South High School boys basketball coach Ramon Spears won't have to look so far into his team's past the next time it needs a little inspiration.
Entering their Division I district tournament opener Monday, Feb. 27, at home against 25th-seeded Horizon Science Academy, the top-seeded Bulldogs are coming off their first City League championship since 1980.
Although South won its first district title since 1986 two years ago, the players also were up to speed on the Bulldogs' 82-72 loss to Brookhaven in the 1988 City title game when Spears was a senior at South.
That was the last time the Bulldogs had reached the City championship game prior to their 65-51 win over Northland on Feb. 18 at Africentric.
"(On Feb. 17) we watched the 1988 championship game because it was on TV that year," Spears said. "I let them listen to the announcers and how we played together during that game. Brookhaven was tall and big like Northland and we were short and fast like this team is. My main thing was about encouragement. I'm so proud for the team and the community. I wish I could shake every alumni's hand."
South's only loss during a 21-1 regular season came Feb. 7 when it fell to Eastmoor Academy 50-48. The Bulldogs and Warriors shared the City League-South Division championship, as both finished 13-1 in league play. South won the tiebreaker to go to the City final because Eastmoor had played in the game more recently.
The winner of the first-round district tournament game will play 24th-seeded Caledonia River Valley in the second round March 2 at the home of the higher seed, with that winner facing ninth-seeded Jonathan Alder, 12th-seeded Watterson or 16th-seeded Bexley in a district semifinal March 7 at a neutral site to be announced.
If South reaches a district final March 10, it likely would face second-seeded DeSales or third-seeded Eastmoor.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs can savor a win over Northland in which sophomore guard Treohn Watkins scored 15 points and freshman forward Marcus Johnson came off the bench to score 14.
Four seniors also have stepped up this season for South in Lamont Broomfield (forward), Max Jackson (guard), Dez Robinson (wing player) and Bruelle Thompson (wing player/guard) after the Bulldogs lost five key players to graduation.
"I'm just happy," Watkins said after winning the City title. "We didn't come in expecting that we were going to lose, but we didn't come into this year thinking that we were going to make it this far. It's big for our community and our school."
Northland boys look
to bounce back
The Northland boys basketball team, which had won nine of the previous 10 City titles, will look to rebound from the loss to South when it opens the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 25, at home against 36th-seeded Marion Harding.
The Vikings are seeded fifth of 47 teams.
The winner plays host to 37th-seeded Westerville Central on March 3 in a second-round game. That winner likely would face fourth-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal March 8.
Northland, which beat UA 47-44 on Jan. 7 in "The Challenge" at Africentric and is 18-4, could be without junior forward Jejuan Weatherspoon at the start of the postseason. Weatherspoon left the City championship game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Scots defend City
The Walnut Ridge wrestling team added a third consecutive City League tournament championship Feb. 18 at Linden-McKinley to the City dual-match title that it won earlier this month.
Led by their three champions, two runners-up and three third-place finishers, the Scots scored 202.5 points to capture the title, ahead of Whetstone (191), West (189), Mifflin (149), South (98.5), Marion-Franklin (98), Northland (87), Linden (86), Centennial (53), Beechcroft (50.5), East (45) and Independence (40).
Walnut Ridge defeated Mifflin 45-33 in the final of the City dual tournament Feb. 2.
"We were kind of young coming into the season, but everybody got better since the beginning of the year so that's been good," said senior Duane Greer, who won the 138-pound title in the City tournament after winning a title at 132 last season and placing fourth at 120 as a freshman. "I was City champion last year, so I came in expecting to win."
Also capturing titles for the Scots were seniors Matias Fuller (195) and Michael Ayers (182). Fuller beat West's Phillip Thompson 9-4 to give Walnut Ridge a key win late in the tournament.
Ayers, who hasn't wrestled most of the season and will play football for Ashland, won all four of his matches by pin.
Winning titles for Whetstone were seniors Justin Rodriguez (120), Adreon Barrett (132), Ibrahim Sesay (160) and Lawrence Dean (170).
Winning titles for West were junior Dawson Shaw (heavyweight) and seniors Austin Sable (220) and Amadi Bakari (106).
Cowboys coach Felix Catheline was expecting his team to contend for the title after finishing fourth in the City duals tournament.
"Our team is made up of seven who have wrestled before and six that are new, so I knew our younger guys would do better because they'd be able to wrestle-back if they lost," Catheline said. "My 182-pounder, (sophomore Hector Barron), really stepped up. He had a sub-.500 record coming in and wasn't even seeded."
Mifflin junior Doug Patterson, who was a district qualifier last season at 106 and likely will wrestle at that weight in the coming postseason, won both of his matches at 113 to capture that title and improve to 33-3 on the season.
Also winning titles for the Punchers were senior Delonte Myers (145) and junior Namar Tucker (152).
South's Miles Davis (126) also earned a title.
Northland had a City runner-up in senior Devon Carter (132) as well as a pair of third-place finishers in freshman Jamal Mohamud (106) and senior Jose Mata (120).
Beechcroft, which is fielding a team for the first time since the 2011-12 season, had a fourth-place finisher in sophomore Farwell Mansaray (220) as well as a pair of fifth-place finishers in senior Aarin Smoot-Baker (heavyweight) and sophomore Martell Radcliff (126).
Eastmoor diver takes
fourth at district
After diving recreationally for several years, Legend Hunt began competing for Eastmoor Academy last season as a junior.
In the Division II district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio State, the senior came up just short of a state berth in boys diving.
Hunt scored 319.65 points to finish fourth of eight competitors, behind Wellington's Eric Jacques (362.45), Centennial's Daniel Edgington (344.1) and Whetstone's Trevor Karnehm (327.0) as the top three finishers advanced to state Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"It's been fun," said Hunt, who finished fifth at district last year. "It's a long season."
Coach Joe Crowley was proud of Hunt's performances throughout the season.
"It's self-motivation," Crowley said of diving. "He saw everything he needed to do. He did very well."