Girls Basketball tournament starts; Cincinnati loaded in D-I


Lakota West Guard Amber Gray

The girls' basketball sectional tournament begins today and continues through the next month with district, regional and state play. That said, there is no doubt the talent level Cincinnati has, and that could mean two D-I state semifinalists. The Queen City is loaded. Said Tom Jenkins, director of the Ohio
Girls Basketball Report: “I will be surprised if Cincinnati doesn't have two teams in
the Division I final four.”

There is certainly no doubt the talent level the Cincinnati area has in girls' basketball.

That reality has translated into several Division I college-caliber players and some of the top teams in the state and in the country again this season.

The girls' basketball sectional tournaments begin today (Monday) in the Southwest District and continues throughout the week.

“I will be surprised if Cincinnati doesn't have two teams in the Division I final four,” said Tom Jenkins, director of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report and organizer of the Classic in the Country event during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

That prediction wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility this season.

In Division I, the discussion has to start with Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame.

The Cougars (18-2), ranked No. 2 in the state coaches' poll, have won four of the past five Division I state titles.

MND concluded its regular season Thursday night when it defeated host St. Ursula 60-40.

“I looked at the coaches after the St. Ursula game and said, 'now we can breathe.' We feel very comfortable going into the tournament because we played so many tough games during the regular season,” MND coach Dante Harlan said.

MND has played several top teams in other states, so the Cougars should be ready for the postseason.

Senior forward Tia McBride, who has committed to play at Georgetown, leads the Cougars in scoring with more than 15 points per game.

Harlan said McBride has also been solid defensively.

Senior forward Channing Hillman (Texas El-Paso) is the team's second-leading rebounder and is first in offensive rebounds.

Junior Kendall Hackney, one of the state's top players in the 2009 class, leads the Cougars with 26 blocks.

MND, the second-seed in the Harrison lower bracket, opens with Lakota East at 7:30 p.m.

“In the (Classic in the Country), MND looked so polish in their games,” Jenkins said.

Lakota West, which is ranked No. 1 in the Cincinnati Enquirer area coaches' poll, is ranked third in the state. The Firebirds selected to go to the Columbus regional if they make it out of the Harrison upper bracket.

The Firebirds (19-1) open the sectional by playing Cincinnati Seton at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Harrison.

Lakota West is led by senior forward Amber Gray, who averages more than 17 points and seven rebounds.

Gray, who has signed with Tennessee, is regarded as one of the best players in the country.

“You look at her accomplishments, what's she has done for our basketball program and the numbers she's put up in her career,” Lakota West coach Andy Fishman told the Pulse Journal last week, “she's at a level we've not seen in the Greater Cincinnati area for quite some time.”

Lakota West is also led by junior forward Alexis Rogers (11.7 ppg.), senior guard Quinessa Johnson (6.7 ppg.) and junior point guard Tessa Elkins (6.3 ppg.).

Johnson has signed to play at St. Francis (Pa.) while Elkins has orally commited to Ohio University.

“Lakota West is hitting on all five cylinders right now,” Jenkins said.

Winton Woods (19-1), which also has votes in the state poll, has won 12 consecutive games since it lost at Cincinnati Oak Hills 58-47 Dec. 28.

Jenkins said Winton Woods has one of the best three-guard combinations in the state with senior Courtney Lumpkin (Morehead State) and juniors Dayeesha Hollins and Jasmine Shaw.

“You won't find that kind of caliber of guard play on the same team,” Jenkins said. “They all bring different things to the table.”

Winton Woods plays McAuley at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lakota East.

Other teams to watch include Greater Miami Conference powers Princeton (14-5), Colerain (16-4) and Oak Hills (16-4).

Rising programs Mason (12-8) and Walnut Hills (18-2) could surprise some teams in the tournament, according to Jenkins.

“There are six or seven Division I schools in Cincinnati that if they were in the Northwest or Central Region would have a shot at getting to the state final four,” Jenkins said. “I fully expect two southwest Ohio schools to be in the Division I state final four. Cincinnati Division I basketball is just that strong right now.”

-The Cincinnati area could also have an impact in other divisions. In Division III, Middletown Madison is ranked sixth in the state poll. Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy is ranked eighth.

Badin also received votes in the Division III poll.

-The tournament opens Monday when the Division II sectional at Mason will have Bethel-Tate vs. Norwood at 6 p.m. and Clermont Northeastern vs. Finneytown at 7:30 p.m.

The Western Brown Division III sectional has Purcell Marian vs. Madeira at 6 p.m. and Reading vs. Mariemont at 7:30 p.m.

In the Monroe Division IV sectional, Fayetteville-Perry plays Middletown Christian at 6 p.m. and Southeastern vs. Lockland at 7:30 p.m.

Teams in Division I start Tuesday and several more games are scheduled for Wednesday.

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