With a pair of sophomores emerging to lead the way this winter, the Beechcroft boys basketball team was expecting to put together some of its best performances during the season's second half.
That's exactly what has occurred.
After beating Mifflin 69-55 on Jan. 24 in a rematch of a game the Cougars lost 54-52 on Dec. 17, Beechcroft lost to Sylvania Southview 60-42 on Jan. 25 but was 10-5 overall and 8-2 in the City League-North Division before playing International on Jan. 28.
The Cougars had won four games in a row before losing to Southview.
"By being a young team, there's a lot of growth," coach Humphrey Simmons said. "We have to focus on finishing plays and finishing games. The (first) Mifflin game, we started off with the lead and had a bad fourth quarter. (Since that loss) I see where they've grown in all the little things."
Sophomore guard J.J. Simmons averaged 13 points as a freshman and has emerged as one of the area's top players in his class, averaging 19 points before Jan. 28.
Sophomore Amani Lyles also was averaging 19 points before Jan. 28 during what has been his first season as a key player.
They've been complemented by senior guard Davon Wooden, who was second-team all-league last season along with Simmons and was averaging 12 points before Jan. 28.
Beechcroft has three remaining league games, including Friday, Jan. 31, when it plays host to Whetstone and Tuesday, Feb. 4, when it visits Linden-McKinley. The Cougars beat the Braves 113-64 on Jan. 7 but lost to the Panthers 68-66 on Jan. 10.
Entering action Jan. 28, Beechcroft was tied for first in the City-North with Northland and Linden, followed by Mifflin at 6-4 and Centennial at 5-5.
"(The City-North) is kind of like a five-team race," coach Simmons said. "Northland had their run after Brookhaven had their run. It's been a long time since it's been this wide open."
Vikings wrestlers feeling optimistic
One of the Northland wrestling team's goals heading into this season was to again battle for the City championship after earning a runner-up finish last winter.
With a little more than three weeks of preparation remaining before the City tournament on Feb. 22, things appear to be on schedule for the Vikings.
"I believe if these young men wrestle the way they're capable, that we have a great opportunity to finish the season strong," coach Joe Murray said. "We should come into the City tournament with a full roster, which is huge."
On Jan. 14 in the 14-team Pickerington North Invitational, Northland placed eighth (107 points) behind champion Westerville Central (216).
Senior Carlos Galdamez (170 pounds) was runner-up to lead the Vikings, while sophomore Abdirahman Moualem (106) finished third, senior Jamal Mohamud (126) and sophomore Jhalil Taylor (113) both placed fourth and junior Mandione Ngaya (182) placed fifth.
Senior Ahmed Saleh (145) and sophomore Corey Craddolph (220) also have had solid seasons, according to Murray.
"The season has gone pretty well so far," Murray said. "We were able to unveil a new wrestling mat Jan. 15 in front of a nice home crowd. I feel the new guys are really shaping up down the stretch."
Scots boys team on track in City-South
The Walnut Ridge boys basketball team beat Briggs 71-60 on Jan. 24 and was 13-3 overall and 10-0 in the City-South before playing Marion-Franklin on Jan. 28.
The Scots had won eight games in a row before falling to Pickerington Central 63-56 on Jan. 25 in the Play by Play Classic at Ohio Dominican.
Walnut Ridge, which beat Africentric 65-54 on Jan. 17 and Eastmoor Academy 81-57 on Jan. 21, earned a season sweep of Briggs after also beating the Bruins 65-49 on Dec. 17.
Senior forward Kaveon Ross had 29 points in a 92-62 victory over Independence on Jan. 14 and scored 29 against Africentric and 27 in an 87-55 victory over Cincinnati Woodward on Jan. 18 to complement senior VonCameron Davis, who has been one of the area's leading scorers all season.
South was second in the City-South at 9-1 before facing Briggs on Jan. 28 and the Bruins were 7-3 in the league before facing South.
Walnut Ridge visits South on Friday, Jan. 31, and has other league games Tuesday, Feb. 4, at West and Feb. 7 at home against Independence.
The Scots last reached the City title game in 2016.
"We're one of the toughest teams in the state and our size makes it difficult to guard us," Scots coach Chuck Jefferson said. "We're a very versatile team and can match up with any team in the state."