for Feb. 21
The City championship matches in boys and girls bowling will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at HP Lanes.
Beechcroft, which is 16-0 overall and won the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division title at 15-0, is expected to face Briggs for the title. The Bruins were 12-4 overall before facing Big Walnut on Feb. 14 and Westerville Central on Feb. 15 and finished 11-4 in the COHSBC-South.
Beechcroft is led by senior Erick Redder and junior Derek May, who averaged 220.9 and 208.7, respectively, in COHSBC action. Briggs' top players are freshman James Pappas (212.5) and senior Javon Gentry (197.8).
The girls City final will pit Briggs against Whetstone. The Braves are 16-1 overall and won the COHSBC-Central at 13-0, while the Bruins were 13-1 overall before facing Westerville Central on Feb. 15 and finished 13-1 in the COHSBC-South.
Briggs had four bowlers in the top 10 in the COHSBC in average in freshman Dakota Fink (204.4) and seniors Renee Chalfant (195.6), Bailee Smith (195.0) and Brittany Hitch (188.1).
Junior Abbi Swank (186.6) leads Whetstone.
City wrestlers prep
for league tourney
The Walnut Ridge wrestling team will attempt to win its third consecutive City championship Saturday, Feb. 18, at Linden-McKinley.
The Scots, who won their third City dual title in a row Feb. 2, have two competitors who were ranked first in their respective weight classes in the City coaches poll in seniors Duane Greer (138 pounds) and Michael Ayers (182).
Whetstone had four wrestlers ranked first in that poll in seniors Justin Rodriguez (120), Adreon Barrett (132) and Lawrence Dean (170) and junior Ibrahim Sesay (160).
Ranked first for Mifflin were senior Delonte Myers (145) and juniors Douglas Patterson (106) and Namar Tucker (152).
The other top-ranked wrestlers were Marion-Franklin senior Donovan Brefford (126) and sophomore Jalin Goodman (113), West senior Eryn Fleurival (heavyweight) and junior Phillip Thompson (195) and Centennial senior Darius Echols (220).