City League Roundup: Beechcroft, Northland, Centennial boys basketball teams build for next season

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Senior Demetrious Forte helped Beechcroft finish first in the City League-North Division and then defeat Walnut Ridge 64-62 in the City championship game Feb. 20 at East.

It wasn't the type of ending the Beechcroft boys basketball team was hoping for, but coach Humphrey Simmons found a number of positives to stress to a roster filled with players eligible to return. 

Following a delay that kept City League winter sports on the sidelines until Jan. 25, the Cougars beat Northland 65-50 on Feb. 10 to clinch a berth in the City championship game and then defeated Walnut Ridge 64-62 on Feb. 20 for the title. 

Beechcroft, which was set to play in a Division II regional semifinal last season before the remainder of the postseason was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, entered this year’s postseason as the No. 3 seed. 

After opening the district tournament with wins over 20th-seeded Marion-Franklin (85-65 on Feb. 23) and 23rd-seeded Lakewood (69-29 on Feb. 26), the Cougars were upset by eventual district champion and 13th-seeded Watterson 43-39 in two overtimes March 3 in a semifinal to finish 11-1 overall. 

“With the cards we were dealt with us having to sit out for two months and then being able to practice for a week and a half, I think the boys responded very well,” said Simmons, whose team went 7-0 in the City-North Division.

Junior guards Jamari Strickland and Anthony Watkins, who transferred from Gahanna and Mifflin, respectively, were key contributors but weren’t eligible to play against Watterson because of the OHSAA transfer rule. 

The only seniors were guards Demetrious Forte and Jaylen Hudson. 

Junior guard J.J. Simmons and junior wing player Amani Lyles both averaged 21.5 points and were named first-team all-district. Junior forward Antwoin Reed averaged 8.0 points and was honorable mention all-district. 

Junior guard Javo Jordan is another who should return. 

“We’ve got six returning juniors and hopefully we’ll be looking forward to having a full season,” coach Simmons said.

Ronald Darling (left) and Shemar Watson are among the players Centennial and Northland will lose to graduation.

Northland finished second (6-1) in the City-North and beat 24th-seeded Canal Winchester 78-72 on Feb. 26 in a second-round district tournament game as the 18th seed before falling to top-seeded Gahanna 67-45 in a semifinal March 3 to finish 7-3 overall. 

“We were just really starting to get comfortable and getting in shape and hitting our stride,” coach Sean Taylor said. “At the midway point is usually when you start doing that. We were thrown so many curveballs and we knew it would be given the pandemic and with what went on with football. We were just happy to get in there and get the guys some sort of a season. It was of course disappointing we weren’t able to give them more, but it is what it is.” 

The Vikings lose four seniors in guards Makhale Massey, Stephan Reavish, Shemar Watson and Rodriguez Williams. Massey averaged 14 points and was honorable mention all-district. 

Junior guard Rob Dorsey was third-team all-district and averaged 19 points. 

Junior guard Tabree Beachem, junior forward Deangelo Mitchell and sophomore guard Davion Bridges are others eligible to return. Beachem averaged 8.5 points. 

“(Dorsey) got a better feel for the point-guard position,” Taylor said. “He got a better feel for his spots where he could score and a better feel for the flow. He improved his jump shot and improved his strength and was able to finish through contact.” 

Centennial finished 3-9 overall and 2-4 in the City-North. 

One of the biggest highlights for the Stars came when they beat 16th-seeded Horizon Science 56-53 on Feb. 23 in the first round of the Division II district tournament. 

Senior guard Jaylon Jackson made two free throws with 20 seconds remaining and finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while senior guard Tyreek Gunnell made six 3-pointers and scored 28 points. 

Centennial, which was seeded 15th, then lost to second-seeded DeSales 61-27 on Feb. 26 to close its season. 

“I was happy that our seniors got to play some more basketball,” first-year coach Jamie Pearson said. “We had six kids move out (before the season started). We lost four games that were all close defeats. It’s nice the way it came together in the tournament win.” 

Guards Ronald Darling and Dante Woods were other key seniors for the Stars. 

Junior guard Marlin Byron and sophomore forward Ahmed Ayed should be among the top returnees. 

Nubians girls fall 

in regional final 

After edging Ottawa-Glandorf 38-34 in a Division III regional final in 2020, the Africentric girls basketball team fell 38-30 to the Titans in a regional title game rematch March 6 at Lexington. 

The Nubians, who won state titles in 2018 and ’19, failed to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2015 and finished 11-3. 

“It’s been an emotional, tumultuous season with the pandemic and then it’s the fact that we missed two months of practice,” coach Will McKinney said. “Then we were able to come back Jan. 15, but even when we came back, we still haven’t practiced well for three days in a row with my whole team. Basketball just requires practice. I don’t care how talented or good you think you are, but if you don’t practice, you don’t have that cohesiveness and you can’t get into any type of flow. It hurts you at the offensive end.” 

The Nubians beat Beechcroft 76-19 on Feb. 13 to capture their sixth consecutive City title. They were seeded third for the district tournament and won 58-33 on Feb. 26 at second-seeded Cardington to earn their 16th district title in 18 seasons. 

Africentric defeated Willard 54-50 in overtime March 3 in a regional semifinal at Lexington. 

The senior class featured forwards Maliyah Johnson (18 points) and Arianna Smith (16 points), both of whom were first-team all-district, and guard Anyiah Murphy (10 points), who was third-team all-district. 

Guard Lyric Ransom was another key senior. 

Sophomore guards Naveah Brownley and Ariel Grace, freshman guard Kamryn Grant and freshman guard/forward Samairah Thompson should be among the top returnees. Grant was honorable mention all-district. 

“It’s been a heck of a year, but I’m just happy that we had any time to play and appreciate every win,” McKinney said.  

Wrestlers close 

season at district 

The only wrestler from the City League to advance to the state tournament was Whetstone junior Darric McClinton at 145 pounds in Division I. 

On March 6 and 7 in the district tournament at Hilliard Darby, Mifflin junior David Cochran (160) and Walnut Ridge senior Melvin Patterson (160) both went 1-2. Cochran finished 16-4 and Patterson finished 4-3. 

Also competing at district for Mifflin was junior Tayvaughn Woods, who went 0-2 at 195 and finished 12-6. 

For Northland, junior Emmanuel Sandoval went 0-2 at 120 and finished 13-9, and sophomore Chrysanthus Ampaah went 0-2 at 182 and finished 11-10. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek