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
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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: Harvest Preparatory, Ottoville, Lake Ridge Academy, Minster
STATE CHAMPION FAVORITE: Harvest Prep
Division IV will be strong this year and their defending state champion, Harvest Prep, has, along with D-I Canton McKinley, the best chance to repeat as state champions once again in 2011. In Division IV however, there have only been four back-to-back state champions, since the OHSAA went to a field with four divisions.
It should also be noted that the strong D-IV regions of Elida and Springfield create an imbalance of the top teams in D-IV statewide giving support to the belief that re-seeding after the district tournaments would generate even more enthusiasm for this great game of girls high school basketball !!!…and maybe just maybe
re-seeding after the 64 district tournament (16 districts per each of the 4 divisions) would help achieve the goal of competitive balance.
Harvest Prep, our favorite in this division, returns eight of their top 9 players from last year but will undoubtedly be challenged by Lake Ridge Academy (Massillon Region) and the winners of the densely talented Elida and Springfield Regions. The famous quote by tennis icon, Althea Gibson, comes to mind here when she said “Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best.” Will Harvest Prep prove to be the best? Only time will tell.
Pickerington Regional (Central):
This region used to be dominated by Berlin Hiland and Columbus Africentric…but with Hiland being moved to the Massillon Region and Africentric moving up to D-III, the Pickerington Region beginning last year was turned over to the former step sisters, Harvest Prep and Waterford. The main question in this region is who will be joining the “new sheriffs” again in this region’s final four.
Harvest Prep, as stated above, without a doubt, along with D-I Canton McKinley, has the best chance to repeat as state champion in 2011. They return their top 8 players from their deep rotation that led them to their 2010 Division IV State Championship. When you win once, one of two things happen… first, you can either be content and live in the past… or second, you have even more hunger to make it happen again. This year’s Harvest Prep team seems to be going with option two as they have not lost to any team from Ohio this season, having their only loss to Mercy High School out of Kentucky. Harvest Prep has run the course of one of the more challenging schedules with victories over the likes of Rock (FL), Taylor Williams and Warren Howland on the big stage at Classic in the Country VIII as well as beating perennial Columbus City power Brookhaven. Led by a trio of seniors, Shicole Watts (Xavier), Ayrealle “Shortee” Beavers (Loyola Chicago) and Chelsea McKnight (Miami OH) the Warriors are solid from the inside out. Making an encore appearance with the senior trio are a quartet of juniors in legit prospects and twin sisters, Jaren and Jarel Francis, Sarah Crowder and Destiny Turner…if this roster of “thorns” don’t get you, Coach Dennis can beat you with the Rose, Cheyenne Rose, a talented left handed sophomore guard who is beyond her years in poise and leadership…so the talent is there to repeat…anything else would be a disappointment.
If anyone gets in the way of the talented Harvest Prep Warriors on their way to Columbus, it will be Waterford. Although the Wildcats lost their best player from last year to graduation (Sina King/Akron), they have redirected their emphasis with a strong guard core, led by Emily Brown and Brooke Drayer. Coach Jerry Close is riding into the tournament with a 17-3 record with a late-season win against a top quality D-III Fort Frye team.
Mansfield St. Peters has a chance to pull an upset bid but will have to play their best basketball to compete with Harvest Prep in the regional semis. They have three players who average double figure points in Randa Payne, McKenzie O’Brien, and post player Shabree Rawls. The Spartans are balanced both inside and out and have won their games by an average of over 20+ points. While these Spartans won-loss record is extremely impressive, their strength of schedule is suspect and will hurt them down the stretch as indicated in their double digit loss to the best team on their schedule (St. Vincent St. Mary 56-66).
Massillon Regional (Northeast):
When talking about the best player to ever play the game (Michael Jordan), one once said that they only person that could hold Michael Jordan to under 20 points was the person in charge… legendary coach Dean Smith. The same could be said of Lake Ridge… the only folks that can prevent Lake Ridge from making their first ever trip to Columbus are the folks in charge…OHSAA, who have recently conducted an investigation of the program but have not published their findings at the time of writing this tournament preview. The Lake Ridge story is quite the quick turnaround with many former Regina players enrolling once the doors of Regina High School were closed for good last summer. Lake Ridge Academy has never won a OHSAA girl’s basketball tournament game… but this year that will change.
In the paint they are led by top-shelf rated prospect DaVonna Bradford (jr) and Stephanie Vukotic (sr. Dartmouth) along with other bigs Monet Saunders and top 10 freshman phenom Alexa Hart. On the perimeter, they are just as strong with top tier prospect, Martha Thompson (soph), Kourtni Taylor (sr Evansville) and deadly shooter Syndey Clark lighting up the threes. They have enough talent, balance and depth to play with Harvest Prep in what should be an instant State Tournament Final Four Classic overshadowed by only the projected D-I match-up between Cincinnati Princeton versus Canton McKinley.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is to never count out a Dave Schlabach coached team. Coach Schlabach has made a living coming up with game plans to defeat teams with more talent on numerous occasions particularly when there is a trip to Columbus involved…just ask Lutheran East a year ago…just ask Columbus Africentric from the ol’ Pickerington Regional days.
Although this Berlin Hiland team does not have the offensive weapons of the past, they will continue to “claw & dig” on the defensive end, which will keep them in games. Junior McKenzie Miller has been the most consistent offensive weapon for the Lady Hawks this year. The Hawks play 16 of their 20 games in one of the weaker conferences in the state which does not help in preparing for the state tournament but they have done okay over the last 22 years making 11 state final four appearances.
To get to Lake Ridge Academy, Berlin Hiland has to get by Shadyside in the Gnadenhuttan District. Shadyside has had an exceptional season as they enter this year’s state tourney with an undefeated record as they captured their sixth OVAC title in school history. The Lady Tigers strongest most salient advantage over Berlin Hiland is with the veteran senior leadership of Sarah Neaven and Kelsey Holloway. From what we are hearing, the Lady Tigers are itching to renew their district rivalry with Berlin Hiland…one that Hiland has gotten the best of for the past few years.
In any event the winner of the Gnadenhuttan District semi-final game between Berlin Hiland and Shadyside will present the only obstacle for Lake Ridge Academy in making their 1st state final four appearance pending any findings or penalties imposed by the OHSAA.
Elida Rgional (Northwest):
Before you say it… yes we know our OGBR/JJHUDDLE Power Poll has Ottoville ranked below both Arlington and Wayne Trace…but, when you have a feeling about something… you have a feeling about something…and we have a very good feeling this year about Ottoville who comes over this year from the Springfield Region a year ago where they lost in the regional semis to eventual state Final Four team Fort Loramie.
…We do know one thing for sure this is the most balanced, most crowded, most competitive regional in the state…any division.
The Big Green from Ottoville is no stranger to the state tournament filling the stands with masses of green in years past. Ottoville has quality wins over Lima Bath, Pandora-Gilboa, Fort Jennings and Delphos St. Johns, losing only early to Wayne Trace (35-47) in the second game of the year and Delphos Jefferson late in the year (37-51). Tasha Kaufman provides scoring power for the Big Green, as well as sophomore sensation Abby Siefker who averages double digits, leads the team in rebounding and anchors the Big Green on both ends. The Big Green will be filling the stands of the Schott once again… we just have a feeling!
Yes, Wayne Trace is undefeated. Yes, they beat Ottoville earlier in the year… but all good things must come to an end and Wayne Trace’s winning streak will be one of them. They are led in scoring by seniors Kacee Hockenberry and Jo Ellen Fickel who both average 15 a game. They have quality wins over Ottoville, For Jennings, Lima Central Catholic, Holgate, and Defiance Tinora. Coach Wannamacher’s Raiders have had a great pre-season… but now the real season begins. Will Ottoville’s experience prevail? Time will tell.
Yes, Arlington is undefeated… but their strength of schedule will hurt them in the tournament. They have a wide array of talent and are feeling confident with their current record… but once again, experience will be key in the tournament run. Arlington has not played in many big games…winning every single game this year by double digits. Their best win was over Liberty-Benton (54-43) who is nowhere near the caliber they were last year when they ran the table and won the
D-III State Championship. The Red Devils from Arlington have the talent to make a run… but we just have a feeling it will be the Big Green in the end.
Delphos Jefferson has had a good year….and was the best team in Delphos, OH this year…but it simply isn’t good enough to compete this year with the cream of the crop in this region. Led by senior Lay Kessler (Findlay) the Jeffs have a wealth of experience, with six seniors and four juniors in their rotation. If they use their depth to wear people down… they have a chance… but just as the chance in the classic movie “Dumb and Dumber” wasn’t that big of a chance, neither is this. But, we’re telling you there’s a chance!
Bucyrus Wynford has had a very nice year, having lost only to fellow conference rival Mt. Blanchard Riverdale late in the year (49-59). Coach Amy Taylor-Sheldon has her Royals playing like royalty, using their speed and, like many teams in this region, their depth to wear people down. The question will be if they have improved enough from start to finish to compete with the top teams in this region. Early in the year, the Royals beat Mt. Blanchard Riverdale by 18 points, then losing later in the year to them by 10. It may just be one game, but it is still a disparity worth noting. Although the talent is there, it seems as if the Royals are not playing their best basketball at the most crucial time of the year… but maybe… just maybe… they can get it together as they look to advance in the 36th Ohio High School State Tournament.
Mt. Blanchard Riverdale has been a roller coaster ride this season…beating teams they shouldn’t and losing to teams they shouldn’t as well… however their strength of schedule is one of the top in this district/region. Mt. Blanchard Riverdale has played the likes of Bucyrus, Wynford, Lima Bath, Liberty Benton, Arlington and Upper Sandusky. With their late season win against Bucyrus Wynford and their strength of schedule, we believe they could be the sleeper in this district/region, as their experience in big games may carry them through.
Springfield Regional (Southwest):
Historically this region, along with the Elida region, has provided some battles of epic proportions. Great teams and some of the best coaches in the state are pitted against each other in this region’s final four…we expect this year’s projected regional semi-final game between 2 of last year’s state final four teams, Minster and Fort Loramie, to decide this region’s champion…once again a battle of epic proportions with 2 of the best coaches in the state going at each other…again…Carla Siegel and Nann Stechshulte…it don’t get any better than that anywhere…any division.
Coach Nann Stechschulte has her Minster Wildcats playing wild and confident all over the court with quality wins over Marion Local, Fort Loramie, Minerva, Fort Recovery and Versailles. The Wildcats recently lost to DIII power Anna (44-60) but a loss at the end of the year can sometimes serve as a wake-up call heading into the tournament… and we believe it will be just that. The Wildcats from Minster, with 6’3 top tier junior prospect as their anchor, are led by senior Delanie Wolf (Ashland) and Erica Fullenkamp who both are nightmare matchup problems for opposing teams. These seniors have had a taste of the Final Four and look to end their high school careers there this year.
Fort Loramie is talented, battle-tested and well coached. Their biggest win over the year was their first game over Marion Local… but they have played some top quality teams to help them prepare for the tournament (Fort Recovery, Orrville, Anna, and Minster). In their first battle with Minster, they lost by four (38-42) and they will look to avenge that in the tournament. They are led by senior post player Janel Olberding and fellow post Clair Ruhenkamp who have both had sensational seasons. Coach Siegel will have her Redskins ready to play… but we don’t know if they have enough to tame the Wildcats from Minster…we do know only one of them will get to Columbus this year.
Marion Local lost a lot of games early in the year but are playing much better as of late. Early in the year they were battle tested, playing teams like Fort Loramie, Minster, Lehman Catholic, Lima Bath and Wapakoneta. In each of those games, they competed and learned from their losses, helping to prepare for the tournament. They may not have enough talent to play against the likes of Minster and Fort Loramie… but if they do make a run, it will be because of junior post player Margret Wuebker and senior Alyssa Winner… and when can you ever bet against a player with the last name Winner?…or against Coach Treva Fortkamp?
Tri-Village has played well this year… very well…but like many other teams in this division, their lack of competition in conference games will hurt their tournament run possibilities. The Patriots won their first 12 games before running into Waterford, whom they lost to by three (61-64). Since then, Tri-Village has been on a roll, beating their last six opponents by an average of 25+ points. Junior Kayla Linkous is a legit next level prospect and a complete player who leads her team on both ends of the floor. Linkous and outstanding sophomore guard, Shaye Thomas, will need the supporting cast to put back to back to back quality performances for the Patriots to escape this region and find sanctuary in Columbus.