City League Roundup: Beechcroft girls basketball team focuses on being 'like a family'

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Beechcroft's Stella Emeran-Simon and Danielle Nunley run onto the court to celebrate the Cougars' 49-48 win over visiting Northland on Jan. 27. It was the Cougars’ first win over the Vikings since Jan. 30, 2004.

During the nearly two-month period in which the girls basketball season for City League programs was delayed, Beechcroft coach Mike Moncrief encouraged his players to stay active and practice individually whenever it might have been possible. 

He understands that likely didn’t happen much considering most recreation centers were not open and the weather didn’t provide the ability to play outside. 

Nothing, though, has stood in the way of the chemistry the Cougars have been showing. 

Beechcroft opened with a 67-11 win over East on Jan. 25 – the first night that games by City teams were allowed – and followed with the breakthrough performance the program has been seeking for more than a decade when it edged Northland 49-48 on Jan. 27. 

It was the Cougars’ first win over the Vikings since Jan. 30, 2004, snapping a 32-game winning streak in the series by Northland and also ending the Vikings’ 62-game winning streak against City-North Division opponents. 

“It feels good,” senior guard LaBriar Franklin-Page said. “I like that we’re close, like a family. These are my sisters.” 

The Cougars defeated International 67-20 on Jan. 29 and followed with a 63-44 victory over Centennial on Feb. 1 that improved their record to 4-0 overall and in the league. 

Because of the delayed start, the City is playing only one round of league games to determine who will represent the North and South in the City championship game, which will be held Feb. 13 at a site to be determined. 

Beechcroft hasn’t played in the City title game since 1992. 

“We get to play basketball and that’s the positive,” Moncrief said. “Northland is the crown jewel of girls basketball in the City League-North. They took that over from Brookhaven. For us to accomplish something like that was huge. (Beating Northland) is absolutely amazing. We just played well enough to win and the girls were extremely happy.” 

Franklin-Page had 31 points against Centennial and 19 against Northland. 

Sophomore forward Semaja Skaggs had 19 points against Centennial to help lead an offense that also has featured senior guard Tessa Miller and junior guard LaLarra Bays. 

“It’s most definitely a family,” Bays said. “We all work together and help each other get better every day. Skill-wise, we all know each other and trust each other with the ball. We’re focused on team ball.” 

Beechcroft is seeded 11th for the Division II district tournament and opens the postseason Feb. 19 at fifth-seeded Heath in a second-round game. 

Second-seeded Hartley and fourth-seeded Whitehall also are in the Cougars’ bracket. 

Moncrief, whose team went 19-4 last season, is hoping to get in as many games as possible over the coming weeks.  

Teams throughout Ohio are allowed to continue playing regular-season games until March 13, even after their postseason is completed. 

“They all get along so well and that’s hard,” Moncrief said. “Being quarantined and in their houses for ‘X’ amount of months, they’ve worked hard. Having eight weeks off affected our conditioning, but they push each other every day in practice.” 

Among the tougher opponents Moncrief expected to face was Centennial, which got 16 points from Jenna Kimbrough and 13 from Amari Scott in its loss to the Cougars. 

The Stars opened with wins over Linden-McKinley (52-25 on Jan. 25), Mifflin (35-29 on Jan. 27) and Whetstone (45-21 on Jan. 29) under first-year coach Ernest Bell. 

Centennial would have been in Division II for the district tournament but is among nine City programs that are not competing in the postseason. 

Robert Dorsey and Northland won their first three games after the City League's delayed start to the season.

Vikings boys team 

makes early statement 

The Northland boys basketball team entered this season hoping to take a step forward with a veteran lineup after going 11-10 last winter. 

All indications are that things are proceeding as planned for the Vikings, who were 3-0 overall and in the City-North after beating Mifflin 76-52 on Feb. 1. 

Northland’s game Jan. 27 against Beechcroft was postponed because of a power outage and moved to Feb. 10. 

The Vikings rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to beat defending City-North champion Linden 73-63 on Jan. 29. 

“We stopped being punks. That’s as plain as I can put it,” coach Sean Taylor said. “(Linden) out-toughed us, had every loose ball and second-chance points (in the first half) and we said we had to stop that. When are we going to grow some?” 

Senior guard Stephan Reavish scored 25 points and junior guard Robert Dorsey had 21 against Linden.

The Vikings also are preparing for the Division I district tournament, which begins Feb. 23. 

“It means a lot (to have a season),” Reavish said. “I haven’t been able to get in the gym a lot with them closing the rims, so it just feels good. Last year we were acting like kids but we’ve matured a lot.” 

The City championship in boys basketball will be held Feb. 20 at a site to be announced. 

Senior guards Makhale Massey and Shemar Watson and junior guard Tabree Beachem also are key players for the Vikings. 

“They’re good kids who work hard and (are) coachable,” Taylor said. “They play for each other. In years past, some people would have had a couple missed shots and tucked their heads and we wouldn’t have gotten anything out of them all night. Now we’re mature and we understand we can contribute more than just scoring. I’m just so proud of them.” 

Scots, Panthers look 

to move forward 

The Walnut Ridge boys basketball team beat Linden 74-59 for the City championship last season, but both teams had an uphill battle to get back to that point after the opening week of play considering there is only one round of league competition this winter to determine the City-North and City-South champions. 

Walnut Ridge beat Eastmoor Academy 82-45 on Feb. 1 to improve to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the City-South, with its loss coming 54-53 to Africentric on Jan. 29. 

The Nubians were 4-1 overall and 4-0 in the league after beating Independence 66-65 on Feb. 1. 

With senior guard Daaron Brown going down with an ankle injury during the Scots’ 57-51 win over Briggs on Jan. 25, junior guard Zion Blevins, senior forward Tae’Von Bush, junior forward Tyree Morgan and senior guard Leon Douglas have been among the Scots’ leaders. 

“We just have to continue to work, prepare and clean up,” Scots coach Chuck Jefferson said. “We’re trying to build in these games, which we’ve got to use as practices almost to get ready for the tournament. The first week back we had four games in six days, but this is what we’ve been dealt. We’ll continue to work and rest and learn from each game, win or lose. We lost a heartbreaker (to Africentric) and our effort just wasn’t there (in an 84-56 loss to Dublin Coffman on Jan. 30), so we’ve just got to get back in the lab and get this fixed.” 

Linden was 3-1 overall and in the City-North after beating East 68-54 on Feb. 1. 

Senior forward Shamarion Rogers was averaging a team-high 21 points through four games, with senior forward Chance Groce, junior forward Lason Walker and junior guard L.B. Towns all averaging 12.5 points. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek