City League Roundup: Beechcroft, Northland expect to battle again in North Division

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Beechcroft's LaBriar Franklin-Page drives to the basket against Northland's Ayah Duffy during a game last season. Both are key returnees this winter. The Cougars are hoping to unseat the Vikings as champions of the City League-North Division.

With future Ohio State player Amanda Hayes leading the way, the Beechcroft girls basketball program won back-to-back City League championships in 1990 and ’91 before losing in the City final in 1992.

The 1991-92 season marks the last time Beechcroft won the City-North Division title and is one that current Cougars coach Mike Moncrief remembers well because he was a senior at the school.

Now in his eighth season leading the program, Moncrief understands how big of a challenge Beechcroft faces as it looks to again tangle with Northland.

The Vikings have won five consecutive and nine of the past 10 City-North championships, including last winter when they finished 15-8 overall and 14-0 in the league.

Northland has won 61 consecutive league games, beating the Cougars 71-47 and 51-27 a year ago when Beechcroft went 12-2 to finish as runner-up.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, however, officials at Columbus City Schools have suspended all activities through Dec. 17.

“We’ve got to be able to get through Northland,” Moncrief said. “We hope to continue to improve because of that school down the road.”

Beechcroft went 19-4 overall last season and returns a trio of starters in senior guards LaBriar Franklin-Paige and Tessa Miller and junior LaLarra Bays.

Franklin-Paige averaged 11 points and 4.5 rebounds and Bays averaged 11.5 points and four rebounds as both were first-team all-league. Miller was honorable mention all-league.

Sophomore Semaja Skaggs is a 5-foot-8 forward who was second-team all-league for International last season. Also transferring in from International is junior Awa Sahi, who is the team’s tallest player at 5-9.

Junior guards Nevaeh Dupree and Danielle Nunley also should be key players.

Moncrief also has been the Cougars’ girls track and field coach since 2013 and is happy to be coaching again after the spring sports season was canceled because of the pandemic.

“This year has been upside down,” Moncrief said. “I would’ve never thought I’d be coaching a game in a mask. The one thing I’m happy about is that our numbers are up because I think it’s that social thing since they don’t have (classrooms) to go to. The camaraderie is really good.”

While Beechcroft lost a trio of key players to graduation in Syrai Armstead (first-team all-league), Brittany Fortner (second-team all-league) and Tiara Hale (honorable mention all-league), Northland also will have a new look after losing a pair of first-team all-league selections.

Saige Glover graduated last spring and Azariah Binford transferred to Pickerington Central.

Junior Brianna Hamilton (5-9, forward/guard) — who missed all of last season with an injury but was a key player as a freshman — should join juniors Nahdia Alcorn (5-8, forward) and Tiarra Vance (5-9, forward) and sophomore Ayah Duffy (5-4, guard) as the top players for Northland. 

Alcorn was second-team all-league and Vance was honorable mention for the Vikings, who lost in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

“This year I’m very excited about coaching this team,” coach Jaybee Bethea said. “We lost some players, so now these young ladies are going to have to go get it for themselves.”

Senior La’Remy Woods (5-2) is expected to be at point guard after transferring from Africentric. Sophomore Jaya Sheppard (5-9, guard) is a Gahanna transfer and freshman Danice Duffour (5-9, wing player) also should play a key role.

Other members of the roster include junior Kylah Carter (5-10, center), sophomore Zarrey Warfield (5-9, forward) and freshmen Tian Brady (guard), Caylah Buggs (guard) and Mikaylah Riggins (guard).

Nubians plan to stay

among state’s best

Africentric was two victories away from winning a third consecutive Division III state championship when the winter sports season was postponed and ultimately canceled because of the pandemic.

After beating Ottawa-Glandorf 38-34 in a regional final, the Nubians were 23-4.

Before the postseason, they also defeated Northland 63-22 for their fifth consecutive City title and 12th overall.

The top returnees are senior forward Maliyah Johnson (6-0), who has committed to Pittsburgh, and senior forward Arianna Smith (6-1), who will play for Indiana State. Johnson was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, and Smith was first-team all-league, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state.

Senior Anyiah Murphy (5-7, guard) returns after being honorable mention all-league.

Sophomore Naveah Brownley (5-8, guard) and freshman Kamryn Grant (5-11, guard) also should be key players. Grant already has been offered by Ohio State.

“I’ve got a good freshman class,” coach Will McKinney said.

The other seniors are Lyric Ransom (5-8, guard) and Mykala Wheat (5-0, guard), while sophomore Ariel Grace (5-5, guard) and freshman Samairah Thompson (5-8, guard/forward) also are expected to contribute.

The Nubians lost a 2020 graduating class that was led by college recruits Alexia Smith (Minnesota), Nyam Thornton (Texas Tech) and Sakima Walker (Rutgers). All were first-team all-league. 

Walker was the district’s Player of the Year and first-team all-state after averaging 14 points. Smith averaged 13 points and was first-team all-district and second-team all-state, and Thornton was honorable mention all-district.

Stars rebuilding

under new coach

After spending the last three seasons as an assistant with the Columbus State women’s team, new Centennial coach Ernest Bell is excited for his latest challenge.

The Stars are hoping to continue the success that saw them go 16-7 overall and place third in the City-North at 10-4 last winter.

“I was at Columbus State and we had two successful years and one OK year,” said Bell, who also previously assisted at Torah Academy. “We won a couple regional championships over there and last year went (19-9). I felt like it was time to try and go off on my own.”

The top returnees are senior CiCi Dingess (6-0, forward) and juniors Lauren Bailey (5-7, wing player), Z'Niya Peterson (5-8, forward) and Amari Scott (5-6, guard).

The only other senior is Kay Brown (5-4, guard), with Jessica Leach (5-5, guard) rounding out the junior class.

Others looking to contribute include sophomores Brooke Loudner (5-5, guard), Safi Munywoki (5-6, guard/wing player) and Jazmine Singleton (5-4, guard) and freshmen Jenna Kimbrough (5-3, guard), Alayiah Taylor (5-1, guard) and Caiden Younger (5-4, guard).

The Stars were led last season by 2020 graduates Naa Dromo Korley, who was first-team all-league, and classmates Jayana Harley and Tyler Johnson, both of whom were honorable mention all-league.

“With Scott, Dingess and Bailey, we’ve got a trio that will have to carry a big workload for us, and Amari started last year,” Bell said. “We’re young. We want to get better. I think we should be OK. The goal is just to get better every day and compete with the top two teams in the conference.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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