City League Roundup: Beechcroft Cougars boys basketball team shows perseverance

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Beechcroft celebrates after beating Walnut Ridge 64-62 in the City League championship game Feb. 20 at East.

Although it fell short of advancing to the City League championship game last winter, the Beechcroft boys basketball team hit its peak in the postseason. 

The Cougars avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Linden-McKinley with a 56-51 victory in a Division II district semifinal and then edged Eastmoor Academy 39-36 in a district final. 

On the same night Beechcroft was set to play Kettering Alter in a regional semifinal at the University of Dayton, the remainder of the winter sports season was put on hold – it eventually was canceled – because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

The anticlimactic ending has been a driving force ever since for the Cougars, who followed an abbreviated regular season by edging Walnut Ridge 64-62 on Feb. 20 in the City title game at East. 

“We (had our season) cut short last season,” junior post player Amani Lyles said. “We had a lot of chemistry coming out and had to adjust to the situation we’re in and we came out and played.” 

Beechcroft was seeded third for the district tournament and opened Feb. 23 with an 86-56 win over 20th-seeded Marion-Franklin. That improved the Cougars to 10-0 overall and advanced them to a second-round game Feb. 26 against 23rd-seeded Lakewood, with the winner playing seventh-seeded Linden or 13th-seeded Watterson on March 3 in a district semifinal. 

The district final is March 5.  

The Cougars went 7-0 in the City-North Division to reach the City final for the first time since 2018.

Their original opponent was to have been Africentric, but the Nubians were unable to participate because of COVID-19 protocols. 

That opened up a spot for Walnut Ridge, which went 6-1 in the City-South while the Nubians finished 7-0. 

The Scots, though, didn’t prove to be an inferior substitute as they battled back from a double-digit, first-half deficit to take the lead in the second half. 

Lyles averages 22 points but battled foul trouble and finished with 12 for the Cougars, who put together a 10-2 run after falling behind 47-46 with 5 minutes, 47 seconds remaining. 

Junior guard J.J. Simmons scored 19 points, junior guard Jamari Strickland had nine and junior forward Antwoin Reed Jr. added seven for Beechcroft, which overcame a 24-point performance from Ta’Von Bush. 

“We want to play unselfish basketball and play together and that’s what we did (against Walnut Ridge),” Simmons said. “We wanted it.” 

Beechcroft was hoping its opening tournament win set it on a road to make the state tournament for the first time since 2003. 

“Just having a COVID year, (winning the City title) means a lot,” coach Humphrey Simmons said. “We were off. Then we were back on. I’m glad the parents and the community came together and helped us have a season. They’re hungry. This comes over form last year when our season got stopped in the regional semis. Our theme this year is ‘unfinished business.’ ” 

Swimmers, bowlers 

complete seasons 

Centennial junior Alec Proudfoot was one of two representatives from the Central District in the Division II state boys diving meet Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

Proudfoot advanced by winning the district title Feb. 16 at Jefferson Country Club. 

In the Division II district swimming meet Feb. 18 at Bowling Green, Centennial and Beechcroft both were represented. 

For Beechcroft, junior Nyrobi Whitfield finished 16th in the 200-yard individual medley (2:28.65) and 18th in the 100 freestyle (57.85) in the girls meet, while junior Daylen Allen was 19th in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.51) in the boys meet. 

Centennial junior Maddie Nelson finished 23rd in the 500 free (6:28.49) in the girls meet. 

No boys or girls bowlers advanced to state in either Division I or Division II. 

In the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, Briggs junior Tyler Lumbard finished 14th (617), Eastmoor senior Amari Patterson was 18th (611) and Mifflin junior Owen Mensah placed 62nd (501) in the boys event, while Independence senior Dominique Cabiness placed 28th (500), Beechcroft senior Ciarra Reeder was 64th (416) and West senior Hailee Mock finished 81st (370) in girls. 

In the Division II district tournament Feb. 15 at HP Lanes, Marion-Franklin sophomore Shawn Spaulding finished fifth (591) in the boys tournament to miss advancing to state by 13 pins.  

Northland's Nahjae Alcorn battles Minerva's Kayla Phillips in a 121-pound match during the girls state tournament Feb. 20 at Hilliard Davidson.

Trio of girls wrestlers 

compete at state 

Three wrestlers from the City League advanced to the state girls tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Hilliard Davidson. 

Northland’s Nahjae Alcorn followed a third-place finish in the district tournament Feb. 14 at Olentangy Orange by going 0-2 at 121 pounds at state. 

Briggs’ Melissa Foster, who was district runner-up at 189, won her opening state match but lost her next two matches. 

East’s Ashley Santana-Sanchez finished fourth at district at 235 and went 0-2 at state. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek