The Northland and Beechcroft boys basketball team's split their two regular-season meetings last season and both ended up with 12-2 records in the City League-North Division.
The Vikings held the tiebreaker to determine which team would compete in the City championship game because the Cougars had represented the North Division the previous year.
Things could end up being just as tight this season.
Both teams return players who received league honors during a season in which South beat Northland 68-51 for its second City title in three seasons.
In 2018, the Cougars beat Eastmoor Academy for the league championship.
"Centennial, Linden(-McKinley) and Northland all have some good pieces back and can make some noise in the North," Beechcroft coach Humphrey Simmons said.
Northland's top returnee is 6-foot-2 junior guard Makhale Massey, a first-team all-league honoree who averaged 14 points and five rebounds last season. The Vikings were seeded 19th in the Division I district tournament and lost to 16th-seeded Olentangy 78-47 in a second-round game to finish 15-7 overall.
Senior DeVan White, a 5-11 point guard, and 5-10 sophomore guard Robert Dorsey III also have returned for the Vikings after making honorable mention all-league.
Northland opened Nov. 30 with a 77-76 loss to Whitehall in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Gahanna and continues non-league action Saturday, Dec. 7, at home against Mansfield Senior before opening league action Tuesday, Dec. 10, at International.
Seniors Eldon Boateng (6-2, forward) and Isaiah Ingle (6-8, center), juniors Stephen Reavish (6-1, guard) and Lee Sims (5-6, guard) and freshman Davion Bridges (5-8, guard) also should contribute.
The Vikings' biggest loss from last season was 2019 graduate N'Keeley Elmore, who averaged 21 points and was second-team all-district and first-team all-league.
"I hope to do very well," Northland coach Sean Taylor said. "I think we can compete for the City-North (title) and possibly put some scares into some teams in the district."
Beechcroft's top returnees are 5-10 sophomore guard J.J. Simmons and 6-0 senior guard Davon Wooden, both of whom were second-team all-league last season.
Simmons, who also was third-team all-district, averaged 13 points and Wooden averaged 11 for the Cougars, who lost to seventh-seeded Watterson 41-32 in a Division II district semifinal as the sixth seed to finish 19-5 overall.
Other seniors include Travaughn McConnell (6-5, forward) and DeShannon Butler (6-0, guard).
Sophomore Javo Jordan (5-10, guard) is another returnee, while junior Jaylen Hudson (5-8, guard) and sophomores Amani Lyles (6-6, wing player), Antwoin Reed (6-4, forward) also should contribute.
The Cougars opened Nov. 30 with a 71-53 loss to host Gahanna in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase and played West on Dec. 4. They will play host to Marion-Franklin on Friday, Dec. 6, before beginning City-North action Dec. 10 at Centennial.
"We're very young and don't have a lot of experience, so we're taking the approach one game at a time and hopefully we can finish in the top two or three in our league and have a good record going into tournament time," coach Simmons said.
Bulldogs, Scots to lead City-South
Over the past nine seasons, the Walnut Ridge boys basketball team has represented the City-South in the league championship game five times and South has reached the title contest twice, in 2017 and last season.
The Scots and Bulldogs again should contend for the City-South title considering the talent that they return.
Walnut Ridge might have the area's best player in 6-5 senior forward VonCameron Davis, a Kent State commit who entered the season with 1,473 career points. He averaged 27.3 points and 12 rebounds last season as the Scots went 19-5 overall and 11-3 in the City-South to place second behind the Bulldogs (13-1).
The Scots opened Nov. 30 with a 55-47 loss to Toledo Rogers in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Pickerington North and begin league action Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Africentric.
"We're definitely looking to pick up where we left off last season," said second-year Scots coach Chuck Jefferson, whose team was the 12th seed for the Division I district tournament and lost to ninth-seeded Newark 62-55 in a district semifinal. "We left a lot on the table in how we finished the season, but this year one of our focuses is that we wanted to increase our depth and add more athletes."
Seniors Kaveon Ross (6-6, forward) and Qian Magwood (6-2, guard) and junior Daaron Brown (6-1, guard) are other key returnees.
Also looking to contribute are seniors Tahj Fuller (6-2, guard), Jerrell Harrison (6-2, guard/wing player), Marshawn Mankins (6-3, wing player) and Antonio Tucker (6-2, guard/wing player) and juniors Eric Bagley (6-1, guard), Leon Douglas (6-3, wing player) and Myles Garrett (6-3, wing player).
South has moved up to Division I after losing to Trotwood-Madison 77-73 in the Division II state final last season to finish 28-2 overall. It was the Bulldogs' first state appearance since 1986.
Many of South's top players from last season, including seniors Trevell Adams (6-0, guard), Sam Barton (6-4, post player), Marcus Johnson (6-4, wing player) and Ta'Quan Simington (6-2, guard), have returned.
"They're coming together," said Bulldogs coach Ramon Spears, whose team opened Nov. 30 with a 78-74 win over Akron Buchtel in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Pickerington North and begins league action Dec. 10 at Eastmoor. "We're switched to Division I, so it's a mental thing for them. It was difficult to deal with at first."
Johnson averaged 11 points and was first-team all-league a year ago, while Simington was second-team all-league and Adams made honorable mention.
Others looking to contribute include seniors Jalawnte Dean (6-0, guard), Tyrique Hawkins (6-6, wing player), Shaiheem Pickens (5-10, guard) and Chaz Thomas (6-1, guard) and juniors Maurice Barnes (5-10, guard) and Marquis Hawthorne (6-5, post player).
Dean is a transfer from Walnut Ridge and Pickens is a transfer from Akron East.
Nubians poised to take step up
The Africentric boys basketball team opened Nov. 30 with a 66-63 loss to Reynoldsburg in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Pickerington North.
After going 13-11 overall and having their season end in a Division III district semifinal, the Nubians believe they're ready to take a step up. Senior Calijha'won Davis, a 6-2 guard who was first-team all-league and averaged 17.5 points last season; 6-0 junior guard Eli Burke, who was honorable mention all-league and averaged 10 points; and 5-11 sophomore guard Dan Wagner are the top returnees.
Junior Earnest Johnson (6-6, forward) and freshman Dailyn Swain (6-4, guard) also enter the season as starters, while sophomore Josiah Smith (6-3, forward) and freshman Dyson Bibins (6-1, forward) are others who should contribute.
"Although I have some senior leadership, I've still got a pretty young team and I'm excited about that," coach Michael Bates said.