The Africentric Early College and Eastmoor Academy girls basketball teams have proven time and again this winter that they aren't afraid of a challenge.
The Division III Nubians and Division II Warriors both will test their mettle Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Nubian Classic against Division I teams that figure to be in the mix for district championships later this season.
The six-game Nubian Classic begins at 10 a.m. and concludes with Eastmoor playing Dublin Coffman at 6 p.m. and host Africentric facing Westerville South at 8 p.m.
Last season, Coffman was a district runner-up and Westerville South was a regional runner-up, and both teams have multiple college-caliber athletes on their respective rosters.
"There have been some great tests this year," Nubians coach Will McKin-ney said. "This team is built like a college team with our length and size. We're just very big."
Africentric was 14-0 overall and 9-0 in the City League-South Division after beating Marion-Franklin 64-6 on Jan. 18 and before facing Independence on Jan. 22. The Nubians' game against Long Island (New York) Lutheran on Jan. 19 in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland was canceled because of bad weather.
Senior guard and Tennessee-signee Jordan Horston returned to the Nubians' lineup Jan. 11 against Columbus South after missing two games with an injury and scored 30 points in their 87-35 victory.
Westerville South was 10-2 after beating Olentangy 50-43 on Jan. 18 and before playing Reynoldsburg on Jan. 22. Senior guards Sommer Pitzer and Peyton Guice have signed with Indiana State and Ohio University, respectively, and junior guard Anyssa Jones and junior forward Gabby Hutcherson both have committed to Ohio State.
"I feel like we're playing strong, playing together as a team and we've all been working hard in practice," Horston said. "We just have one goal, and that's to go undefeated and make it back-to-back at state. We've really been grinding hard in practice."
Eastmoor was 13-3 overall and 8-1 in the City-South after beating Independence 64-47 on Jan. 18 and before playing Briggs on Jan. 22.
The Warriors, though, believe they are a much-improved unit compared to a year ago when they went 16-7 but lost to Coffman 79-45.
Shamrocks senior guard Jacy Sheldon, an Ohio State-signee who had 2,018 career points before a game against Olentangy Orange on Jan. 22, scored a career-high 40 points in the matchup with Eastmoor last season.
In addition, Coffman guard Imarianah Russell is one of central Ohio's top freshmen.
The Shamrocks were 13-1 before facing Orange.
Eastmoor senior forward Mchale Grant recently scored the 1,000th career point and senior guard/forward Hailey Jordan is closing in on the career milestone as well, according to Warriors coach Charity Martin-King.
Seniors Samaria Rodgers-Gossett (point guard), Teresa Craig (guard) and Kahlani Pack (forward) also have been among the key players for the Warriors.
"We have a good team," Grant said. "We have a team full of seniors. We click well. The first time I played (against Sheldon) my (basketball) IQ wasn't there, so now that I'm a senior I'm excited. It should be a pretty good matchup."
The Nubian Classic will open with Mifflin against Whitehall at 10 a.m., followed by Walnut Ridge against Springfield at noon, Pickerington North against Hartley at 2 p.m. and Northland against Canal Winchester at 4 p.m.
Northland is the favorite to win the City-North and was 11-5 overall and 10-0 in the league after beating International 82-8 on Jan. 18 and before playing Linden-McKinley on Jan. 22.
Canal Winchester was 7-8 after losing to Big Walnut 48-47 on Jan. 18 and before playing Westland on Jan. 22. The Indians beat Eastmoor 37-35 on Jan. 14.
Walnut Ridge was 7-7 overall and 4-5 in the City-South after losing to Columbus South 40-39 on Jan. 18 and before playing West on Jan. 22. The Scots will match up against former East and Brookhaven coach Darris Gattis, who is in his fourth season at Springfield.
Vikings, Cougars boys set for key matchup
The Northland boys basketball team will play host to Beechcroft on Tuesday, Jan. 29, in a game that should go a long way toward sorting out the City-North title race.
The Vikings were 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the league after losing to Centennial 69-63 on Jan. 15, beating International 94-64 on Jan. 18 and before playing Linden on Jan. 22. Northland continues league action Friday, Jan. 25, at Whetstone, and meets Thomas Worthington at noon Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Jared Sullinger Play by Play Classic at Pickerington Central.
Beechcroft was 10-3 overall and 7-1 in the league after beating Mifflin 66-55 on Jan. 15 and Centennial 68-47 on Jan. 18 and before playing Whetstone on Jan. 22. The Cougars continue league play Jan. 25 at Linden.
On Dec. 21, Beechcroft beat Northland 67-62 as J.J. Simmons made seven 3-pointers and finished with 25 points and Na'Elle Simmons added eight points and 13 rebounds.
N'Keeley Elmore had 16 points and Makhale Massey and Devan White each scored 13 for Northland.
Cougars, Vikings bowlers looking solid
The Beechroft boys bowling team is among the teams battling for supremacy in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division and the Northland boys are among the better teams in the COHSBC-C Division.
The Northland girls bowlers also are having a strong season.
After beating Independence 2,160-1,748 on Jan. 17 and before competing against Hartley on Jan. 22, the Beechcroft boys were 6-1 overall and in the league. Senior Reece Collins, who rolled a 300 in a match against Linden on Dec. 11 and has committed to Rio Grande, has been the Cougars' leader in average.
"(Collins has been) consistent, and a lot of it is that mental state inside," coach Joe Begeny said. "You've got to have everything go right (to roll a 300)."
Junior Aaron Holley has been leading the Northland boys team, which was 6-2 overall and in the league after beating Haugland Learning Center 1,765-1,267 on Jan. 17 and before competing against West on Jan. 22.
The Northland girls are 4-2 overall and in the COHSBC-C and the Beechcroft girls were 2-4 overall and in the COHSBC-D after losing to Independence 1,413-1,003 on Jan. 17 and before a match against Hartley on Jan. 22.
Junior Tara Odari has been the Northland girls' top bowler and sophomore Ciarra Reeder leads the Beechcroft girls.