City League Roundup: Africentric Nubians girls basketball team looks to build on title

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Africentric players and coaches celebrate a 76-19 victory over Beechcroft in the City League championship game Feb. 13 at East. Despite their season being delayed until mid-January, the Nubians were hoping to make their usual postseason run.

As it has in nearly every season under coach Will McKinney, the Africentric girls basketball team entered the postseason as one of the favorites to win a district championship as well as contend for a spot in the state tournament. 

Not much else about McKinney’s 18th season, however, has been normal.

The Nubians won back-to-back Division III state titles in 2018 and ’19, giving them seven overall since the program began in 2004-05, and last season were on their way to possibly winning another after qualifying for the state tournament for the fifth year in a row. 

After last season’s state tournament was canceled and the beginning of this season was delayed until mid-January because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Africentric finds itself in unusual territory. 

The Nubians defeated Beechcroft 76-19 on Feb. 13 at East to secure their sixth consecutive City League championship and 13th overall, but that was just their eighth game of the season.

At the time of the district tournament drawing Jan. 31, Africentric was just 2-2 with losses to Dublin Coffman (63-42 on Jan. 27) and Pickerington Central (60-45 on Jan. 30) but still received the No. 3 seed. 

Second-seeded Cardington, meanwhile, has played nearly a full schedule, improving to 19-0 with a 63-36 win Feb. 11 over North Union. 

“When you’ve been off for two months, even making the best of practices is difficult,” McKinney said. “The kids are excited to come back to practice but at the same time, when you’ve been sitting around for two months, it’s definitely a situation.” 

The Nubians opened the postseason Feb. 17 at home by beating 19th-seeded Marion Elgin 57-17 to improve to 7-2 and advance to a second-round game Feb. 20 at home against 20th-seeded KIPP Columbus.

If Africentric won its second-round game, it faced 13th-seeded Harvest Prep or 16th-seeded Northridge on Feb. 23 in a district semifinal. The district final is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the home of the better seed, with Cardington and eighth-seeded North Union the highest seeds in the other portion of the bracket. 

The Nubians have won five consecutive district titles. 

“We were talking by messaging one another (during the winter sports delay) but there wasn’t much we could do because of the fact that we were shut down,” senior guard Arianna Smith said. “We tried to get around the adversity and the ups and downs of the season by just going through it and when they told us we were able to get in here, then that’s what we did. I’m not going to say we’re ready, but we’re going to do what we have to do to get through this season. Because of the fact that other teams are ahead of us and even though we’re behind, we’re going to push through it all.” 

Smith has been a contributor since her freshman season and leads a five-member senior class along with forward Maliyah Johnson, who has been a starter since she was a freshman. 

The other seniors are guards Anyiah Murphy, Lyric Ransom and McKala Wheat. 

Sophomore guard Ariel Grace and freshman guards Kamryn Grant and Samairah Thompson also have taken on key roles. 

In the City title game, Johnson and Murphy both had 16 points, Smith scored 12 and Ransom added 10. The Nubians forced 12 first-quarter turnovers and led 41-11 by halftime. 

“It actually means a lot,” Murphy said. “People doubted us because we lost a few key players and were trying to prove everybody wrong. I feel like we’re coming together pretty well. We’re kind of young. We’ve got a lot of freshmen on our team that look up to us to set the tone.” 

Beechcroft got 12 points from Tessa Miller while making its first appearance in the City title game since 1992. 

Vikings again finish 

second in City wrestling 

The postseason begins for City wrestling programs with sectional competition Feb. 27. 

Northland enters the postseason coming off a third consecutive City runner-up finish. 

After finishing behind Walnut Ridge each of the past two seasons, the Vikings scored 156 points  Feb. 12 in the City tournament at South to place behind Whetstone (170). Mifflin (128), Marion-Franklin (117), Briggs (115), South (72), East (55), Linden-McKinley (42), Centennial (40) and West (30) rounded out the standings.

Walnut Ridge elected not to participate but is expected to compete in the Division I sectional at Marysville that also includes Briggs, Mifflin and Northland. 

Whetstone is in the Division I sectional at Upper Arlington, and Centennial, Linden, Marion-Franklin and South are in the Division II sectional at Licking Valley. 

The top four finishers in each weight class in each Division I sectional advance to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, and the top four in each weight class in the Division II sectional move on to district March 5 and 6 at Wilmington. 

Winning titles for the Vikings in the City tournament were Abdi Musa-Moualem (113 pounds), Emmanuel Sandoval (120), Correy Craddolph (220) and Jaylen Broadus (heavyweight), while Jordan Blankson (195) was runner-up. 

Craddolph was 10-2 after the City tournament. 

“We only brought seven kids total, and to take second place with seven kids, you can’t be disappointed in that,” coach Rocky Carreker said. “They’re doing pretty well. We’re still doing conditioning and things like that, but the more they get on the mat, they get better and better every week. I’m glad we (had) that extra week in between the sectional (and the City tournament) for conditioning.” 

Also winning City titles were Marion-Franklin's Jalen Brown (106) and Michael Smith (138), Mifflin’s David Cochran (160) and Tayvaughn Woods (195) and Briggs’ Montinas Peterson (132) and Kevin Bosque (170).  

For Centennial, Alvin Forte (160) was second and Oliver Koehler (120) placed third. 

Centennial's Dante Woods tries to block a shot by Northland's Robert Dorsey on Feb. 8. The Stars opened the Division II district tournament Feb. 23 against Horizon Science.

Stars boys team 

begins tourney play 

The Centennial boys basketball team was seeded 15th for the Division II district tournament and opened the postseason Feb. 23 at home against 16th-seeded Horizon Science in a first-round game. 

The winner plays Feb. 26 at second-seeded DeSales, with the winner moving on to play ninth-seeded South, 10th-seeded Granville or 18th-seeded Licking Valley in a district semifinal March 3 at the home of the better seed. 

After losing 99-55 to Northland on Feb. 8 and 55-50 to Whetstone on Feb. 17, the Stars were 2-5 overall and in the City-North Division, with their wins coming over Mifflin (64-63 on Jan. 27) and International (75-38 on Feb. 3).

Senior guard Dante Woods, who is in his first season with the program after previously attending KIPP Columbus, has been among the team’s leading scorers along with senior guards Jaylon Jackson and Ronald Darling. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek