City League Roundup: Africentric boys basketball team aiming for postseason success

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Senior Nick Loudner is among the top competitors for the Centennial boys bowling team. The Stars were runners-up in the City League roll-off tournament last season.

After finishing as the Division III state runner-up in 2018, the Africentric boys basketball team had sophomores and juniors filling major roles the past two seasons.

The result was back-to-back 13-11 finishes that included the Nubians losing in district semifinals.

Africentric again has what coach Michael Bates considers a young roster with only two seniors, but he's looking forward to what could develop for his program following a delay to the beginning of the season because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

On Dec. 22, the Nubians were scheduled to open against Proctorville Fairland.

The Challenge, which annually features matchups between the City League and OCC programs and was set for Jan. 9, has been canceled.

The Nubians were scheduled to face Hilliard Bradley, a Division I regional finalist last season, in the Challenge but still are planning to play the Jaguars on Jan. 9 at home.

“I really want to have a season because I have some seniors that are scholarship talents and are not having the opportunity to do it at this point,” Bates said. “I feel like this is a team that could compete for a district championship and take us on a long state run. 

“I feel like we can compete for a state championship, so we’re just hoping we can get in there. We had a schedule that I thought would’ve helped us be ready to compete.”

Bates — who has guided the program to three state appearances and a 222-118 record in 15 seasons — returns two of his team’s top three scorers and a lineup with more height than at any time during his tenure.

Junior guard Dan Wagner (6-foot) averaged 15 points and senior guard Eli Burke (6-1) averaged 13.5 points a year ago.

The other senior is Ernest Johnson, a 6-7 forward who averaged 4.0 points.

Sophomore Dailyn Swain is a 6-6 guard who has been receiving interest from Division I college programs and has been offered by Ohio University after averaging 8.5 points.

While Calijha’won Davis was lost to graduation after averaging 14 points and was named first-team all-City League-South Division, Burke was second-team all-league and Swain and Wagner were honorable mention selections.

The Nubians, who last appeared in the City championship game in 2013, finished fourth (8-6) in the league last winter behind Walnut Ridge (13-1), South (13-1) and Briggs (9-5).

Another key returnee is junior Josiah Smith, a 6-4 wing player who averaged 6.0 points, and sophomore Preston Steele is a 6-5 wing player who also figures to be in the rotation.

Local girls bowlers

look to get started

After beating Whetstone 1,796-1,659 to capture the City roll-off championship last season, the Centennial girls bowling team has a mostly new lineup.

The top returnees are senior Maddy Miranda and junior Allison Murphy-Smock, who helped the Stars go 12-1 overall and finish second (10-1) in the COHSBC-C behind Worthington Christian (11-0).

Others looking to contribute include senior Jana Kimball and freshmen Ayana Hofer and Kiara Price

“While we lost a few key bowlers, I’ve been humbled and honored by the amount of girls we were able to recruit and join the team this year,” coach Ryan Dobbins said. “Handling things has been quite the challenge. The best word that comes to mind is ‘adaptable’ when considering this season. Things have and can continue to change in an instant.

“My outlook is to develop our new players and build sound fundamentals while allowing the more experienced bowlers to take their game to the next level and really shine.”

Centennial beat Northland 1,712-1,455 in a semifinal of the City roll-off last season.

The Vikings went 7-6 overall and 6-5 in the COHSBC-C. Returning from that team are senior Malika Kahdka, junior Nasia Bailey and sophomores Susttika Ahangkari and Bidya Kharel.

Also competing for Northland are junior Arpana Chheteri, sophomores Benisha Gurung and Juliane Lukambo and freshman Lindsey Wallace.

“There are some very athletic, hard-working and competitive girls on the team,” coach Peggy Holley said. “I believe that all of my returning players can be contenders for all-City. Nasia is my most experienced bowler on the team and has been throwing the ball well in practice.”

Beechcroft went 5-8 overall and 5-6 in the COHSBC-D.

Returning for the Cougars are seniors CeCe Reeder and TaAliyah Palmer, junior Tiwa Adediran and sophomores Promise Alfred and JaKierah Kinard, with juniors Kania Harden and Zion Wilson also on the team.

Palmer was a Division I district qualifier last season.

“I have a nice mix of veterans and new players,” coach Matt Bell said. “We had a good start to the preseason. The three weeks of preseason practices were well-attended and the girls’ scores were really looking good. I expect the four veterans to continue to improve. I’m also looking forward to working with the new bowlers to really get them to realize how great bowling is as a high school sport and as a lifetime sport.”

Local boys bowlers

prep for season

During last year’s boys City roll-off tournament, Centennial bowled 2,059, followed by Briggs (2,036) and Northland (2,031) during a tri-match to determine which two teams would compete for the title.

Briggs then edged Centennial 2,166-2,128 to win the championship.

The Stars, who finished 9-6 overall and 7-5 in the COHSBC-C, should be led by senior Nick Loudner after he averaged 162.4 in league matches.

Senior Giovanni Camp, junior Alexander Scarberry and sophomore William Moore also saw limited action last season, while others in the program include junior Marcus Brooks, sophomore Dhron Mukherjee and freshman Aaron Brooks.

“With all the disruption this year has wrought, it’s been nice to see my returning bowlers,” Stars coach Brian Hamilton said. “This is a group of young men that are excited to try to have a season this year, and my two seniors are hoping to move the team to districts and the City championship. The kids have been dealing well with the initial disruption of the season and being flexible, which is a critical skill this year.”

The Vikings have returned sophomore Ray Craig after he averaged 182.7 to finish second on the team in COHSBC average. His freshman brother, Lorenzo Craig, also should be among the top players.

Ray Craig was a Division I district qualifier last season.

Senior Trejuan Pitts and sophomore Tim Knectly, who are returnees, and senior Husam Sesay also will look to fill spots in the lineup for the Vikings, who finished 10-6 overall and 9-3 in the COHSBC-C.

“(I’m) excited to have a relatively new group of bowlers,” coach Robert Pea said. “We had a senior-laden team last year. … I just hope we can complete whatever matches we have scheduled in January and beyond. I think I have three bowlers who could be in the top 10 in the City League.”

Beechcroft returns most of its roster after going 3-11 overall and 3-9 in the COHSBC-D last season.

Junior Dylon Feagin is the top returnee after averaging 121.0. Also back are juniors Jaydon Magassouba and Jv Velasquez and sophomores Joshua Goshay and Jamar Taylor.

Freshmen Mekhi Feagin and Devin Strouse are others looking to contribute.

“We have a mix of returning teammates and new additions of experienced bowlers,” coach Katie Ross said. “The boys were excited to be able to get into the bowling centers to help bring a sense of normalcy into this year. 

“They’ve continued to keep their positive attitude with all the changes and look forward to having a season. I’m hoping all bowlers can continue to advance their skill and technique to improve their averages, building on what many started last season.”

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