OGBR Division III Girls Basketball Preview: Africentric’s state title to lose?

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The Ohio Girls Basketball Report and JJHuddle Division III Preview

Is Columbus Africentric the heavy favorite to win the Division III state title? Yep. See who else is ready to challenge the Nubains though. Middletown Madison returns possibly the state’s top player, while Oak Hill, Anna and some others are primed for a solid run…Click here for a look statewide at what to expect.


2010
– 2011 Preview & Prognostications: Ohio High School Girls
Basketball

Ohio Girls Basketball Report
started 13 years ago has become over the last 10 years the #1
single-state scouting service in America. Currently there are 208
colleges across America that subscribe to Ohio Girls Basketball
Report and rely on the information provided by Tom Jenkins and his
staff in evaluating players from Ohio. Tom has over 45 years of
playing, coaching and evaluating experience associated with the game
of basketball. He is devoted solely to the promotion of the game of
Ohio girls basketball through his publication, Ohio Girls Basketball
Report and the promotion of the players of the game through his
services.

Collaborating on this year’s 2010-2011 Preview &
Prognostications  is Bryce McKey, Associate Head Coach at Shaker
Heights Hathaway Brown School and Head Coach of Sports City U, ESPN’s
#8 ranked travel team in the country this past year. Coach McKey is
credited in getting HB “over the hump” in winning their 2nd
consecutive state championships in 2009 and 2010. A disciple of the
legendary coach Perry Reese, Jr., Coach McKey at age 24 has been a
member of the OGBR staff for the last 5 years.

PREVIEW
VITALS

It seems as though every 6 or 7 years a
chapter ends and a new chapter begins in Ohio girls high school
basketball.

A new chapter began in ’96 as interest in the game of
girls/women’s basketball was re-ignited by way of the US Olympic
team, in Ohio Regina reeled off 4 consecutive state championships and
then this chapter culminated with Ohio’s record breaking class of
2003 signing 103 NCAA D-I scholarships, solidifying our state as one
of the 3 national hotbeds of girls basketball.

The next
chapter began in 2004 as Mt. Notre Dame furthered Ohio’s position as a
national hotbed with their run winning 5 state championships over a 6
year period including 4 in a row and this chapter concluded prior to
the beginning of this season with the dismantling of the Mt. Notre
Dame program, the closing of the doors at Regina, some schools not
even being able to field a team, transfers galore and more coaching
changes than you can shake a stick at.

Thank goodness given the
ending of the last chapter, this season is time for a new chapter in
the book of Ohio girls high school basketball to began. My good
friend Eric Frantz here at JJ Huddle / Ohio High Magazine has asked
me to write a statewide all-division inclusive preview for this
upcoming season…so the following is as Bob Seger and The Silver
Bullet Band once sang “is like working on a mystery without any
clues”…here goes…out of 798 high school basketball programs…

PREVIEW
SCHEDULE

Nov. 15: Division IV Preview
Nov. 16:
Division III Preview
Nov. 17: Division II Preview
Nov. 18:
Division I Preview
Nov. 22: Division IV Preseason Power Poll

Nov. 23: Division III Preseason Power Poll
Nov. 24: Division II
Preseason Power Poll
Nov. 25: Division I Preseason Power Poll

Division
III Previews

D-III Springfield Region (SW & part of Central
Ohio)

Favorite(s): Columbus Africentric Lady Nubians

Last year in the JJ Huddle / Ohio High Magazine tournament
preview in regards to Coach Will McKinney’s Africentric Lady Nubians I
stated as follows :

“… I really like the Raven Ferguson (2011) led Africentric Lady
Nubians but I think it will take them a year to navigate their way
through the D-III waters before getting back to Columbus.”

With a year under their cummerbund in Division III and still led by
All-State performer and USA National Team U16 try-out invitee Raven
Ferguson (Ohio State), the stylish Lady Nubians are the “Queens of
‘Madison’ Avenue” this year. Joining Ferguson in their stroll to the
Schott are seasoned veterans of the runway Brittany Thomas (sr Akron),
Kalyn Daniels (sr) and Chelsea Chambers (sr). The House of McKinney
furthers its trendsetting fashion in this their 2nd year at the D-III
level by the return of a healthy Brein Babbs (sr) who missed all of last
year with an illness and Independence transfer Keyonna Black (jr) who
under the OHSAA Bylaws had to sit out last year.   

Challenger(s): Middletown Madison Mohawks & Anna Rockets

As long as 1st team All-State(er) and USA U18 National Team member Ally
Mallot (Dayton) is on any roster that team is a legit contender. However
with the loss of Lindsey Hoskins (Lehigh) to graduation  the Mohawks of
Madison have find the answer to the crucial question on which their
season will depend…who will provide that “Hoskins” spark to light the
competitive fire?…will it be one of the seniors Morgan Miller or
Rachel Blevins? or will it be one of the juniors Brittany Shields,
Ashley Cox or Abby Jerger?…or could it even be the young warrior,
freshman Olivia Philpot? If the Chief Mohawk, Coach John Rossi, finds
the answer expect to see a re-match of the best one-on-one match-ups the
state has to offer Ferguson vs. Mallot.

Maybe not matching the Lady Nubians in “style points” but  more than
capable of matching anyone in this region in “substance” are the Rockets
launched out of Anna. Seniors Rebecca Burch and Carrie Watkins solidify
the backcourt as one of the best backcourt combinations in this
division statewide with sophomore Rachel Billing and senior Megan Fogt
providing a solid foundation in the frontcourt. These Rockets are
strong, capable and able to challenge The House of McKinney come March.

Outside Looking In:
Middletown Bishop Fenwick Falcons &
Versailles Tigers

After being interrogated 4 times between December and February (twice by
Carroll and twice by Alter) the Falcon(s) and the Snowman (Coach Donn
Burrows) will, if they survive, be tested, toughened and have the
“secrets” to become a legit challenger in this region. Led by seniors
Chelsea Farrell and Melanie Monahan are going to chance one last “run”
at the Lady Nubians, the Rockets, the Mohawks and/or Tigers.

Slow learner?…after 13 years associated with the game of Ohio girls
high school basketball one thing has finally been learned… if a
Daugherty (River View) or a Raterman (Versailles) is associated with any
team do not count them out …it matters not if it is player or
coach…if it is a Daugherty (Caroline, Bill, Kristin, Kari and now,
Andi) or a Raterman (Jackie, Joe, Julie and Justine) there is always
that chance. Coach Jackie (Raterman) Stonebraker is still prowling in
front of the Tigers’ bench therefore they are not being counted out !!!

D-III
Athens Region (Eastern Ohio )


Favorite(s):
Oak Hill Oaks

Picked ’em last year and was a bit surprised The Oaks did not return to
the Final 4 last year as they returned their entire top 8 rotation from
their 08-09 Final 4 run where they got beat in the championship by
Regina “by only 15” (63-48) in Regina’s perfect 27-0 season.

Pickin’ The Mighty Oaks again this year as they still have 5 of their
top 8 and 3 starters still on the roster from their 08-09 state
runner-up team in now seniors (then sophomores) Mikie Strite and Kelsey
Burton with now juniors (then freshmen) Lakin Caudill, Taylor Hale and
Breanna Butler.

Challenger(s):
Beverly Fort Frye  Cadets

Not since the days of Leslie Knoch (late ’90s)  has there been this much
excitement down on the river about Fort Frye Lady Cadet Basketball. Why
all the excitement over a team that went 18-5 last year and was knocked
in the district semis?…well let’s begin with the Cadets started 3
freshmen last year (Taylor Buchannon, Deidra Combs and Morgan Liedtke);
then this year they return one of their top players back from an ACL
(6’1 jr Sammie Hanson); this year’s roster has only 1 senior, 2 juniors,
8 sophomores and 3 freshmen; then both last year’s JV and 8th grade
teams went undefeated, and; on top of that they have a current 8th
grader 6’1 Megan Liedtke who may be the best of all Coach Dan Liedtke’s
girls…so now wouldn’t you be excited about Lady Cadet Basketball?..not
just for this year but for years to come…Like Reverend Al Green once
sang in that rock ‘n roll hymnal…’Take Me to the River and Wash Me
Down’ !!!

Outside Looking In:
Sugarcreek Garaway Pirates & Ironton
Fighting Tigers

Paint Dry; Frame Advance; Church Pew Nod; Counting Sheep…call it what
you will but if you control tempo your team has a chance…Coach Scott
Bardall  may be the best in the state at reducing the game down to a
“snail’s pace” and controlling the tempo as he is closing in on 350 wins
over 20 years as a head coach. This has been an effective style in
terms of wins for the Garaway Pirates having made 2 Final Four
appearances during Coach Bardall’s 6 years as head of the girls program.
To support the claim of the Pirates’ proficiency in slowing and
controlling the tempo all one has to do is look at their 4-1 tournament
record from a year ago. In the Pirates 4 wins the average score was 32
to 22. In the Pirates’ loss to Ironton in the regional semis the score
was 31-24…so Garaway still slowed and controlled the tempo. With
seniors Sarah Bardall and Andrea Kettlewell along with underclassmen
Hallie Slemmer (jr) and Ayana Miska (soph) the swashbucklers are
talented enough to make their 3rd Final 4 appearance. 
Expect…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…sorry, dosed off.   

The Ironton Fighting Tigers return only 2 starters off their Final Four
team of a year ago (6’1 sr Nikki Elswick & 5’8 sr Alex
Taylor)…they only return 3 of their top 6 from last year’s Final Four
team…(jr Rebekkah Potter). The Fighting Tigers do return 11 off their
Final Four roster of a year ago. Been there; done that..ain’t nothing
like knowing what it takes to get to The Schott.

D-III
Cuyahoga Falls Region (NE Ohio)


Favorite(s):
Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish

I don’t
believe Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish Basketball was what Aldous
Huxley was thinking about when he wrote the futuristic novel “Brave New
World” in 1931 yet it was centered around developments combining to
cause change…Regina’s doors have closed and the door of opportunity
for Ursuline to return to Columbus has been unlocked. The only 2 years
that Regina has not represented this region in this decade and were
actually beaten on the floor, it was at the hands of the Fighting Irish
from Youngstown Ursuline. (Note: Regina did lose a 3rd time in this
decade – Forfeit last year to Elyria Catholic)

Opening the door for the Fighting Irish are Courtney Powell (a go-to top
tier junior); Aurielle  Irzarry(1 of the top 10 point guards in the
junior class);  Sydney Beasley (sophomore swing player), and; senior
off-guard Ja’niece Whitehead.

The “Golden Dome” may still be on the campus at Notre Dame but with a
little sun along with a little luck between now and March, Coach Sean
Durkin may have his Golden Dome on the sidelines inside the Schott    

Challenger(s):
Orrville Red Riders

Saddle Up !!! With 9 returning from last year’s 20-3 varsity roster,
Coach of the Year and seasoned sideline veteran (not to mention Marie
Alberts’ dad) Coach Mark Alberts is anxious to get this season’s
round-up underway. Leading the way are a pair of 1st team All-Conference
performers in the Plybon sisters (senior Hillary & soph Hannah who
also was 3rd team All-State as a freshman) along with 6’2 senior Sara
Aultz, a 2nd team All-Conference selection. Opponents can expect to be
rode hard and hung up wet as these Red Riders from Orrville are looking
to hang ’em high in Columbus come March.   

Outside Looking In:
Smithville Smithies & Elyria Catholic
Panthers  

Jenna Pew, Alex Leister and Tara Schaffer may have graduated but that
old  cliché “tradition never graduates” is as applicable as it has ever
been in the case of this year’s Smithville Smithies. Returning 2
starters in last year’s freshman phenom (now a soph) Kylie Frizzell and
junior Kelsey Kallenborn, the Smithies show back up this year with 4 of
their top 7 and 9 of 12 from their Final 4 roster a year ago. Inside
size match-ups are going to be an ongoing problem throughout the
year…but as another cliché goes and often quoted by Hubie, “post
players get you to the tournament (play-offs), guards advance you”…no
matter what the level, no matter what the gender.  

Usually when a club goes 20-5, makes it to the regional finals and
graduates 3 senior starters there is usually a bit of a downswing the
following year…in the words of ESPN College Gameday’s Lee Corso..”not
so fast, my friend”. These poised Panthers return their 2 leading
scorers,  Emily Taylor and Ashley Schuster, who are joined by Myrasia
Flowers, Anna McNeely and Tory Rothgery,  replenishing its senior
leadership as all 5 are seniors. Add-in underclassmen Brittney McNamara
(soph) and the EC Panthers are ready to fight for a place again in the
Regina-less wilds of the Cuyahoga Falls Region (NE Ohio).

D-III
Lexington Region (NW & part of Central OH)


Favorite(s):
Findlay Liberty-Benton Eagles

The Champ is the
Champ until someone knocks them off…coming off a perfect season (27-0)
culminating in the 22 point thumping Middletown Madison before a crowd
of 6,098 last year these Eagles are still soaring high. Why the favorite
to repeat?  1st things first…you do not replace the mental and
physical toughness nor the talent of an Amanda Hyde (2010 IPFW)…but
these Eagles do return 2 starters from that perfect team  in 3 point
sharpshooter Caite Craft (jr) and post Ashley Snider (sr) along with 3
of their top 6 (sr. Shanay Gibson)…overall the Eagles return 10 from
last year’s state championship roster who were 2nd all-time in Ohio
girls basketball history for 3 point field goals made and only had 2
teams out of their 27 opponents stay within 9 points or less. Add the
fact that head coach, Nate Iriwn, has a 74.5% winning percentage with
these Eagles…why wouldn’t these Eagles be the pre-season
favorite?…gotta beat the Champ to be the Champ !!!

Challenger(s):
Defiance Tinora Rams & Ottawa Hills Green Bears

As
the only team to give last year’s State Champion, Liberty Benton, a
competitive game in the tournament, expect Defiance Tinora to be hungry
to get a rematch with the Eagles this year.  Last year’s Co-Coach of the
Year, Rich Thiel, believes his Anne Steffel-led Rams are on the brink
of a special season, having a good balance of experience and talent as
they return 6 of 11 from last year’s battering arsenal with all 6 being
seniors this year. (The Rams finished 22-3 and were rated #9 in last
year’s final AP poll).  Being the only team to lose to last year’s
eventual State Champion by single digits in the tournament, the Rams of
Tinora believe and are extremely motivated…they have a goal, they
have  a plan..thus it is not a “wish” …they are Dodge Tough…oops Ram
Tough and pursuing a dream that could ring true in March.

With Liberty Benton coming back to the pack this year coupled with
Ottawa Hills returning Conference Co-POY Lauren Abenbdroth (sr),
All-Conference selection Caroline Amos (jr) along with Haley Jarecki
(jr) and Nancy Rumpf (jr), the Green Bears from Ottawa Hills are a legit
challenger as Coach of the Year Sean Mercer looks to avenge the 22
point district loss to the LB Eagles last year.  

Outside Looking In: 
Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs, Castalia Margaretta
Polar Bears, Fort Recovery Indians, Metamora Evergreen and Richwood
North Union Wildcats

Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs: The purple and gold bulldogs from Carroll return
4 seniors in Milligan, Evans, Wagner and Hughes as they look to advance
in their district but have to overcome the Wildcats from North Union,
this year’s district favorite.

Castalia Margaretta Polar Bears: Margaretta lost by just two points last
year in the District Final and have 10 players with varsity experience
returning.  Coach Tim Tucker hopes his Polar Bears get out of
hibernation early this year and continue to play as the weather gets
warmer into March.

Fort Recovery Indians:  The Indians of Fort Recovery are as a hard
working, fundamental small school program as there is in the state which
their success over the years has reflected.  Although the Indians had
the #1 seed in their district last year, they were ousted by one point
against rival Archbold in the District Semi-Final.  Expect the Indians
used that as motivation in this past off-season as they look to get back
into the regional and beyond.

Metamora Evergreen Vikings: Returning 1st team All-District player
Lauren Langenderfer (jr) makes Coach John Langenderfer’s Vikings a legit
challenger in Tinora’s district this year.

Richwood North Union Wildcats:  Last year’s team went 20-5 as they
entered the regional tournament, eventually losing to Collins Western
Reserve in the regional semi-final.  The Wildcats are talented and have
everyone expecting them to dominate their conference and then, make
another run in the regional tournament.  

COMING NEXT WEEK…

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