2016 OHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.