Last season Versailles won the program’s first state title, finished the season as the state’s lone unbeaten girls basketball team and beat Regina. Don’t expect an encore from Versailles or anyone in D-III this season. The field is wide open.
Last season Versailles shocked the basketball world by handing South Euclid Regina its first loss in six trips to the state tournament. En route to winning the program’s first state title, the Tigers also finished the season as the state’s lone unbeaten girls basketball team, regardless of division.
Don’t expect an encore from Versailles or anyone in D-III this season.
The field is wide open, and although the usual suspects will be there again, expect the unexpected. Versailles did.
TOP PLAYERS: WHO YOU WANT TO SEE
* Chelsea Bowker, 5-10, Sr., F, Columbiana Crestview – Named second-team All-Ohio last year after averaging 25 ppg.
* Jackie Cook, 5-11, Sr., F, South Euclid Regina – Cook comes to Regina after transferring from Medina Highland mid-season last year. Through 13 games at Highland, Cook was averaging 23 points and 11.2 rebounds. She’s headed to Old Dominion.
* Tay’ler Mingo, 5-5, Jr., PG, South Euclid Regina – Royals leading returning scorer (10.2 ppg) is arguably the division’s top player. Mingo is ranked as the No. 5 point guard nationally and the No. 21 prospect overall in the Class of 2010 by the prestigious College Girls Basketball Report. She is being courted by every Top 25 program.
* Taylor Ruper, 5-7, Sr., G, Garfield Heights Trinity – Akron recruit was second-team All-Ohio last year after averaging 21.2 ppg. She also logged 123 rebounds, 63 assists, 57 steals and 57 3-pointers.
* Ally Malott, 6-1, So., C, Middletown Madison – Standout post is one of the top three recruits in Ohio – regardless of division – in the Class of 2011 according to CBGR. Malott averaged 13.5 ppg as a freshman en route to first-team All-Southwest District and special mention All-Ohio honors
* Taylor Langenderfer, 5-6, Sr., G, Metamora Evergeen – Named second-team All-Ohio last year after averaging 18.3 ppg.
* Katie Mengos, 5-7, Sr., G, Casstown Miami East – Third-team All-Ohio after averaging 11.5 ppg last year.
* K.C. Elkins, 5-6, Jr., G, West Jefferson – Point guard was third-team All-Ohio after averaging 20.5 ppg.
* Ashley Andrews, 5-7, Sr., G, Marion Pleasant – University of Findlay recruit earned third-team All-Ohio honors last year after averaging 10.9 ppg.
* Ginny Petties, 5-6, Sr., G, Steubenville Central Catholic – First-team Eastern district standout was named third team All-Ohio last season after averaging 22 ppg.
* Brittni Journee’, 5-5, Sr., G, Richmond Heights – Named third-team All-Ohio after averaging 24.8 ppg last year.
* Kayla Brown, 5-9, Sr., F, Mt. Blanchard Riverdale – Earned third team All-Ohio honors after averaging 13.8 ppg last year.
* Iris Butcher, 5-8, Jr., G, Federal Hocking – Averaged 15.8 ppg last season en route to second-team all-district honors.
* Therany Dunnigan, 6-2, So., C, South Euclid Regina – Dominant post player is the No. 9 ranked center nationally in the class of 2011 by CBGR. She is receiving heavy interest from Michigan and Purdue.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Here are some of the key contenders in Division III:
The defending state champions will be hard pressed to repeat and make their third straight appearance in Columbus, but it’s never smart to bet against a team from the MAC. Finding two players to replace graduated seniors Justine Raterman (Dayton) and Emily Bohman will be impossible. Versailles will need some new names to step forward. Of course, last year, the Tigers returned only two starters and four players with varsity experience from the 2007 state semifinal team and won a state title. Expect the Tigers to go deep into the postseason. How deep is the question.
South Euclid Regina
The Royals lost three starters (all were All-Ohio) from last year’s state semifinalist team including state player of the year Shay Selby (Duke), but the cupboard isn’t bare. Regina hasn’t earned its reputation for rebuilding. The Royals reload. According to Ton Jenkins of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, Regina is the only D-III school in Ohio that could start five legitimate D-I college recruits in 5-5 junior guard Tay’ler Mingo, 5-11 senior forward Jackie Cook, 6-2 sophomore post Therany Dunnigan, 5-10 senior forward Riley McCormick and 6-2 junior post Pa’Sana Hope.
Garfield Heights Trinity
The Trojans have three state titles in program history, but haven’t reached the big dance since 1996. This could be the year they return. Standout 5-7 senior guard Taylor Ruper will play a large role.
The Spartans could be best D-III team in central Ohio with 5-7 senior guard Ashley Andrews and Amy Daniels returning. Daniels (6-0, Jr., F) averaged 16.7 ppg last year en route to earning honorable mention All-Ohio honors. Pleasant finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll before bowing out in the district tournament to Baltimore Liberty Union. That bad taste has to linger.
Casstown Miami East
The Vikings gave Versailles its toughest game in the tournament last year, losing to the state champions 47-37 in the regional final. That loss, coupled with a regular season loss to the Tigers, were the Vikings only two defeats (finished 24-2 and No. 4 in the AP poll). This could be the year East makes it to Columbus for the first time since 1999 (finished runner-up) thanks in part to the return of Katie Mengos (5-7, Sr. G) and Ashley Rice (6-1, Sr., P) who averaged 11.9 ppg last year. The Vikings were also a state semifinalist in 1997.
The Pirates made their fourth state tournament and second in three years last season. Gone is two-time All-Ohio pick Laura Bardell (Findlay) but returning are starters Kristen Troyer (5-7, Sr., G) and sophomore Sarah Bardell (5-11, So., F). Key subs from last year’s team – Trish Seilhamer (5-5, Sr., G) and Kenzie Kaufman (5-11, Sr., F) – add depth.
The Mohawks could be a year away from seriously challenging for a state title. In addition to 6-1 sophomore center Ally Malott, the Mohawks return 5-7 junior guard Lindsay Hoskins, who was a third-team All-Southwest District pick (10.3 ppg).
Mt. Blanchard Riverdale
The Falcons made their first state tournament last season before bowing out to Garaway in the semis. A return trip could be in the works. Riverdale returns senior starters 5-9 senior forward Kayla Brown and Amy Fox (5-6, G, 6.7 ppg). Also back are senior guard Kaylee Sheets (5-7) and sophomore post Lacey Kessler (6-0).
Cadiz Harrison Central
No one’s claiming the Huskies will win a state title, but they could challenge for a district championship and maybe more. Key players returning include a pair of third-team all-district selections in seniors Sara Pelegreen (5-7, G, 12.5 ppg) and Sarah Wilden (5-9, F, 9.6 ppg).
Woodsfield Monroe Central
The Seminoles lost in the sectional opener last season but look for better results this time around. First-team all-district performer Aliesha Guiler (5-10, Sr., F, 18.6 ppg) returns as does third-teamer Karlie Davis (5-7, Sr., G, 10.8 ppg).
Stewart Federal Hocking
The Lancers are another team to watch in the Lancaster Regional. Hocking returns two all-district players in 5-8 junior guard Iris Butcher and 5-6 senior guard Emily Dunfee. Each averaged 15.8 ppg.
The Pointers made the regional semifinals last year before bowing out to Garaway. A return trip is the plan. South Point is powered by all-district selections Jordan Fletcher and Tineesha Taylor. Fletcher (5-0, Jr., G) averaged 16.7 ppg last year, while Taylor (5-9, Jr., P) chipped in 11 ppg.
In addition to 5-5 senior guard Brittni Journee’, the Spartans return second-team all-district honoree J’Brai Williams (5-6, Sr., G, 14.5 ppg). Making it out of the district is a priority.
The Badgers fell in the district semifinal last season, but don’t be surprised to see them in the regional this season. Berkshire returns all-district players in senior Jessica Ronyak (5-10, F, 12 ppg) and sophomore Meghann Wright (5-9, F, 17 ppg).
Also Keep An Eye On
West Milton Milton-Union, West Liberty-Salem, Middletown Fenwick, Fredericktown, Cincinnati Summit Country Day, Rootstown, Oak Hill, Nelsonville-York, Findlay Liberty-Benton, Castalia Margaretta, Genoa Area, Columbiana Crestview, Smithville, West Salem Northwestern and Waterloo.