One of the early favorites this season for Division III girl's basketball state supremacy is South Euclid Regina. Led by Duke recruit Shay Selby (left), the Royals are in the hunt for their sixth state title since 2000 and lead a deep field of talented teams in D-III.
The following is a look at the top teams and players this season in Division III girls basketball.
Last year, led by Jantel Lavender, Cleveland Central Catholic captured the Division III state championship with a 51-45 win over Delphos St. John’s in the title game. However, the 6-4 Lavender is now at Ohio State and runner-up Delphos St. John’s has dropped down to Division IV.
One of the early favorites this season for state supremacy is South Euclid Regina. The Royals won four straight state championships from 2000-03 – a feat unmatched by any team in Ohio be it boys or girls – and last won a title in 2005. They return 2006-07 state co-player of the year Shay Selby, three other starters and will likely be a force all season.
But there are several other teams that will also be in the running including 2007 state semifinalist Versailles. The following is our comprehensive look at the Division III girls basketball race.
* Laura Bardall, 5-11, G, Sr., Sugarcreek Garaway – Bardall averaged 18.8 points per game game for the Lady Pirates earning second-team All-Ohio honors after scoring 15.0 ppg for 2006 state semifinalist Garaway. She is a cousin of Kristin and Kari Daugherty of two-time defending D-II state champion Warsaw River View.
* Ariana Bowles, 5-9, Sr., Sardinia Eastern Brown – The Ohio University recruit was a third-team All-Ohio selection for Lady Warriors with 16.5 ppg.
* Lydia Bridenbaugh, 5-10, Sr., Chillicothe Huntington – Bridenbaugh tallied 20.3 ppg game last season for Huntington earning third-team All-Ohio honors.
* Cayla Keegan, 5-7, Sr., Castalia Margaretta – Averaged 18.1 ppg for the Lady Polar Bears, which finished No. 12 in the final AP Poll.
* Brooke Morgart, 5-7, Sr., Bloomdale Elmwood – Was a third-team All-Ohio selection after tallying 19.8 ppg for the Lady Royals.
* Hannah Nelson, 5-11, Sr., Buckeye Trail – Earned third-team All-Ohio honors with 17.0 ppg for the Lady Warriors.
* Justine Raterman, 6-1, Sr., F, Versailles – Took home second-team All-Ohio honors for state semifinalist Versailles last season averaging 16.2 ppg. Raterman is the younger sister of fifth-year Lady Tigers head coach Jacki Stonebaker.
* Shay Selby, 5-9, Sr., G, S. Euclid Regina – Selby was named the D-III co-player of the year last season with 23.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 6.5 steals. The Duke recruit is rated as the top point guard in the country in the Class of 2008 by HoopGurlz.com.
Teams to Watch
* South Euclid Regina (23-2) – The state powerhouse lost to eventual state champion Cleveland Central Catholic in the regional finals last year (66-63, OT). However, led by arguably the state’s best player in senior guard Shay Selby, the Royals are one of the early favorites to win it all this season.
Selby, a 5-9 senior guard, is a four-year starter and has averaged over 22 points per game in each of the last two seasons. She has already accepted a scholarship from Duke.
“A few things stand out about her,” Regina head coach Patrick Diulus said. “She’s a tremendous competitor and she is an excellent shooter and distributor.”
But it will be far from a one-girl show for the Royals this year. Selby is just one of four returning starters.
Shooting guard Emily Hoscilowicz (5-7, Sr.) is a “great outside shooter” according to her coach and she was the team’s second-leading scorer last year with over 12 points per game.
Point guard Taylor Mingo (5-6, So.) is an excellent ball handler and Diulus says she is already a “big-school recruit.”
Post player Mercedes Mitchell (6-0, Sr.) is another returning starter who is being highly recruited.
As for team goals, they don’t change much from year-to-year at Regina. When you are one of the best programs in the Ohio, winning state championships is always something that is being discussed.
“That is our only goal,” Diulus said. “Winning state is our only goal. We won districts the last two years but fell a little short in regionals. We played a very good Cleveland Central Catholic team and the game could have gone either way.
“So, here at Regina, the expectations are probably always too high. And that can be good and bad. But we are an independent school with no league title to play for, so winning the state championship is always our goal.”
Selby is rated as the No. 13 over prospect in the country by HoopGirlz.com and the No. 1 PG. Diulus has over 300 career victories and is the only coach with seven state titles.
* Versailles (23-4) – The 2007 state semifinalists return three starters this season and will look to defend their regional championship and possibly more.
The Tigers will be led by center Justine Ratterman (6-1, Sr.), who averaged 16.2 points and 10 rebounds a year ago. She is currently trying to decide between scholarship offers from Dayton and Bowling Green.
Shooting guard Emily Bohman (5-8, Sr.) is also a returning starter for Versailles. She averaged eight points and five rebounds last year.
The final returning starter is point guard Karen Smith (5-6, Jr.) who averaged roughly two points and three assists per game last year.
Versailles lost to eventual state champ Cleveland Central Catholic 51-39 last year in the state semifinals. And while the Tigers have some holes to replace, they think they can get back to Columbus again this season.
“We still have the majority of our scoring and rebounding with Justine and Emily,” head coach Jacki Stonebaker said. “But we lost six seniors off last year’s team and they were leaders. We have four seniors this year and they need to take over the leadership role and I don’t think that will be a problem.
“We would love to get back to state and that is one of our goals. We look at the first 20 games as practice for the tournament.”
* Anna (24-1) – The Rockets were ranked No. 2 in the state by the Associated Press for the majority of last season. However, their quest for a perfect season ended with a 48-42 loss to Versailles in the regional semifinals. This season, they must replace star center Sarah Schulze who was a two-time first-team All-Ohio selection and is now playing at Ohio State.
However, despite having just one returning starter, the cupboard is far from bare. Kelly Barhorst (6-2, Sr.) is one of the best centers in the state and she averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game last year. She will play college volleyball at Ohio State.
Other players to watch for Anna include: junior forward Gina Barhorst, wing Kylie Wildermuth (5-8, So.) and shooting guard Amy Finkenbine (5-6, Jr.).
“This year, my top goal is to get everyone playing together,” head coach Jeff Reese said. “We only have one returning starter, but the team had a strong summer. Now it’s just a matter of the players getting to know how each other plays.”
* Cleveland Central Catholic (25-1) – The defending state champions have just one returning starter, but the Ironmen have plenty of talent at their disposal once again. Obviously the big loss is state player of the year Jantel Lavender who is now doing her thing at Ohio State.
Leading the way this season is the lone returning starter, Elexis Johnson (5-8, Sr.). She can play multiple positions (mostly the 2 and 3) and averaged 8.5 points per game last year. She is being recruited by several small schools for basketball, but she is also a talented volleyball and softball player.
A possible future star for Cleveland Central Catholic is 5-6 freshman point guard Chyress Lockhart.
“She is very gifted,” CCC head coach Brian Arth said. “She’s very quick and is a good ball handler.”
A girl who played a lot off the bench for the state champs last year is Danyale Robinson (5-8, Sr.). She averaged roughly three points per game last year and is the “best shooter” on the team according to Arth.
The second player off the bench last year was forward Adjoni Williams (5-10, Jr.), the sister of former North Carolina Tar Heel Jawad Williams. She is an “excellent rebounder” and a solid defender according to her coach.
The other returning player who received valuable minutes off the bench last year is post Barb Fuller (5-11, Sr.). She averaged two points per game last year and Arth is expecting big things from her this season.
“Our main goal is to get to regionals and see what happens from there,” Arth said.
* Also Keep An Eye On – Albany Alexander (24-3), Columbus Bishop Ready (22-3), Hamilton Badin (16-10), Columbiana Crestview (20-4), Columbiana (18-7; moving up from Division IV), Liberty Center (18-6; up from D-IV), Atwater Waterloo (22-2), Mt. Blanchard Riverdale (22-2), Columbus Grove (22-3), Apple Creek Waynedale (21-3), Marion Pleasant (21-4), Sardinia Eastern (23-3).