Who wins the state title? Who makes the Final Four? Who is a wildcard? What region is deepest? All the answers are here…
36th Annual Ohio High School Basketball State Tournament Preview
Girls Basketball Report started 12 years ago and has been voted for the
last 9 years the No. 1 single-state scouting service in America by NCAA
D-I Head Coaches. Currently there are 208 colleges across America that
subscribe to Ohio Girls Basketball Report and rely on the information
provided in recruiting players
from Ohio. Ohio has become consistently one of the top 3 states in the
country for NCAA D-I signees.
This 36th Ohio High School State
Tournament Preview has been prepared by Tom Jenkins, director of Ohio
Girls Basketball Report (OGBR) along with OGBR administrative staff
member Bryce Mckey. Tom has over 40 years of playing, coaching and
evaluating experience associated with the game of basketball. Coach
McKey is currently the associate head coach at Hathaway Brown as well as
recently considered for several NCAA D-I assistant coaching positions
and has been with OGBR for 6 years.
OGBR is devoted solely to
the promotion of the game of Ohio girls basketball through its
publication, Ohio Girls Basketball Report and the promotion of the
players of the game through its events and services.
This year’s 36th Ohio High School State Tournament Championships are
as loaded with big time talent as I have seen in 13 years previous of
being associated with Ohio girls basketball. There are going to be some
phenomenal match-ups both team and individual this year at all 3 levels,
district, regional and state and in all 4 divisions.
does a tremendous job coordinating and putting on what friends of mine
from across the country call the best high school state tournament in
America. Just think 798 teams…a nightmare of a task. Come out and
support this great game. Come out and support all the teams, players and
coaching staffs that have worked hard all year and made sacrifices to
compete in this great game.
FINAL FOUR FAVORITES: Oak Hill, Middletown Madison, Columbus Africentric & Orrville
STATE CHAMPION FAVORITE: Oak Hilll
In girls high school basketball, particularly with the small school divisions (D-III and D-IV), the good teams are really, really good and the bad teams…well, they aren’t so good. So when projecting out regional champions one needs not to get caught in the trap (like the AP does ever so often) in thinking 20-0 or 19-1 are tell-tale signs of great teams.
There are pockets around the state where there is a sackful of competitive teams…and generally, these top teams in these “pockets” do not change from year to year…it is a matter of degree of emphasis by the administration of these schools in teaching life lessons thru scholastic competition.
With that said the small school divisions and these competitive “pockets” give even more reason to re-seed after the district tournaments in order to achieve the goal of “statewide competitive balance”.
Athens Regional (East/Central):
Pickin’ The Mighty Oaks again this year…no getting upset this year as Ironton cut down the Oaks last year in the regional final. Oak Hill still has 3 starters from their state final four team 2 years ago and still has 5 of their top 8 from that state D-III runner up team with now seniors Mikie Strite & Kelsey Burton and now juniors Lakin Caudill, Taylor Hale and Breanna Butler.
The Road to Canterbury featured The Miller’s tale. The Road to Columbus could feature The Friar’s Tale…no, not those kind of Friars…these Fryers…as in Fort Frye. Seriously, I do think the Cadets from Fort Frye are a year away from marching to Columbus…I will go on the record now in stating they will be my pick to come out of the Athens Region next year…heck, they graduate 1 senior this year and return the other 11 including current junior Sammie Hanson and current sophomores Taylor Buchannon, Deidre Combs and coach’s daughter, Morgan Liedtke. Add in current 8th grader and other coach’s daughter, Megan Liedtke and the Cadets from Fort Frye are starting to sound like those Black Bears from River View with all those Daughertys…Kristin, Kari with Mom, Caroline and dad, Bill on the sideline…and we all remember the run they had from 2006-2009…(no, we didn’t forget you Andi…you just weren’t on the roster in 2006-2009)
Although it is not very entertaining it can be very effective when a team controls the tempo of a game and Sugarcreek Garaway is as good as any team in the state at slowin’ it down. Some teams can’t score; other teams don’t look to score making even purists holler for a shot clock !!! One thing these Pirates do have that they have not had in years past is pretty good size across their frontline thus having the ability to limit opponents to one shot each trip down the floor. If you can control the tempo and can limit opponents to one shot each trip down the floor your team has chance…so these Swashbucklers from Little Switzerland have a chance…so in other words this sleeper could put you to sleep…for real !!!
Lexington Regional (Northwest/Central):
The Champ is the Champ until someone knocks them off…or unless another champ moves in…as did, back-to-back (08-09) D-IV state champs, Columbus Africentric this year opting to come to the Lexington Regional instead of going back to the Springfield Regional.
Last year was an unfortunate year for the Africentric Lady Nubians in the regional semifinal as they entered the contest without the only coach the school has ever had, Will McKinney, as he had become severely ill and could not travel. Losing to Middletown Madison last year in the Springfield Regional semis 53-56, Coach McKinney chose to stay away from karma and ho-doo voodoo this year by heading north with his Lady Nubians to the Lexington Regional. Seniors Raven Ferguson (Ohio State), a USA Team invitee, and Brittany Thomas (Akron) lead a veteran club which includes sister seniors Chelsea Chambers, Kayln Daniels, Brein Babbs and junior Keyonna Black. Trust me, there is enough championship experience and talent for Coach McKinney’s crew to navigate these unchartered waters up in Lexington.
The Champ, the Liberty Benton Eagles do return 2 starters from last year’s 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. If our projections come to fruition we will figure the math and find out if 4 3s beat 5 2s or if 7 2s beat 4 3s.
But, and it is a big but,…for Liberty Benton to get a shot at Africentric and retain the regional title, the Eagles have to fly by Milbury Lake in the district finals and then get by the Metamora Evergreen / Fort Recovery winner in the regional semis…tough task… might be too much turbulence for these Eagles from Findlay.
Springfield Rgional (Southwest/Central):
With the Lady Nubians of Africentric going north (Lexington) instead of west (Springfield) and as long as Ohio’s lone McDonald’s All-American, USA U18 Gold Medal National Team member and leading Ms. Basketball candidate Ally Mallot (Dayton) is on any roster that team is the legit contender. Thus, Middletown Madison is our favorite to come out of the D-III southwest region
Mallot’s supporting cast of sister seniors Morgan Miller and Rachel Blevins along with the junior trio of Brittany Shields, Ashley Cox and Abby Jerger and highly regarded freshman Olivia Philpot is strong enough and experienced enough to get out of this region to make an encore appearance at the state final four. However, their encore appearance will turn into merely a cameo appearance in the state semis…ever heard of reverse scalping?…me neither…but 3 factors come into consideration 1) last year M-Madison succumbed to the physicality in the state championship game against Liberty Benton; 2) they lost their most physical player Lindsey Hoskins (Lehigh) to graduation, and 3) the way games are called in the lower division schools in the Cincinnati area does not prepare these teams from the southwest for the state final four…thus, these Hoskins-less Mohawks are just not ready physically to compete against the Mighty Oaks or the Lady Nubians when they get to Columbus.
Of all of our 16 favorites in the state tournament (4 per division x 4 divisions) M-Madison has the hardest road to hoe. First the Mohawks are going to scalp the G-Men of Georgetown in the district finals. Not an easy task as the Lady G-Men are led by one of the most underrated guards in Ohio, junior Casey Carter. Coach Bernie Cropper may not be Melvin Purvis but his Lady G-Men are going to show up at the district final in Springfield with a “Tommy-gun in their holster” …they have had a tremendous year but have not received any respect or recognition from any of the polls…ours included. Remember guards…you have to have guards to advance in a tournament at any level…Georgetown will have the best guard on the floor in Carter. If the Mohawks only bring a knife to this gunfight they are in trouble.
If the M-Madison Mohawks survive the raid by the Lady G-Men of Georgetown in the district final, they then get the Rockets of Anna 3 days later in the regional semi finals. Once again the Mohawks will have to survive an opponent with superior guard play as Anna’s senior backcourt combination of Rebecca Burch and Carrie Watkins is as good a backcourt combination in this division as there is in the state. Sophomore Rachel Billing and senior Megan Fogt will be able to compete with M-Madison’s size but do not know if they are capable of containing Mallot. We have liked Anna all year long in our poll as has the AP but it is just hard to pick against a player like Mallot…we picked against McDonald’s All-American and Ms. Ohio Basketball Natasha Howard (Toledo Waite/FSU) last year. She (Howard) single handedly, as Charles & Kenny would say, sent our regional favorite fishin’.
Now in the regional finals, their 3rd tough game in 6 days, the Mohawks of Middletown will skin a cat…as they will encounter the Wildcats of Richwood North Union. We like North Union as does the AP. Their 19-1 record going into the tournament is impressive just do not think the Wildcats schedule was challenging enough to cause us to go against a team with state final four experience who has a player of Mallot’s caliber on it.
Cuyahoga Falls Regional (Northeast):
Orrville has had a very solid year and looks to be the team to beat in the Cuyahoga Falls regional because of their strength of schedule and the advantage Coach Mark Alberts gives them on the sideline. Coach Alberts has his Red Riders galloping all the way to Columbus this year with the Plybon Sisters (Hillary and Hannah) leading the way. Top tier sophomore prospect Hannah Plybon leads the Riders in scoring with 17+ per game with senior sister Hillary, like Reggie Jackson, is the straw that churns the drink. The Red Raiders are deep and battle tested, having played the likes of West Holmes (twice), Canton Central Catholic and Fort Loramie at Classic in the Country VIII. The future is bright for the Red Riders… a trip to Columbus this year would be the cherry on top for these Red Riders.
Manchester was on its way to an undefeated regular season until Kenmore came along, knocking them off with a surprising 66-60 victory. However, this may be exactly what the doctor ordered to get Coach Pappas’ Panthers ready and motivated for tournament play. These Panthers have solid senior leadership returning four senior letter winners from last year as well as size with 6’1 freshman Ashley Crossland and 6’2 junior Autumn Brown controlling the paint. They have solid wins over St. Vincent St. Mary and Canton Central Catholic and are looking to scratch their way into March play.
Elyria Catholic is primed for a tournament run after having one of their most successful season in school history… ending the year at 18-2. This group of Panthers may pounce on those other Panthers from Manchester. These Panthers from Elyria have played a much tougher schedule with the likes of Lorain, Akron Hoban, Holy Name and giving quality D2 opponent, Lake Catholic, all they could handle in a 72-74 loss near the end of the year. Elyria Catholic is led in scoring by Ashley Schuster at 13ppg from the paint, while also getting significant contributions from Emily Taylor, who averages 10ppg from the point guard slot. Elyria Catholic is poised for a tournament run but simply just ain’t got enough to get by the Red Riders of Orville.
Youngstown Ursuline is just a little bit over .500 but has played the most difficult schedule in this region…playing the likes of Hathaway Brown, Akron Hoban, St. Vincent St. Mary, Twinsburg, Walsh Jesuit and Lake Ridge Academy. They have been up and down the entire year. When they are at their best, they could win this region. When they are at their worst, they may not make it to the regional. Ursuline is led by multi talented highly recruited Courtney Powell (jr) who is a threat whether facing up or back to the bucket. Point guard Aurielle Irzarry (jr) gives the Fightin’ Irish solid backcourt play…and let us not forget the last team to pull upsets in this region were Coach Sean Durkin’s Fightin’ Irish from Youngstown beating Regina twice in the last decade in the NE D-III regional.
Beachwood recently got bad news from the OHSAA—two of their players were ineligible due to residential issues as reported by The Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, there is still enough talent and athleticism for these Bison to roam into the regional final four. The Bison have been tested with their challenging schedule which included games against D-I state champion favorite Canton McKinley and Lake Ridge Academy, a D-IV projected state final four team…but they failed both tests. This team had a remarkable turnaround with the hire of head coach Melvin Burke who took a winless team last year to 15 wins this season. Coach Burke’s teams of the past (Lutheran East/Cleveland Central Catholic) have made solid runs in the regional tournament but have come up a little short…unfortunately for the Bison this year looks to be no different.