It’s the veterans versus the upstarts

Game 3   JAN 15 SAT 1:30 pm   Lakota West Firebirds vs. Northland Vikings

By Dave Mast

Andy Fishman’s Firebirds crew has plenty of experience in the Classic in the Country, having racked up an impressive 8-5 record over the fi rst seven years of the showcase. Meanwhile, Dean Washington’s Columbus Northland crew will be making their first appearance under the bright lights of one of the nation’s premier girls basketball events.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Firebirds will be a heavy favorite.

“Northland is quickly emerging as one of the premier challengers in Div. I to Brookhaven in the Columbus area,” said Tom Jenkins. “They’ve got three legitimate top prospects and the best player on the floor in sophomore Alexis Peterson.”

Joining the electric point guard are highly recruited swing guard/forward Symone Denham, a junior with an all-around great game. Manning the post will be 6-foot Tatiana Chapple, a bruiser who can play at both ends of the floor. In addition, the Vikings have senior wing Ayanna Colvin, and juniors Brandie Curd-Watson and Kierra Simpson, both guards.

What they will face in Lakota West, which finished the year 17-8 last season, is a wave of talent that just keeps coming at teams.
They are led by big 6-foot-3-inch post player Olivia Wrencher. Wrencher is an OGBR top 10 junior post player in the nation, and will be a load for the Vikings to contend with. University of Massachussetts-bound senior Ronni Grandison, the daughter of former NBA player Ron Grandison, is an off-guard who can fill it up and play suffocating defense. But those two stars are far from the core of this team.

“This is a tremendously deep team, and Andy keeps throwing players out there in waves,” said Jenkins. Those waves begin with senior Mea Williams at small forward, juniors Ali Zieverink, a talented post transfer player, Rachel Mills, and sister guards Summer and Shabazz Reeves, along with Adrianna McNeal, the team’s most gifted player athletically, make match-ups a struggle, and the end of game, a chore for teams with no depth. “They just wear people down,” said Jenkins. “Their numbers are ridiculous. They are 10 deep and they’re still solid when their bench players come in.”

In addition, the Firebirds will be cutting their teeth in the Greater Miami Conference, the top conference in girls Div. I basketball in the state.

But don’t sell this Vikings team short. “Depth will be the key,” said Jenkins. “If Northland can stay out of foul trouble and slow down the tempo, it should be a good one. The Vikings are a legitimate threat to knock off the Firebirds.”