The heaviness of more than three decades of failures seemed to be weighing on the Beechcroft High School boys basketball team during the early moments of the City League championship game Feb. 17 at Africentric.
After rallying from a slow start to defeat Eastmoor Academy 71-66, the Cougars spent a few minutes cutting down the net and snapping selfies in the locker room to celebrate their first league title since 1983.
The next goal is living up to being the No. 1 seed in the Division II district tournament for the first time since 2006.
"I'm happy it's over with all the pressure that was on us," senior guard Jelani Simmons said. "We've still got states, though."
Beechcroft opens the postseason Monday, Feb. 26, at home against 21st-seeded Utica, with the winner playing host to 22nd-seeded Marion-Franklin in the second round March 3.
The Cougars tied the program-record for victories in a season with the win over Eastmoor and were 20-1 before closing the regular season Feb. 20 against DeSales.
In the City final, Teon Jennings scored 17 of his team-high 24 points during the second quarter as Beechcroft overcame a 19-7 deficit to lead 37-29 at halftime.
"It's a dream come true," Cougars coach Humphrey Simmons said. "We did it and I'm very happy. Ever since the seniors were freshmen, they've grinded. We've been tested all throughout the year. We just had to get ourselves together and we settled down."
Eastmoor, which dropped to 17-5, could get another shot at the Cougars if both reach the state championship game.
Taevion Kinsey had 18 points, Tim Smith scored 16 and Randy Olverson and Tariq Brown both scored 14 for Eastmoor, which made just 15 of 33 free-throw attempts against the Cougars.
"It's going to be hard to win when you shoot (45 percent) from the foul line against that type of team," Warriors coach Jim Miranda said. "If we'd made some more of those shots, it could have changed the complexion of the game."
Eastmoor is the district's No. 2 seed and opens the postseason Feb. 26 at home against 18th-seeded London, with the winner playing host to 19th-seeded Lakewood in the second round March 3.
"(Beechcroft) got the better of us (in the City final), but hopefully we'll get a chance to play them again," Miranda said.
Punchers capture City wrestling title
With four champions, the Mifflin wrestling team scored 186.5 points to win the City League tournament Feb. 17 at home.
Doug Patterson (113 pounds), Mountaga Sy (145), Namar Tucker (152) and Eric Shaw (170) captured titles for the Punchers, who scored 186.5 points to place ahead of East (174), West (162), Whetstone (141.5), Walnut Ridge (136), South (98), Linden-McKinley (76), Marion-Franklin (60), Northland (31), Centennial (25), Beechcroft (24) and Independence (6).
Also for Mifflin, placing third were Karon Mitchell (120) and Psung Tamang (220) and finishing fourth were Dewon Ellison (126), Ajoure Long-Lawrence (132) and Righteous Freshman (195).
It's the first City title since 2013 for the Punchers, who open the postseason in a Division II sectional Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, at Licking Valley. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Uhrichsville Claymont.
"We can't complain," coach Caska Thompson said. "We feel good and we feel like we're ready to get some kids to district."
West's Matthew Shaw (220) was named the City tournament's Most Valuable wrestler after earning three pins. His brother, Dawson Shaw, had the fastest pin (15 seconds) and won the title at heavyweight.
Also winning titles for the Cowboys were Lifnny Maroquin (132), Malakye Toles (182) and Phillip Thompson (195).
Other City champions were East's Ammaar Salaam (106) and Hudhayfah Abdul-Salaam (126), Marion-Franklin's Jalin Goodman (120) and Whetstone's Darric McClinton (138) and Ibrahim Sesay (160).
East also got runner-up finishes from Johnny Douglas (160), Deondre White (182) and Mamadi Condi (195), while the Tigers' Michael Porter (132), Daejon Hicks (145) and Lorenzo Crawford (170) all finished third.
East, which also will be competing in the Division II sectional at Licking Valley, advanced to the semifinal of the City dual tournament Feb. 1 but elected to withdraw from the event because of health issues to some of its competitors.
"My 106-pounder, my 126-pounder and my 195-pounder are probably my top guys," third-year East coach Rocky Carreker said. "We've been growing each season. They hadn't had a program for four or five years and it got to the point where East wasn't talked about, but now East is a worry for people."
City girls teams begin postseason
The postseason began Feb. 17 for some City League girls basketball programs.
Sixth-seeded Northland beat 42nd-seeded Walnut Ridge 80-34 to open the Division I district tournament and will play host to 18th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the second round Friday, Feb. 23.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Upper Arlington or 31st-seeded Westerville North in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 28, at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 3 at Ohio Dominican University.
Also in Division I, 10th-seeded Eastmoor begins its postseason Feb. 23 at home against 12th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in a second-round game. The winner plays 11th-seeded Westerville Central, 15th-seeded New Albany or 23rd-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 3 at Ohio Dominican.
In Division II, 10th-seeded Beechcroft begins the district tournament Feb. 23 at sixth-seeded Buckeye Valley or at home against 17th-seeded Horizon Science in a second-round game.
The winner plays fourth-seeded Granville or eighth-seeded Columbus South in a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 2 at Westerville Central.
Top-seeded Africentric opened the Division III district tournament Feb. 20 at home against 23rd-seeded Columbus School for Girls.
The winner plays host to 24th-seeded Madison Plains in the second round Saturday, Feb. 24, with that winner playing 16th-seeded Mount Gilead, 17th-seeded Johnstown or 18th-seeded Columbus Academy in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at a neutral site to be announced.
The district final is March 2 at Ohio Dominican.