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2016 OHSAA
Girls Basketball
State Tournament Preview

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2016 OHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament Preview

 

By Jim Dabbelt

 

Jim Dabbelt is the author of The Dabbelt Report, considered the premier girls’ basketball online source in Ohio. He is completing his 31st year covering girls’ basketball in Ohio, and is also the sports editor for KBA News (New Carlisle News, Tippecanoe Gazette, Enon Eagle and Troy Tribune). Jim also works in the cancer center at Premier Health in the Dayton area. You can follow Jim on Twitter @JDabbs86 and contact him at jmdabbelt@aol.com.

 

The tradition of outstanding basketball around the state of Ohio continues this weekend, as the 41st annual OHSAA girls’ basketball state tournament takes place at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University. This year’s event will certainly be exciting as no less than three new state champions will be crowned, while Kettering Alter tries to go back-to-back in Division II. While the talent is sure to be top-notch all weekend, the competition will be fierce as the 16 teams competing all have their eyes on one prize – going home with a gold medal around their neck.

 

Division III

On Thursday afternoon, the first Division III state semi-final gets underway as Gates Mills Gilmour Academy battles Marion Pleasant. Gilmour Academy (23-5) is making their first-ever Final Four appearance in the state tournament, as coach Bob Beutel brings the Lancers to Columbus led by the All-Northeast Lakes District Player of the Year Naz Hillman (6-2 Sophomore, 18.4 ppg).  Beutel is one of only five coaches to coach two different teams to the final four. Joining Hillman for Gilmour Academy will be another first-team all-district player in 5-10 junior Emily Kelley (17.5 ppg), along with second-team all-district senior Marissa Finazzo (5-5 Senior, 5.4 ppg).  Earlier this year, Gilmour played two of the top five ranked teams in America in a tournament.

 

Marion Pleasant (25-2) knocked off the defending state champions from Versailles in the regional finals at Springfield last weekend to advance to their second Final Four appearance in school history, and first since 1998. Seventh-year head coach Nate Dendinger leads the way for the Spartans, as they finished #10 in the final AP poll. Pleasant is led by 6-foot junior Summer Blevins (6-0 Junior, 16.5 ppg), who earned first-team all-Central District this season.  The Spartans tied their school record for wins in a season.

 

In game two of the Division III semi-finals, Columbus Africentric will bring their state tournament experience to the Schottenstein Center to battle the only unbeaten team left in Ohio, the Fighting Tigers from Ironton. Africentric (22-5) is making its seventh Final Four appearance in school history, having won state championships in both Division Three and Four in previous years.  They have won four previous state titles (2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014) and head coach Will McKinney is the only coach in the history of the program. Jordan Horston was named first-team all-Central District, as the 5-11 freshman leads the Nubians. Leah Morrow (5-7 junior) was also named to the second-team all-district team, while 6-0 senior Zharia Lenoir earned third-team honors.

 

Ironton comes in 27-0, and is making its fourth appearance in the Final Four in school history, with the previous occurring in 1980, 2005 and 2010. The Tigers (AP #9) will be led by Lexie Barrier (5-11 Senior, 18.1 ppg), who was named the Player of the Year and first-team all-Southeast District. Also named first-team was Sydney Webb (5-7 junior, 10.5 ppg) while coach Doug Graham was honored as the district Coach of the Year. Ironton also brings in Cheyenne Scott, a 5-9 senior (10.2 ppg) who was second-team all-district, and 5-9 sophomore Lexi Wise (9.7 ppg) who was named third-team.  It is the first time in school history that the Tigers finished the regular season undefeated, and they are the only unbeaten team in the final four.

 

Division II

Thursday evening, the Division II teams take center stage, beginning with the only defending state champion to make it back in 2016, Kettering Alter as they battle Columbus Eastmoor. Alter won its third consecutive regional championship game with a victory over Tipp City Tippecanoe, and they advance to the final four for the seventh time in school history. Chris Hart and Kendal Peck share the head coaching duties, as Hart won her 400th career game with the Knights against Dayton Chaminade Julienne in the sectional tournament. Alter earned their second consecutive wire-to-wire AP poll championship, and will bring in 5-8 junior Libby Bazelak (9.8 ppg), who was named first-team Southwest District, while 5-11 junior Braxtin Miller (12.2 ppg) earned second-team district honors. The Knights (25-2) also won a state championship in 2008, and prior to the win over Tippecanoe, they defeated previously-unbeaten Bellbrook. One loss earlier in the season came to the hands of Division I state qualifier Mason.

 

Eastmoor (21-4) makes their third final four appearance in school history. Second-year coach Charity Martin-Via led her team to an upset of AP #6 Millersburg West Holmes in the regional finals, after Eastmoor ended the regular season unranked in the final AP poll. The Warriors are led by Central District Division Two Player of the Year Amani Burke (14.9 ppg), the 5-9 senior who is the sister of NBA player Trey Burke.

 

In the nightcap, Ottawa Glandorf will meet longtime state final four regular Hathaway Brown. Ottawa Glandorf (25-2) returns to the final four, only this year they move up to Division II. Last year Troy Yant’s squad lost to Versailles in the Division III title game, the schools’ first appearance ever in the final four. The Titans (#5 AP) appear to be playing their best basketball of the season, as they upset the AP second-ranked Toledo Rogers in the regional finals when Dani Ellerbrock hit a buzzer beater for the Titans. Ottawa-Glandorf is led by 5-9 sophomore Kadie Hempfling (15.3 ppg), who earned first-team Northwest District honors, while 5-9 junior Kylie White (12.7) was named second-team.

 

Hathaway Brown (15-10) comes into the final four unranked, but is no secret to Columbus. The Blazers have the record for five consecutive championships (2009-2013) and most consecutive title games. Dani Lawson (14 ppg) leads the way for Hathaway Brown, as the 6-2 junior  was named first-team all-Northeast Lakes District, with 5-9 sophomore Hannah Harlor (12.1 ppg) selected to the second-team district. The Blazers survived two close district games to advance into the regionals, as they won their two district games by a combined three points.

 

Division IV

Division IV begins the day on Friday, as the state runner-up from last year brings their experience to the court against a team who makes their first ever appearance at the state tournament. Waterford (24-1) lost to Fort Loramie in last year’s title game, and returns to the Schottenstein Center for another shot at the championship. The Wildcats finished the season ranked #2 in the AP poll, and has not lost to an Ohio team this season. Coach Jerry Close, who was honored as the Southeast District Coach of the Year, brings in a team led by 5-7 senior Dani Drayer (14.8 ppg), who was named the Southeast District Player of the Year, and Regan Porter, a 5-9 senior (9.6 ppg) who was honored on the second-team. Also selected to the second-team was Megan Ball (5-10 sophomore, 10.7 ppg).

 

While Waterford is experienced at the state tournament, Cornerstone Christian Academy (23-4) makes its first trip to Columbus in school history. The Patriots advanced through the sectional and districts as the fourth seed, and earned wins over all of the top three seeds to get to the regionals. Ashley West (5-9 senior, 11.6 ppg) and Jordan Cloonan (5-9 senior, 13.3 ppg) were both named to the first-team all- Northeast Lakes District, as Cloonan also scored her 1,000th point this season.

 

Fostoria St. Wendelin  (25-3) also returns to the final four after an appearance last season. The Mohawks lost to Waterford in the semi-finals last season, and look to use a strong tournament run to get back to the finals. St. Wendelin upset the AP #1 ranked Arlington in the regional semi-finals, then defeated another ranked team in the regional finals, as they defeated Fayette (AP #8) to advance to state.Kamryn Troike, a 6-4 senior (25.3 ppg), was named the all-Northwest District Player of the Year, while scoring her 2,000th point during her senior season. Allie Rutter (5-10 Sr., 12.9 ppg) earned third-team Northwest District. The Mohawks are also unranked this season.

 

There will be a new state champion in Division IV thanks to Jackson Center out of the Tipp City Regional. The Tigers, also unranked, make their first trip to the final four since 2001 after they upset the defending state champions from Fort Loramie in the regional finals. Jackson Center makes its third appearance at the final four, and each of the previous times they won the state title. The Tigers have nobody in double figures, but all five starters play a key role in their success in the post-season. Peyton Esser (5-7 senior) leads the way at 9.0 ppg with Cassie Meyer (5-11 junior, 8.2 ppg) and Nicole Fogt (6-foot senior, 6.0 ppg). Several players on the Tigers squad also won a state volleyball championship this past fall.

 

Division I

There will also be a new champion crowned in Division I, as Lakota West lost in the regional finals to Mason. In the opener on Friday evening, Wadsworth battles Reynoldsburg in the first semi-final contest. Wadsworth (24-1) comes into the final four with just one blemish on their record, an early season loss to Mason. This will be the fifth final four appearance in their history, and they aim to win their second state championship, which was ironically in 1997 against Mason. They went to three consecutive final fours in the late 90s, and have now made six consecutive regional appearances. Jodi Johnson (5-11 senior, 18.3 ppg) was named the Northeast Inland District Player of the Year, while Sophia Fortner (5-5 sophomore, 8.5 ppg) was selected to second-team.

 

Coach Jack Purtell brings in Reynoldsburg (21-5, unranked) for their third appearance in the final four (2010, 2012), and have won six of the last seven district championships. Sophomore Adrian Crockwell (5-9 sophomore, 11.8 ppg) leads the way for the Raiders, as she was selected to the All-Central District second-team.

 

Solon (18-8) also makes its second consecutive appearance in the Division I final four, and third overall. Their first trip to Columbus was in 2008 as the state runner-up, and despite not being ranked in the final AP poll, the Comets are looking for their first state championship. Playing a very difficult schedule has prepared them for this weekend, as they have played all three other Division I teams in Columbus this weekend. They opened the season with a game against their semi-final opponent Mason in Cincinnati. Solon is led by the Northeast Lakes District Player of the Year Dee Bekelja (5-7 junior, 17.4 ppg), while Alexis Stover (5-11 junior, 12.4 ppg) was named to the third team.

 

In a rematch from the opening game, Mason looks to continue its magic after a convincing win over Lakota West. The Comets (25-2) are making their fourth state final four appearance, including a state championship in 2000 and runner-up in 1997 and 1999. They finished #5 in the final AP poll, and are led by first-team Southwest District player Lauren Van Kleunen (6-3 senior, 13.1 ppg), along with Jailyn Mason (5-8 senior, 9.0 ppg), who was named to the second-team all-district.

 

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