Today we begin our look at the girls basketball season which starts this Friday. JJHuddle.com will be running divisional overviews (with players and teams to watch) each of the next four days (D-IV today, D-III on Wednesday, D-II on Thursday and D-I on Friday) leading up to tip-off. We will also be running individual team and conference previews throughout the week.
The countdown to Columbus starts now.
Columbus Africentric claimed the state’s top prize last year, topping two-time defending champion Berlin Hiland in the regional finals after falling to the Lady Hawks the previous two years. The Nubians then edged Ottoville 42-39 in the state semifinals and cruised to a 44-27 state championship victory over New Knoxville.
After graduating only three seniors, Africentric is one of the early favorites in Ohio’s small-school division, especially with the return of Division IV player of the year Tyeasha Moss.
But there are several teams that will be challenging the Nubians to raise the trophy at Ohio State’s Value City Arena in March. State semifinalists Ottoville and Bedford St. Peter Chanel both return the majority of their rosters and are aiming for a return trip to Columbus. And Berlin Hiland always has to be considered a serious threat.
* Gina Beining, 6-0, Jr., C, Ottoville – Averaged 9.0 points per game as a sophomore for the Lady Green in their run to the state tournament.
* Katie Bubna, 5-11, Jr., Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Averaged 9.5 ppg as a sophomore for the state semifinalist Lady Firebirds, earning third-team All-Ohio honors.
* Courtney Cook, 5-11, Jr., F, Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Cook poured in 15.1 ppg, leading the Lady Firebirds to Columbus last season.
* Ashley Davis, 5-9, Sr., F, Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Averaged 9.5 ppg in the frontcourt for the Lady Firebirds.
* Kara Dysert, 6-0, Sr., Ada – Earned third-team All-Ohio honors after averaging 16.1 ppg for the Lady Bulldogs. Dysert’s brother, Zach was a second-team All-Ohio selection last year and is committed to Miami (Ohio).
* Amanda Francis, 5-7, Sr., Sidney Fairlawn – Led the Lady Jets to a tournament win, averaging 19.3 ppg for the season and earning first-team All-Ohio honors.
* Sarah Freytag, 5-9, Sr., Sidney Lehman Catholic – Freytag earned second-team All-Ohio honors after averaging 16.3 ppg.
* Ashar Harris, 5-10, Jr., F, Columbus Africentric – Averaged 12.2 ppg as a sophomore for the Lady Nubians in the run to the state title.
* Alesia Howard, 5-9, Sr., F, Columbus Africentric – Had 9.7 ppg in the backcourt for the D-IV state champions.
* Jacklyn Kellon, 5-5, Jr., G, Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Started as a sophomore averaging 3.7 ppg for the state qualifying Lady Firebirds.
* Krystal Markward, 5-7, Sr., G, Ottoville – Joined Beining as the only juniors to start for state semifinalist Ottoville and averaged 8.5 ppg.
* Shardai Morris-Fountain, 5-5, Jr., G, Cols. Africentric – Complemented D-IV player of the year Tyeasha Moss with 12 ppg as a sophomore for Africentric.
* Tyeasha Moss, 5-8, Sr., G/F, Columbus Africentric – First-team All-Ohio selection and D-IV player of the year after averaging 16.7 ppg. Committed to Xavier.
* Brooke Niemeyer, 5-6, Sr., G, New Knoxville – Only junior starter for state runner-up New Knoxville last year with 7.0 ppg.
* Caitlin Sharp, 5-6, Sr., East Canton – Accounted for 16.1 ppg for the Wizards, earning second-team All-Ohio Honors.
* Jena Stutzman, 5-8, Sr., Berlin Hiland – The Kent State recruit finished last season with 19.1 ppg, leading the Lady Hawks to the regional finals.
Teams To Watch
* Bedford St. Peter Chanel – The Lady Firebirds lose only two seniors from last year’s 18-8 state semifinalist team. With starters Davis, Cook, Bubna and Kellon all returning to the hardwood for Chanel, the Lady Firebirds are in great position to make a run through the state tournament and return to Columbus in search of their first state championship. Joining the starting lineup will be 5-10 junior forward Aly Sarosy.
“Our goals are to get back to Columbus and perform better once we get there,” head coach Hugh McMahon said. “Our group did a good job last year in districts and regionals and we think we can do even better this year.”
* Columbus Africentric – If there was ever a team in better shape to defend a state championship, it would be Africentric. The Lady Nubians lose senior guard Chynna Bozeman (12.6 ppg) but return starters Howard, Harris Morrison-Fountain and D-IV player of the year Moss. Africentric finished 27-1 topping its opponents by an average of 38.2 ppg last season falling only to Toledo Waite in the regular season.
* Delphos St. John’s – The Lady Blue Jays were one of two Midwest Athletic Conference schools to qualify for the D-III state tournament along with Versailles. St. John’s loses only four seniors, but that includes three starters – including leading scorer Jeanne Bockey (12.4 ppg). Senior Sarah Clark and (9.3 ppg) started as a junior and will take on a major leadership role this season. In addition, seniors G Emily Schwieterman, C Stephanie Knippen, F Rachael Miller all return to give the Lady Blue Jays a solid nucleus of players with experience to face the 2007-08 campaign.
* New Knoxville – The Lady Rangers were one of three Midwest Athletic Conference schools to reach the state tournament (Versailles and Delphos St. John’s) last year finishing state runners-up and ranked No. 11 in the final AP state poll. The Lady Rangers have been decimated by graduation losing five seniors and four starters. New Knoxville will look to Niemeyer for leadership as well as junior guard Casey Hortman and 5-foot-11 junior post Morgan Rieneke who saw limited time last year.
“Last year was our first out of districts, let alone making it to the state tournament,” head coach Tim Hegemier said. “We’re excited for this year and we expect good things. The team had a good summer and I think the MAC is up for grabs.”
* Ottoville – The Lady Green returned to Columbus last year after finishing as the state runner-up in 2005 only to narrowly fall to Africentric 42-39 in the state semifinals. Coming off a 22-5 record and a No. 10 ranking in the final AP poll, Ottoville graduates three starters in F Erika Kaufman (7.5 ppg), G Erica Vorst (12.0 ppg) and Courtney Schimmoeller (14.0 ppg) and will look to Beining and Markward to lead to 2007-08 campaign.
Junior guard Tricia Honigford is a promising player that saw a significant amount of time on the floor for the Lady Green last season as a sophomore. Also, Ottoville has been bolstered by the transfer of Brittany Pohlman from Delphos St. John’s. She averaged 10 points last year.
“I think we’re going to be able to compete and will be a pretty good team,” head coach Dave Kleman said. “But I’ve always said you have to be good, lucky and healthy to make a run to the state tournament and hopefully we can do that again.”
* Berlin Hiland – The perennial powerhouse has won three state titles since 2000 and is in a good position to make another run to Columbus behind six seniors. Stutzman was a first-team All-Ohio selection last year and the Lady Hawks leading scorer is back for her senior campaign. Senior guard Layla Miller (4.6 ppg), sophomore guard Hilary Weaver (5.0 ppg), senior F Kristi Yoder (6.9 ppg), junior guard Karli Mast and senior post Rebekah Thomas will all put Hiland in contention for a state title.
“Being the last team standing is our goal,” head coach David Schlabach said. “People somewhat expect that in our community and we do as well.”
* Also Keep An Eye On – Bascom Hopewell-Loudon (24-1), Cincinnati Seven Hills (22-4) Covington (21-4), East Canton (22-4), Mansfield St. Peter (17-7), Sidney Lehman Catholic (17-7), South Webster (15-10), Stryker (22-3), Waterford (21-3).