The Beechcroft boys basketball team was kicking itself after a trio of close league losses kept it from advancing to the City League championship game for the second year in a row.
On March 7, the sixth-seeded Cougars helped ease some of that disappointment by edging 11th-seeded Eastmoor Academy 39-36 in a Division II district final at Central Crossing.
It marked the second district title in three seasons for Beechcroft, which plays Kettering Alter in a regional semifinal Thursday, March 12, at the University of Dayton.
"We've been in positions where we had to close games out and we blew it," coach Humphrey Simmons said. "Those situations helped us through this whole tournament run. They just kept their poise and being patient."
Beechcroft is 18-6 entering the game with Alter, which improved to 21-5 with a 77-66 win over Cincinnati Wyoming in a district final March 6 at the University of Cincinnati.
The Beechcroft-Alter winner will play Trotwood-Madison or Dayton Thurgood Marshall in a regional final Saturday, March 14, at Dayton. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 19 at Ohio State.
Sophomore Amani Lyles had 12 points and sophomore J.J. Simmons and senior Davon Wooden both scored 10 against Eastmoor.
The Cougars avenged a pair of regular-season losses to beat fifth-seeded Linden-McKinley 56-51 in a district semifinal March 4 at Westland.
"We just stayed calm and collected," Lyles said. "It means a lot. We're a young team and we just put a lot of hard work in to get here."
Led by seniors Julian Binford, Da'lan Keaton and Daylen Patterson, Eastmoor put together a tournament run that included wins over fourth-seeded Buckeye Valley (64-59 on Feb. 29) and eighth-seeded London (51-41 on March 4 at Dublin Jerome) to finish as a district runner-up.
The Warriors, who finished 14-11, will build around junior guard Deon Thorpe, junior post player Gabriel Oduro and sophomore post player Davis Asoro next season.
"We started playing well after our last (regular-season) game," coach Jim Miranda said. "The kids started to respond. I've got a good nucleus of two good bigs that are going to come back and a whole bunch of guards, so I feel good that they got that postseason experience."
Africentric girls again make state
The Africentric girls basketball team is preparing for a stacked Division III state tournament field.
The two-time defending state champion Nubians will make their 11th state appearance when they face Anna in a semifinal Friday, March 13, at St. John Arena. They lost to Anna in the 2013 state championship game.
Ranked second in the final state poll, Africentric has won four state titles since that time and heads into state at 23-4 after beating Castalia Margaretta 69-33 in a regional semifinal March 4 and Ottawa-Glandorf 38-34 in a regional final March 7 at Lexington.
The Africentric-Anna winner will face top-ranked Berlin Hiland or fourth-ranked Elyria Catholic in the state final Saturday, March 14, at St. John Arena.
Against Ottawa-Glandorf, Africentric built a 23-15 halftime lead and held on to win its fifth consecutive regional title.
Senior post player Sakima Walker led the Nubians with 21 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and five steals against Margaretta and senior guard Alexia Smith had a team-high 14 points against Ottawa-Glandorf.
Fink leads City bowlers at state
Briggs senior Dakota Fink closed her prep career with a sixth-place finish (616 three-game series) to earn second-team all-state honors at the Division I state girls bowling tournament March 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Fink won the state title as a freshman and placed fourth at state last season.
"Truly, it means a lot," Fink said. "It's (a good) way to finish off the season."
Also in the Division I state girls tournament, Walnut Ridge senior Raya Dye placed 53rd (492) to cap the only season she competed at the prep level.
"It was overall a great experience," Dye said.
In the Division I boys state tournament March 6 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Briggs senior James Pappas finished 57th (548).
Pappas tied for third at state last season.
"My sophomore year, we didn't have a team," Pappas said. "(My teammates) really fell in love with the game once they actually saw they could bowl and learn."
Scots earn district boys basketball title
With a 52-47 victory over top-seeded Gahanna on March 7 in a Division I district final at Ohio Dominican, the Walnut Ridge boys basketball team advanced to regional for the first time since 2015 when it was in Division II.
The sixth-seeded Scots also avenged a 53-50 loss to the Lions on Dec. 21.
"There wasn't a lot of motivation that was needed because they were heartbroken back in December and I knew we'd get another opportunity," coach Chuck Jefferson said.
Walnut Ridge, which edged 17th-seeded Reynoldsburg 59-57 on March 4 in a district semifinal at Pickerington North, played Hilliard Bradley in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio Dominican. The winner plays Thomas Worthington or Westerville Central in a regional final Saturday, March 14, at ODU, with the regional champion advancing to a state semifinal March 20 at Ohio State.
The Scots, who improved to 22-4 with the win over Gahanna, beat Bradley 45-44 on Jan. 4 in The Challenge at Pickerington North.
In the rematch against Gahanna, VonCameron Davis had 15 points and Kaveon Ross scored 10.
"We worked hard and we believed in each other," Ross said. "(Gahanna's) a great team and we had to come together at the end."
Also in Division I, third-seeded South lost to 13th-seeded Westerville Central 65-62 in a district semifinal March 4 to finish 23-2.
In Division III, fifth-seeded Africentric lost to third-seeded North Union 51-44 in a district semifinal March 3 to finish 13-11.
Salaam makes state wrestling tourney
The City League will be represented at the state wrestling tournament that runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State by East senior Ammaar Salaam, who will compete at 106 pounds in Division II.
Salaam went 4-0 and beat Jonathan Alder's Reece Chapman 10-6 in the final at the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Wilmington. He is 50-3 on the season.
Beechcroft senior Alhaji Sidibe went 1-2 at 220 to finish 34-12 and South senior Charles Johnson went 1-2 at 126 to finish 33-9.
"It's exciting (to compete at district) for the second (season) in a row," Sidibe said. "I was able to get 30-plus wins and (win) another City championship, so those were goals I wanted to hit."
In the Division I district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, Walnut Ridge seniors Yaniel Castillo (126) and Sihlas Padmore (160) both went 1-2 to finish 31-13 and 42-11, respectively.
Also at Darby, Briggs junior Monty Peterson (132) went 0-2 to finish 33-14 and Mifflin sophomore David Cochran (138) went 0-2 to finish 25-16.