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Ohio prep hoops: Columbus City-League mid-season report

With Northland and Walnut Ridge at the top of the City-League, it's time to stop and take a look at what the rest of the conference has accomplished up to this point.

Brookhaven senior Ronnie Williams has been one of the city's top performers this season
Brookhaven senior Ronnie Williams has been one of the city's top performers this season
Scarberry Media

At the midway point in an intriguing season in the Columbus City-League, it's time to recognize the teams, players, and coaches that have made a major impact in 2013-14. Let's take a look at where the Capital City's top teams stack up in the first edition of a season-long series of power rankings, accompanied by mid-season All-City League teams.

Columbus City-League North

With usual suspects Northland and Brookhaven at the top of the North once again, let's see where the rest of the division stacks up.

1. Northland (9-2, 6-0)

Rolling through the City-League North through six division games, the Vikings have won each contest by an average of 46.6 points per game. Led by the scoring of senior combo-guard Ty Hairston, senior wing Derek McKeithen, and sophomore forward Seth Towns, the Vikings are on a crash course for an eighth-consecutive City-League North division championship.

Upcoming games: Jan. 17 at Linden, Jan. 18 vs. Roselle Catholic (NJ) at Flyin' To The Hoop

2. Brookhaven (9-2, 6-0)

Hitting their stride early on in the season, Brookhaven will receive a lift for the second half of the year as junior small forward Rob Banks becomes eligible after transferring schools. At 9-2, the Bearcats' only losses come to the hands of Gahanna and Bishop Watterson, two of the state's top teams, by a combined 10 points. Outscoring division opponents by 33.6 points per game, the Bearcats are licking their chops in anticipation of a Jan. 28 matchup with Northland, a team Brookhaven came within two points of beating twice last season.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at East, Jan. 17 vs. Mifflin

3. Beechcroft (5-5, 3-2)

After a sluggish start to the season, Beechcroft looks to be rolling with some momentum after consecutive wins vs. East and Whetstone to open the new year. With the emergence of junior combo-guard Josh Chellers, the Cougars look to remain in the top half of a watered down City-League North.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Mifflin, Jan. 17 at Centennial

4. Centennial (6-6, 4-3)

Also gaining momentum at the start of the new year, Centennial is rolling after back-to-back wins over Mifflin and East this past week. Led by senior guard Octavius Luke, and junior forward Joseph Thomas, the Stars hope to make up for a slow start to the season in the second half of the year.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. International, Jan. 17 vs. Beechcroft

5. East (5-4, 4-2)

Dropping back-to-back games this past week, East has hit a rough patch in a season that started off with great momentum. While junior combo-guard Dalton Laster has been East's emerging star this season, the Tigers have had a difficult time finding another consistent contributor to join Laster in the scoring column. Things could get much more difficult for the Tigers before they get easier as East hosts Brookhaven on Tuesday, before traveling to New Albany on Saturday.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Brookhaven, Jan. 17 at International, Jan. 18 at New Albany

6. Mifflin (5-6, 2-4)

After starting off the season with momentum at 3-1, a gut-wrenching buzzer-beating loss to East on Dec. 13 has sent the Punchers skidding, losing five of their last seven, two of which by 39+ points. While junior duo PJ Wilkes and Stanley Jackson have provided the bulk of the Punchers' scoring as of late (combined for 71 points last week), Mifflin has yet to find a third scoring option, which has proven to hurt the young squad. However, for the second half of the season, the Punchers will receive help in the form of transfer guards Zavon Rivers and Romello Barker. Mifflin can reverse its fortunes with winnable contests twice this week.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Beechcroft, Jan. 17 at Brookhaven, Jan. 18 at Sheridan

7. Linden (1-9, 1-5)

A program once proud with rich basketball tradition (ESPN's Reggie Rankin is a Linden-McKinley graduate), the Panthers have dwelled at the bottom of the City-League for the greater part of the last decade. With a young coaching staff committed to building a strong program in one of Columbus' most economically-impoverished areas, results have been hard to come by thus far . A bright spot in Linden's season has been junior power forward Hassan Verance, who at 6'7, is a lengthy and athletic specimen on the block. The Panthers hope to pick up their second division win of the season on Tuesday vs. Whetstone

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Whetstone, Jan. 17 vs. Northland, Jan. 18 at Celina

8. Whetstone (2-8, 1-6)

With top athletes transferring out of the Whetstone program, the current cast of players have tried their best to brave a difficult wave of negativity, no pun intended. Losing six division games by an average of 43.3 points per game, Whetstone hopes to find a streak of good luck in the second half of the season. Led primarily by the scoring of senior guard Aaron Adair, the Braves have had trouble getting other players into the scoring column so far. Whetstone can pick up some momentum with two of its next three games against Linden, a team that the Braves can compete with.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Linden

9. International (2-7, 0-6)

In the Lions' second year of existence, an emerging star in senior guard Jordan Radcliffe has been one of many bright spots for International. Competing at a higher level in 2013-14, International hopes to continue an uphill climb in an extremely top-heavy City-League North.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Centennial, Jan. 17 vs. East

Columbus City-League South

As Walnut Ridge edged Eastmoor 52-48 in overtime on Friday to secure sole possession of first place in the South, let's see some of the movement that has occurred in the City-League's toughest division.

1. Walnut Ridge (8-2, 7-0)

Taking down an Eastmoor team that prior to Friday's meeting, had rolled through competition in the South, Walnut Ridge secured its spot at the top of the division. Receiving major contribution from sophomores Tarik Wright and Malik Harrison (Harrison visited West Virginia on Saturday), the Scots are a balanced unit highlighted by arguably Central Ohio's best perimeter defense. Senior guards Dymiere Finch, Brandon Paschal and Jihad Lake are three of the City-League's best on-ball defenders, helping the Scots execute a swarming half-court trap defense.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Independence, Jan. 17 vs. Africentric, Jan. 18 vs. Cincinnati Summit Country Day at Flyin' To The Hoop

2. Eastmoor Academy (8-4, 6-1)

Despite dropping Friday's contest vs. Walnut Ridge, Eastmoor rebounded with an overtime victory at home vs. Reynoldsburg on Saturday. With the emergence of senior forward Nate Jameson in the last few games, the Warriors are an underrated team that has balance as every position. Senior power forward Shamonty Manning has been one of the area's top big men, while junior guards Xavier Holston-Sims and Jalon Lewis have continued to improve.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. West, Jan. 17 at Independence, Jan. 18 vs. Fairfield Christian

3. Africentric (6-6, 4-3)

Surviving the first half of the season bruised but not beaten, Africentric is now fully-loaded with junior guards Chase Brown and Shawon Wilson finally eligible for action. With newfound consistency at the guard position, the Nubians looked sharp in a win at Marion-Franklin on Friday, 70-57. The emergence of Brown and Wilson allows for Africentric's top athletes, sophomore wing Houston Smith, junior combo-guard Jaquan Harrison and junior center Ulmer Manzie, to better operate off the ball, which should lead to more scoring opportunities. After a shocking loss to Briggs at home on Dec. 12, the Nubians hope to get revenge on Tuesday, days before a highly-anticipated matchup at Walnut Ridge on Friday.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Briggs, Jan. 17 at Walnut Ridge, Jan. 18 vs. Cincinnati Roger Bacon at Flyin' To The Hoop

4. Briggs (10-4, 4-3)

After winning no more than eight games in each of the last seven seasons, Briggs has seen a major turnaround under fiery coach Tony Rice. Winning 10 games for the first time since 2005-06, the Bruins will only improve as junior combo-guard Rodney Willis, a transfer from Independence, continues to elevate his level of play since debuting last week. Power forward Travon Hester has continued a strong senior season, while freshman point guard Danny Corbett has shown great maturity and composure leading the Bruins late in close games. A win over Africentric on Tuesday would be gigantic for Briggs, a team that is running high with confidence at the moment.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Africentric, Jan. 17 at Marion-Franklin

5. South (9-4, 3-4)

With wins in five of the last six games, South is a team that is also running high with confidence and bravado. Senior guards Chris Byrd and Aaron Mullins have been a dynamic duo for the Bulldogs, a program that coach Ramon Spears has taken to new heights. Sending center Ellis Williams to Division-I Bryant University a season ago, South is going through a revitalization period, one that the Bulldogs hope to culminate with a finish toward the top of the City-League South.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Marion-Franklin, Jan. 17 at West

6. Marion-Franklin (4-6, 3-5)

Albeit being one of the City-League South's most talented teams with highly-ranked sophomore James Manns and flashy senior guards Demetrius Walker and John Montgomery, Marion-Franklin has been one of the area's hardest teams to figure out this season. Losing their last three games, the Red Devils, a team that won a district title just last season, find themselves in a difficult position ten games into the season. With three winnable games in the next six days, Marion-Franklin hopes to get itself back on track heading into February.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at South, Jan. 17 vs. Briggs, Jan. 18 at Patriot Academy

7. West (4-8, 1-6)

West can be summed up in four words: The Charles Holland Show. As the dynamic Holland has raced out to an incredible start to the season by averaging just under 26 points per game, the rest of the Cowboy roster has had trouble following suit. While West has matched its entire win total from 2011-13, the Cowboys have slowed down after a 2-0 start, losing six of their last eight games. Even though Holland might just be the most exciting player to watch in Central Ohio on any given night, the senior just doesn't have enough talent around him for the Cowboys to be much of a factor in the South.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 at Eastmoor, Jan. 17 vs. South

8. Independence (1-10, 1-6)

The days of Estaban Weaver and Kenny Gregory selling out Independence home games are long gone. Out to a very disappointing start to a season that looked to have some promise early on, the Sixers are skating on thin ice at 1-10. With noticeable talent on a team that on paper, doesn't seem as bad as their record suggests, Independence can either pack up their things and give up on this season altogether, or band together and finish strong. With the Sixers' next three games coming against the top three teams in the South, Independence will need major contributions from seniors guards John Pope and Malik Breckenridge, and junior forward Kovien Dominaus to salvage the season.

Upcoming games: Jan. 14 vs. Walnut Ridge, Jan. 17 vs. Eastmoor

Towns, Holland top mid-season All-City League teams

At the mid-point in a busy season in the Columbus City-League, it's time to recognize the top performers in one of Ohio's most historic conferences.

Columbus City-League North

G: Ronnie Williams (Sr. / Brookhaven): 17.3 PPG

Brookhaven's emotional and spiritual leader, Williams has been one of the area's top players in leading the Bearcats to a 9-2 start to the year. After taking a back seat to talented senior guard Randal Clarkson a season ago, Williams has emerged as Brookhaven's undoubted leader and has the Bearcats in a position to succeed come tourney time. One of the most stiflying on-ball defenders in the area, Williams will take his talents to Ohio Dominican at the next level.

G: Shemar Waugh (Sr. / Northland): 4.5 PPG, 6.8 APG, 4.9 SPG

Without question, Waugh is the top point guard in the Columbus City-League, and maybe even in the state of Ohio. Balanced in every skill, Waugh is a terror in transition and on the perimeter defensively, averaging nearly five steals per game. On a Northland team that makes its bread and butter causing turnovers and getting out on the fast break, Waugh makes the Vikings go. Joining Williams at Ohio Dominican, Panthers coach Dan Evans is assembling quite the recruiting class in Central Ohio.

G: PJ Wilkes (Jr. / Mifflin): 16.4 PPG

Leading a young Mifflin unit, Wilkes has been one of the City-League's most consistent scorers through 11 games this season. The 5'11 guard is a strong ball-handler that can attack the basket, while also having the ability to hit from anywhere on the floor. In Mifflin's opening game of City-League play, Wilkes went for a season-high 25 points as the Punchers cruised over Beechcroft, 59-46. Look for more production out of the junior as the Punchers attempt to climb out of a mid-season hole.

F: Seth Towns (So. / Northland): 15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG

One of Ohio's top sophomores, Towns has been off to a fantastic start to the season. Leading a talented Northland team with 15.5 points per game, Towns has expanded his offensive arsenal in helping the Vikings average just under 75 points per game. At 6'8, Towns has great length and decent athleticism, but the sophomore's greatest trait is his silky shooting. Often compared to Ohio State freshman Marc Loving, Buckeye fans are hopeful that the Northland forward will also one day play under Thad Matta.

C: Doug Taylor (Jr. / Northland): 8.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Emerging as Northland's go-to player in the post, Taylor has been quite the force to reckon with around the rim. At 6'9, Taylor is an explosive athlete that will rise up on any defender, but also has the patience and awareness to make smart plays around the basket. In Northland's run to a berth in the 2013 Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Taylor made his presence felt with solid performances against top competition, highlighted by a ferocious one-handed jam vs. Bullis School (MD) in the tournament's Sweet 16. Sharing time with senior Jaylen Tucker in the paint, Taylor and Northland have length and athleticism down low that rivals some Division-I college teams.

Columbus City-League South

G: Charles Holland (Sr. / West): 25.9 PPG

After leading all of Central Ohio in scoring as a junior, Holland has picked up production in his final season at West. Drawing double and triple teams nightly, Holland has continued put up major numbers despite the attention drawn from opposing defenses. In a 94-82 win vs. Independence on Dec. 17, Holland scored a career-high 43 points to lead West to its first league victory in over two years. Winning three-straight City-League titles from 1997-2000, West is a program that has hit rock bottom in the greater half of the last decade. However, with Holland succeeding in the brown and gold, West has received a bit of a resurgence in 2013-14.

G: John Montgomery (Sr. / Marion-Franklin): 17.7 PPG

Despite a 4-6 start to the season, Montgomery has been Marion-Franklin's top performer, going for double figures in nine of the Red Devils' ten games. At 6', Montgomery is undersized for the shooting guard position, but makes up for it with incredible athleticism and aggression. In a Dec. 23 contest vs. Mifflin, Montgomery went for a season-high 26 points, leading Marion-Franklin to a 71-58 victory. Paired with senior Demetrius Walker in the backcourt, the Red Devils have a talented duo of guards, but need to get more production on the defensive end in order to climb out of an early season hole.

F: Nate Jameson (Sr. / Eastmoor Academy): 12.3 PPG

On one of the most balanced teams in the city, Jameson is the Warriors leading scorer through 12 games. After a slow start to the season, Jameson has caught fire as of late, scoring in double figures in six of Eastmoor's last seven games. At 6'4, Jameson is an above-average athlete with drive, determination and aggression. Most effective around the glass, Jameson is a potent rebounder and forms a formidable duo in the Warriors front court with 6'5 senior Shamonty Manning. A transfer from Northland, Jameson is one of the better unsigned forwards in Columbus, and should help lead an underrated Eastmoor team fairly deep in the playoffs.

F: Jaquan Harrison (Jr. / Africentric): 14.8 PPG

One of the top athletes in all of Ohio, Harrison has been the leading scorer on an Africentric team catching fire at the right time. Notching several double-doubles this season, Harrison has been a force around the basket, scoring the majority of his points in the paint. While his jump-shooting is still a work in progress, Harrison has shown at times, the ability to hit from the perimeter. With the Nubian roster fully loaded, expect more production from the junior down the line. At the moment, Harrison's lone Division-I offer is from Bethune-Cookman, but the junior combo-guard has received some interest from Cleveland State and Indiana State.

F: Tarik Wright (So. / Walnut Ridge): 12.6 PPG

Similar to Eastmoor, Walnut Ridge is a team that gets the job done with balance, defense, and rebounding. Through 10 games, Wright has led the Scots with 12.6 points per game, executing both behind-the-arc and on the drive. In the Scots' second game of the year, Wright went for a season-high 26 points in a tough win on the road at Africentric. One of the toughest matchups in the city, Wright can play both a physical and finesse brand of basketball, and should see great success in the next two and a half years alongside fellow sophomore forward Malik Harrison. At 6'4 and roughly 220 pounds, Wright projects to be an undersized small forward in college, but has the ball skills to play either guard position.