City League Roundup: Centennial boys basketball team moving forward under Jamie Pearson
A year after making a career change and now living in a nearby neighborhood, Jamie Pearson believed becoming the new coach of the Centennial boys basketball program was a logical fit.
Pearson and his team have had to make some adjustments along the way since he took over in July, particularly since the City League has paused all sports until Dec. 18 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
When the program is cleared to return to competition, Pearson is hoping to continue the success Centennial enjoyed in 18 seasons under former coach Roosevelt Osborne.
The Stars had posted back-to-back winning records before finishing 10-14 overall last season and placing fifth (7-7) in the City-North Division behind Linden-McKinley (12-2), Beechcroft (11-3), Northland (10-4) and Mifflin (8-6) and ahead of Whetstone (5-9), East (3-11) and International (0-14).
“To me it was about looking for the right fit and for me this was a good location since we’re across the street from Centennial’s district,” Pearson said. “I have a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader, so I wasn’t crazy about driving some crazy distance to coach.
“This is the fifth time we’ve been shut down, so it’s extremely frustrating. We’re on a chain where we can text (with the players). We’ve had some kids leave the program. Anything you can imagine has happened. I encourage them to exercise but it’s just a different situation.”
Centennial, which beat Licking Valley 86-72 in the first round of last winter’s Division II district tournament before falling 84-61 to DeSales in the second round, should be led by senior guards Tyreek Gunnell (5-foot-8), Jaylon Jackson (5-11) and Syquee Womack (5-10).
Gunnell averaged 9.5 points and Jackson averaged 6.0 points as both were honorable mention all-league, and Womack also averaged 6.0 points.
Senior Ronald Darling (5-10, guard) also was a contributor last season. Other players expected to be in the mix are senior Dante Woods (5-10, guard), junior Marlin Byron (5-10, guard) and sophomores Ahmed Ayed (6-4, forward) and Donovan Ballentine (6-4, forward).
The team’s top returnees were set to be senior guard Jaylen Gilbert, who averaged 16 points and was first-team all-league, and senior guard Travonne Jackson, who scored 21 points in the tournament loss. Gilbert transferred to Pickerington North and Jackson moved out of the area.
Pearson previously coached Granville to a 17-6 finish in 2010-11, led Dublin Jerome to a 74-26 mark from 2013-14 through 2016-17 and also assisted at Dublin Coffman. He was named the state’s Division I co-Coach of the Year in 2014-15 at Jerome.
“The kids have been working hard,” Pearson said. “Everybody’s trying to figure it out.”
Cougars look to
take next step
The Beechcroft boys basketball team was set to play Kettering Alter in a Division II regional semifinal at the University of Dayton last March when the winter sports season was postponed and eventually canceled because of the pandemic.
Three starters — including first-team all-league honorees J.J. Simmons (5-11, guard) and Amani Lyles (6-6, wing player) — have returned as the Cougars look to build on an 18-6 finish.
“We’re very motivated,” said coach Humphrey Simmons, who is in his ninth season. “Just being young last year and winning a district title, they know what it takes to win big games. They’re very excited for this season.”
J.J. Simmons, who was second-team all-district and averaged 17.5 points, and Lyles, who averaged 17 points, are juniors.
Another returning starter is junior Antwoin Reed, a 6-4 forward who averaged 6.5 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Seniors Demetrious Forte (6-2, guard) and Jaylen Hudson (5-9, guard) and junior Javo Jordan (5-10, guard) also contributed last season, and senior Trynyty Rollin (6-3, wing player) also should be in the mix.
Junior Jamari Strickland (6-1, guard) is a transfer from Gahanna, and Anthony Watkins (6-1, guard) is a transfer from Mifflin.
After losing twice during the regular season to Linden last season, the Cougars avenged those defeats with a 56-51 win over the Panthers in a district semifinal before beating Eastmoor Academy 39-36 in a district final.
Lost to graduation were Davon Wooden, DeShannon Butler and Travaughn McConnell. Wooden was second-team all-league and Butler was honorable mention.
“It should be a good run this year,” coach Simmons said.
With senior Makhale Massey and junior Robert Dorsey among its returning players, the Northland boys basketball team expects to again be a contender for the City-North title.
Massey (6-2, guard) is a two-time first-team all-league honoree who averaged 14 points and Dorsey (5-10, guard) averaged 13 points and was second-team all-league as the Vikings finished 11-10 last season. They lost to Olentangy Liberty 63-54 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, and they like each other,” said coach Sean Taylor, who is in his 10th season. “They play for each other.”
Also back are seniors Shemar Watson (6-2, guard) and Junior Reavish (6-1, guard) and sophomore Davion Bridges (5-10, guard). Seniors Rodriguez Williams (5-8, guard) and Caleb Stallings (6-2, forward) and juniors Tabree Beachem (6-2, guard) and Deangelo Mitchell (6-2, forward) also should be in the mix.
The biggest losses to graduation were Eldon Boateng and DeVan White. Both were honorable mention all-league as the Vikings finished third after winning 11 of the previous 13 City-North titles.
“Defensively they know what we want them to do,” Taylor said. “They’re leaders and they work hard. For us to be successful, we’ve got to be tough. That’s the key for us, to be mentally and physically tough.”