Hathaway Brown shooting for return trip to state tournament

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Hathaway Brown PG Alexis Dobbs

Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown athletic programs have burned up OHSAA state tournaments in recent years collecting six state championships since 2002, including field hockey, soccer and tennis.

The Blazers basketball team is shooting to be the next HB team added to that list of champions following a Division II state runner-up finish last year.


Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown athletic programs have burned up OHSAA state tournaments in recent years collecting six state championships since 2002, including field hockey, soccer and tennis.

The Blazers basketball team is aiming to be the next HB team added to that list of champions following a Division II state runner-up finish last year.

HB (22-5) flew under the radar last season – as much as a four-loss team could go unnoticed – not even finishing in the top 15 in the final AP Poll. But the Blazers caught fire in the postseason making their first trip to the state tournament before falling to defending state title-holder Warsaw River View 45-26 in the state championship game.

After graduating only two seniors from last year’s team, it is without question HB is considered an early favorite to make a return trip to Columbus.

HB All-Ohio F/C Angela Groves

“Talent-wise, we’re as good as we were last year,” said HB head coach Paul Barlow. “Hopefully we have a little more experience with playing on the big stage. Our schedule is probably one of the toughest in the state and it will certainly prepare us for the postseason. But, definitely, the team’s goal is to get to the final four again and win the state championship.”

Senior F/C Angela Groves (6-1) is a two-year captain for the Blazers and a two-time All-Ohio second team selection. She averaged 14.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last year for HB.

“There probably isn’t anybody on the team playing better than (Groves) right now. This is the best I’ve seen her play in the four years she’s been here,” said Barlow, who is 104-56 in seven seasons at HB. “She worked hard in the weight room in the off-season and has gotten much, much stronger. That has translated extremely well for her at the beginning part of the season.

“She has always been incredible on defense but now she has become a full force presence on offense. I think she certainly presents a lot of problems with her athleticism and ability to get up and down the floor,” he said.

Sophomore G/F Mylan Woods (5-10) exploded on the scene last year leading HB with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the state tournament. She averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in her freshman campaign and joined teammate Groves as a second team All-Ohio honoree.

“(Woods) had a fantastic year and is another kid that worked extremely hard in the off-season,” said Barlow. “She did a great job in terms of looking at her game to what she needed to improve on in the off-season.

“Certainly, she has gotten a lot of attention and gotten the focus of a lot of teams and she is up for that challenge. She makes sure that she comes in day-in and day-out and practices and plays at that high level every night.”

He added, “She stepped up into that role last year and I expect her to do whatever we need this year to step up and take on an even more of a responsibility on the floor and take on more of a burden on the floor – not only from a scoring perspective but a defensive perspective.”

Sophomore PG Alexis Dobbs (5-4) came off the bench for the Blazers last year but for all intents and purposes was a ‘sixth starter’. She tallied 7.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 4.5 asists and 2.7 steals per games last year and, according to Barlow, ‘it is her team to run.’

HB sophomore G Mylan Woods

“(Dobbs) is a true point guard and has complete control of the team out there. She knows how to run the team,” Barlow said. “She knows how to get us into whatever we need to run and she is very calm and very poised. Her ability to do that as a freshmen last year with the work she has put in during the off-season makes me all the more confident turning the reins over to her on the floor. She is the floor general and I have absolutely every bit of confidence in her.”

In the backcourt, junior G Lauren Ryan (5-7) provides HB with shooting ability on the perimeter after sinking 40 3-point field goals last year in a starting role averaging 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Senior F Allison Nahra (6-1), junior F Ashley Benedict (6-1) and freshman F Sarah Poland (6-3) all provide solid depth and height in the frontcourt for HB.

“If we need to go big, we can go big and we feel and in a lot of ways we can present a lot of match up problems for a lot of people,” said Barlow.

Freshman G Tanisha Lawler (5-5) is a newcomer to the Blazers roster that has Barlow excited about what she brings to the team.

“She will make an impact right away,” he said.

Despite overall youth, HB brings battled tested players to the floor this season following a long tournament run.

“I think (that experience) is two-fold. The experience of playing in those big games and being on that big stage last year will help not only in the regular season but also in what will hopefully be a long playoff run,” said Barlow. “But the second part of it is last year we snuck up on people. I don’t think there were a lot of people that would have predicted last year that we would be in the final four.

“This year, I’m not so sure that is going to happen. We got a lot of attention last year and I think playing from a favored position – so to speak – is a lot different from sneaking up on people. We have to learn to play with those expectations from other teams. I think we have to learn to play with that target on our back and know that when we take the floor that everyone is going to come out with their ‘A-game’ knowing where we were last year.

“I think learning from that angle and that perspective is a little different from what we had last year.”

With a schedule that includes the likes of South Euclid Regina, defending Division IV state champion Columbus Africentric, Canfield, Walsh Jesuit, Berlin Hiland, Shaker Heights, Akron Hoban and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, the road back to Columbus will not be a smooth ride.

“Night in and night out we’re going to be tested and that is what our schedule is designed for,” said Barlow. “We’re out to win every game and go 20-0 in the regular season. But more importantly – to me – is that we are ready come tournament time, we’ve been tested and we’ve played those big games against quality competition. All those teams on (the schedule) are good, quality teams that are going to give us all the competition that we want and probably more.

“I think you could almost look at any game on there and say, ‘These are all big games’,” he added.

And with the players, talent and experience returning from last season’s state runner-up team, HB is aiming to win the biggest game come March in the Division II state championship.

 

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