Jim Dabbelt is the author of The Dabbelt Report, considered the premier girls’ basketball online source in Ohio. He is completing his 38th year covering girls’ basketball in Ohio, the longest current tenure in Ohio. Jim is also the senior writer for Prep Girls Hoops Ohio along with the sports editor for the Tippecanoe Gazette. This is also his second year as broadcaster for the TKDS Sports Network.
During the day, Jim also works in a Cancer Center at Premier Health in the Dayton area. He is also a fellow member of the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association.
You can follow Jim on Twitter @JDabbs86.
Girls Basketball State Tournament Preview
By Jim Dabbelt
It’s that time of year again as the best of the best assemble at the University of Dayton Arena for the 48th annual OHSAA girls’ basketball state tournament. The Gem City is known for its amazing basketball and this year is no different, as the top girls’ teams in Ohio will be in Dayton for three days to determine the 2023 state champions.
Princeton is trying to keep their record perfect at the state final four. In their two previous trips (1987 and 2014) they captured the gold, coming away with a state championship. Senior Sole Williams leads the way as the 5’8” Texas A&M signee was the Southwest District Division One Player of the Year averaging 21 points per game. Sophomore Mari Gerton was also honored Second Team by the Southwest District averaging 12.9 points per game. La’Sonja Hill is a 5’6” senior who is a major contributor to their success, as is 6’1” senior Dede Carter-Hartley.
Making their school’s first appearance in the Final Four are the Midview Middies with a win over Solon in the regional championship game. Midview brings in a very talented post player with 6’5” Mary Meng, averaging 17 points per game. Olivia DiFranco is more than capable of putting up big numbers, as the 5’10” junior is right behind Meng at 16.3 points per game.
Pickerington Central is no stranger to the Final Four, as the Central Ohio school last won the championship in 2018, their seventh title in school history. This group of young ladies have plenty of talent including Vanderbilt signee Madison Greene, a 5’7” senior who was named the Central District Player of the Year averaging 15.2 points per game. Berry Wallace is considered among the top two juniors in the state by Prep Girls Hoops and brings in a 14.2 average being named First-Team all-district. Olivia Cooper is another all-district player averaging 11 points per game and will attend Columbia.
Making the trip from Northeast Ohio will be Olmsted Falls, marking their final four debut this season. Senior Paige Kohler is the Northeast Lakes Player of the Year as the 5’8” senior guard averages nearly 17 points per game and is headed to the University of Buffalo next fall. Mia Kalich is a 5’11” senior who was also named first-team all-districts who compliments Kohler well. They will be joined by a talented 5’9” junior Danielle Cameron.
Bryan is another newcomer to the big stage as they make their initial appearance at championship weekend. The Golden Bears will bring in a very talented senior with 5’8” Reese Grothaus contributing 13 a game. She was also named First-Team Northwest District. The Williams County squad also has a pair of talented all-district players with 6’1” junior Kailee Thiel and 5’9” junior Ella Voigt.
From the Principals Athletic Conference, Canal Fulton Northwest joins the group of new faces at the final four, as they make the trip to Dayton for their first appearance in school history. Leading the way will be Lily Bottomley, a 6’2” senior averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game. She is over 1,300 points for her career, while 5’10” senior Ashley Cudnik is also a 1,000-point scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game. Ashlyn Stark is another player who is expected to contribute as the 5’6” senior is close to double figures in scoring and is the school record holder in steals. Senior Gianna Kuhn is a 5’5” senior who is the new career assist leader. Northwest is expected to start five seniors with a lot of experience.
Proctorville Fairland is one of only two unbeaten teams who have advanced to the big weekend in Dayton, and their depth is amazing. Three of their players were honored by the Southeast District, led by the Player of the Year 5’6” senior Tomi Hinkle. She is joined by 5’11” junior Bree Allen also named to the first-team with 5’11” junior Kylee Bruce also honored. Kamryn Barnitz is a very skilled guard and a leader for this team. A pair of very skilled freshman Bailey Russell and Addison Godby are major contributors. This is the third time Fairland has made the final four, their first appearance since 2015.
After winning the state title in Division III last year, Purcell Marian makes a return trip to the UD Arena as they go after the same title this season in Division II. Everyone knows about super sophomore Dee Alexander, a 6’1” wing who is ranked among the top three players in the country in her class and is the top 2025 in Ohio. She gets plenty of help from sophomore twins Cy’Aira and Ky’Aira Miller, along with junior sharpshooter Jayda Mosely. They survived a great battle with Hamilton Badin in the regional finals.
The Wheelersburg Pirates have ventured into new territory this weekend, as this is the first trip to the state final four in school history. The Pirates are led by 5’6” senior Makenna Walker as the guard comes in scoring 11 points per game and was selected as a First-Team all-district player, while 5’5” senior Madison Whittaker was named second-team.
Columbus Africentric is no stranger to the final four, as the Nubians are making their 12th appearance on the final weekend of the season with seven overall state championships. Their last crown was in 2019 which was their second consecutive title. This season, they survived a battle with traditional power Versailles in the regional finals. With their leader Kamryn Grant out with an injury, several players have stepped into the leadership role including 5’10” junior Natiah Nelson who had a big regional tournament. 5’8” freshman Jeniya Bowers has developed into an outstanding player while senior leader Ariel Grace is a 5’5” guard who has a good skillset.
Making their fifth trip to the state final four and their first since 2006, Castalia Margaretta looks to bring home some hardware from their trip to Dayton. Eden Palomo is a 5’5” junior who has been their leader being named first-team all-district, with senior guard Jaelle Keller another all-district player who has been a big part of their success.
Legendary head coach Dennis Schrock brings Doylestown Chippewa back to the state final four as the Chipps play on Championship weekend for the fourth time in his long career. In 1994, Schrock was at the helm when a Charbea Haller-led squad lost to Frankfort Adena in the state finals. Now, he looks to make another run at the title. Chippewa misled by a pair of double figure scorers with senior Bel Rodriguez averaging 12.7 points per game and senior Abby Henegar is right behind her at 10.4. The Chipps have good depth with six players averaging six or more points per game.
New Madison Tri-Village is the other unbeaten team still in contention for a state title after an epic regional final win over Fort Loramie. The Patriots bring in 5’8” senior Rylee Sagester, the Division IV Southwest District Player of the Year who also is the new state record holder for career three-pointers made. Morgan Hunt is a 5’10” senior also named first-team all-district as was Torie Richards, another senior. Those three seniors have never lost a conference game in their middle or high school careers.
This is the first final four appearance for Toledo Christian, led by the Northwest District Player of the Year Kendall Braden, a 5’8” junior scoring at a rate of 22.4 per game. Braden is joined by another talented junior as Mackenzie Royal-Davis is a 6’0” skilled player who is very athletic and strong, with the knack to score. Kaylona Butler, Jordan Rosales and Macey Wensink are all seniors who have been a big reason they are playing this week.
Another team making their first final four appearance in school history is New Middletown Springfield from Northeast Ohio. Jacey Mullen is s 5’10” senior (16.8 points, 11.0 rebounds) who became the all-time leading scorer in school history, boys or girls. Close to double figures is sophomore Jameka Brungard as the 5’11” post is at nine points and seven rebounds per game. Another key senior is 5’11” Madison Lesnak.
Well look who’s back. Berlin Hiland has been here an unbelievable 19 times and have brought the gold home to Holmes County six different times. Their last championship was in 2021 and their biggest stretch of success was from 2005-2008 when they won three state titles in those four years. Hiland is led by first-team all-district junior Ashley Mullet, a 5’6” guard averaging 17 points per game. Mallory Stutzman is another major junior contributor pouring in 12 per game. Joplin Yoder is a rising sophomore who has made big strides this season.