D-I Girls Basketball Postseason Preview

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Division I Girls Basketball State Tournament

Who wins the state title? Who makes the Final Four? Who is a wildcard? What region is deepest? All the answers are here…


FINAL OGBR/JJHUDDLE GIRLS BASKETBALL POWER POLLS

36th Annual Ohio High School Basketball State Tournament Preview

The Ohio
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.

The OHSAA
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. 

Tom Jenkins
Ohio Girls
Basketball Report

 

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ADDITIONAL PREVIEWS

Division II

Division III

Division IV

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DIVISION I


FINAL FOUR FAVORITES:
Four Favorites: Canton McKinley, Cincinnati Princeton, Toledo Start & Reynoldsburg

STATE CHAMPION FAVORITE: Canton McKinley

Offense fills the stands, defense wins games but rebounding wins championships (Coach Pat Summitt). Nothing could be more true as this is projected to be the most talented and balanced 4-team field of D-I Final Four teams in the 36 year history of the Ohio High School State Tournament.

If it all plays out as we predict, the 2 most dominant and prideful defensive teams in the state will meet in the D-I championship game…Cincinnati Princeton versus Canton McKinley who are both coached by coaches who sometimes do not get their just due, Pam Davis from McKinley and Jill Phillips from Princeton

Historical Note 1: If it plays out this way with Princeton v McKinley in the championship game it will mark the first time since 1982 when 2 female head coaches have squared off in the “big school” state championship game.}

If it does not play out as we predict and the top regional challenger replaces one of our favorites, (Twinsburg (NE), Fairmont (SW), Northland or Fairborn (Central) and Midpark (NW)) the D-I Final Four will still be the most talented and balanced 4-team field of any D-I Final Four teams in the 36 year history of the Ohio High School State Tournament.

Each D-I regional also has some “sleepers”. However, “sleepers” at the D-I Final Four have not fared well. If you go back thru the D-I Final Four archives in the last decade you will see scores of 62-25, 58-21 when a “sleeper” was part of the Final Four field.

Canton Regional (Northeast):
Canton McKinley along with D-IV Harvest Prep are the 2 reigning state champions who have the best shot at repeating in the OHSAA 36th annual Ohio High School State Championship…{sorry Hathaway Brown you may get there in D-II but I don’t think you will three-peat}

The more things change the more they stay the same…’same as it ever was’ (Talking Heads)…regional meeting for the 3rd straight year Twinsburg versus Canton McKinley.

The Lady Pups from Canton are solid in every aspect of the game on both ends. After closely watching her for the better part of 2 years I am convinced that 20 year veteran head coach Pam Davis is the most underrated coach in Ohio. I am also convinced her husband of 20+ years, Associate Head Coach Willie Davis, is the best ‘man to man’ defensive coach in the state.

Led by “All-World” Ameryst Alston (jr) who can score inside, outside, has a polished mid-range and is extremely underrated on the defensive end, the Davis’ put a ‘litter’ of Lady Pups on the floor that constitutes the most versatile team in Ohio. With an Alexis Dobbs (2010 Hathaway Brown / American University) clone at the point in Aaliyah Dotson (soph), scorer/shooters Jasmine Neal (sr) and top 5 freshman, Marquia Turner on the wings, athletic extraordinaire ‘rim-runners’ in Laneisha Lennon (sr) and Gabby Kendall (jr), they can dominate teams in transition or in the halfcourt running that dadgum ‘flex’ out of a 2-guard front…you want to play them zone…go ahead… their execution with ball/player movement and use of the short corner is a clinic.     

Twinsburg for the 3rd straight year is the only other team in the Canton Region that is a legit Final Four contender…a legit challenger to the Canton McKinley throne…giving the Tigers a legit argument for re-seeding after the district tournaments in order to achieve the goal of “statewide competitive balance”.

Twinsburg has the best post-guard combination in the state with their own “All-World” player in USA Gold Medal Team member, 6’4 Malina Howard and the best off-guard in Ohio’s 2013 class, Ashley Morrissette. It will be no surprise nor considered an upset if the Tigers prevail over the Lady Pups in this year’s regional final…senior pg Katie Fox has shown she can lock down opponent’s pg as she did against the Purdue pg from DuPont Manual (KY) at this year’s Classic in the Country VIII…Nicole Carmen has demonstrated the ability to get on a roll from behind the arc…Leah Fechko always has productive numbers after each big game…6’2 strong body Chardell Dunnigan (soph) has shown she can bring a physicality to the game and give some minutes inside…but the key for Twinsburg to get by McKinley is LaShawna Gatewood…she is only one on the Twinsburg roster who has the ability to contain Alston…Gatewood is strong enough, athletic enough and quick enough to do so.          

Now I’m sure there will be an outcry from several other teams and fans in the Canton Region for our not considering them legit contenders or challengers…so let’s examine those teams. Firestone is ranked #6 in the AP and #8 in the OGBR/JJ Huddle poll but is unproven not having a big time quality win this year. The best kept secret in Ohio is 6’2 Taylor Williams from Warren Howland who had 29/12 in their only loss against D-IV reigning state champ Harvest Prep at Classic in the Country VIII. Williams just does not have a strong enough supporting cast to seriously challenge Twinsburg or McKinley. Shaker Heights fell convincingly to Twinsburg at home, fell convincingly at McKinley and got beat convincingly by Warren Howland. Wadsworth had Twinsburg on the ropes….for a half…and then they had to play the second half. North Canton Hoover has to find an additional 20+ points to legitimately challenge McKinley this year…sophomore sensation Kayleigh Stroemple, like Williams from Howland, just does not have a strong enough supporting cast. Lastly, Hudson showed they have no answer for Malina Howard as she had a career night putting up 39/16 against the Lady Explorers.   

Fairborn Regional (Southwest):
It is Princeton’s to lose…period. With the exception of McKinley no other team in the state exudes a pride on the defensive end of the floor like Coach Jill Phillips’ Lady Vikings. While McKinley’s 2nd and 3rd rotations on the defensive end are tighter than Princeton’s, the Lady Vikes’ can extend defensive pressure 94 feet and bring it in waves like no other team in the state.

Coach Phillips’ roster is multi-dimensional and features the best freshman in the state in “All-World” Kelsey Mitchell who arguably is one of the top 5 players in the state regardless of class. Complimenting Mitchell in the backcourt is one of the most underrated guards in the senior class, Shakira Lang…another left hander and versatile athlete Breanna Rucker a junior transfer MND. The Lady Vikings’ mothership (as it would be called by George Clinton & the
P-Funk All-Stars) is anchored by Ball State signee Neschille Williams (senior transfer from MND) and “veteran” sophomore…another talented left hander Emily Roper. Depth is provided with junior Alexis Chinn and twin sister of Kelsey Mitchell, Chelsea Mitchell.

If it all plays out the way we predict, the Princeton vs. McKinley state championship match up on March 19 at 8:30 PM in the Schottenstein Center will be one of the top 5 D-I state championship games in the 36 year history of the Ohio High School Girls Basketball State Tournament.

But…to quote Lee Corso “not so fast my friend”…Mason who played Princeton to the final buzzer in their 2nd meeting this year (54-50) was a turnover and score away from upsetting the 20-0 Princeton Vikings. With Wright State signee Sarah Hunter, the extremely athletic Briana Glover (jr), solid post play by sophomore sensation Kayla McDowell and the fundanmentally sound freshman phenom, Jenna Gunn, the Mason Comets are the closest in SW Ohio to being able to match up with Princeton…I just don’t think Hunter has enough help in the backcourt to handle the quickness and pressure the Lady Vikings can apply…but the Comets from Mason have played Princeton pretty much even for the last 7 quarters over the 2 games this season.

Hold on Springboro folks…I know you beat Mason convincingly earlier in the year…I also know you can match up with Princeton at least in the frontcourt with senior stud Olivia Schretzman and your own sophomore sensation, Jenny DeGraaf but you have the same problem as Mason…can you handle the quickness and backcourt pressure Princeton brings? I don’t think so…

…and then there is Tim Cogan over at Kettering Fairmont. If anyone in the Fairborn Regional has a chance to sink the Vikings’ ship it is the Firebirds from Kettering. After watching Kettering Fairmont in the state semis last year against Toledo Waite, I became convinced with enough time to prepare Coach Cogan and his staff are as good as there is in the state in putting their team in a position to win…there was no way the Firebirds of a year ago could match up against Ms. Basketball & McDonald’s All-American, Natasha Howard (FSU) and her Toledo Waite team yet the Firebirds were only down 3 with a 1:15 left before losing by 6 (61-55)…a masterpiece of a game plan…quite impressive.

Don’t get me wrong Coach Cogan’s paintbrush is not without paint. Led by solid sophomore point guard, Chelsea Welch, junior wing Alona Skipper who can flat out stroke the “3” with the best freshman 2 player combination in the state in Makayla Waterman and Kathryn Westbeld, this version of the Firebirds have plenty of primary accents to paint their own masterpiece. They just simply do not have enough secondary accents this year…but if they get by McAuley in the district finals, Coach Cogan and his staff will have 3 days to prepare their follow-up masterpiece to be named ‘Princeton’.
    
Norwalk Rgional (Northwest):
Sparty missed its chariot to Columbus last year…I expect Coach Bobby Brown’s bunch to be on time for departure this year. The Spartans’ roster on paper is the most dominant team with depth in the state of Ohio. Beginning with the best floor general in the state, Maleeka Kynard (sr Ohio State), the best ‘rim-runner’ in the state, 6’4 Azia Bishop (sr Kentucky), 3 highly touted wing players in Jaymie “Puff” Jackson (jr), senior Ariel Gaston and 3-point sharp shooter Keia McCarver and ending with their depth in highly recruited 6’5 junior CeDra Evans along with 2 solid sophomores in the extremely athletic De’Angela Hicks and strong bodied DeShayla Mosby.

The team that poses the biggest obstacle for Toledo Start in getting out of the Norwalk Regional is the Midpark. Coach Stephanie Mentz’s Meteors have the talent and the size to compete with Toledo Start but just may not have enough depth to go the distance. With a point guard that can carve up defenses like the highly recruited Rachel Theriot (2012), size and talent like their twin towers in 6’2 NC State signee, Therany Dunnigan (sr) and 6’3 Stasha Carey, one of the top 10 freshman in the state along with last year’s Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year, senior Kaila Barber who will be baseline to baseline the fastest player on the floor, Midpark is a legitimate contender and cannot be dismissed…like Twinsburg against McKinley, if Midpark prevails over Start it would not be a surprise nor considered an upset.

Some may shout where is Notre Dame Academy? Well, on March 12 they will be at home or in the stands watching Start and Midpark in the regional final. Now don’t get excited…I will go on the record and say this. I believe Coach Travis Galloway’s Eagles from Toledo Notre Dame will be the favorite to come out of this region next year as they will return all 5 starters including Kat Wells from this year’s very successful campaign and add the best 8th grade perimeter player in the state in 6’0 Tierra Floyd …they are just a year away.

Others may wonder about Magnificat?…unproven schedule…victim of a weak conference that chews up 16 of their 20 games…Westlake you may say?…or Lorain? To advance in the tournament at any level whether it is the NBA or middle school a team has to have quality guard play…Kalpana Beach (sr Ohio State) and Katie Carroll (jr) give Westlake a quality frontcourt game as do Shanique Ogle (sr Bowling Green) and 6’3 sophomore sensation Alexandra Harris at Lorain but both their backcourts aren’t quite up to the task of taking on the likes of Kynard (Start), Theriot (Midpark) or Wells (Notre Dame). 
  
Westerville Regional (Central):
If the OHSAA re-seeded after the district tournaments, the favorite in the this regional would be a #2 seed…the #1 seeds, I don’t think any sane person could argue, would go to McKinley, Twinsburg, Princeton and Toledo Start…but then again we are not all sane, are we?

This is as balanced a region in D-I as we have this year. In looking at the brackets, I expect the regional semis to pit Pickerington North versus Northland and Lakota East / Fairborn winner versus Reynoldsburg… the edge as the favorite to make the state Final Four has to go to Reynoldsburg.

Not since November 27 against Kettering Fairmont in their 2nd game of the season have the Raiders from Reynoldsburg been beat…given the fact they play a challenging schedule and in a tough conference…much credit should go to Coach Purtell and his staff as they have brought along an extremely young team at a rapid pace. Power forward Destini Cooper, the lone returning starter from last year’s Final Four team, is joined this year by sister sophomores point guard Yamonie Jenkins and wing Shiloh Murphy along with big time “rim runner”, 6’4 Alyssa Rice…”veteran” leadership is provided junior wing Aliyah Zant…these Raiders are as talented a starting line-up as any of the other D-I favorites …they are just younger and not as deep as the others.

If Ashley Morrissette (Twinsburg) is considered the best off-guard in Ohio’s 2013 class; if Bianca Quisenberry (Tecumseh) is considered the best combo-guard in Ohio’s 2013 class, then without a doubt Northland’s Alexis Peterson is the best point guard in Ohio’s 2013 class…but Northland is much, much more than Peterson. These lady Vikings can match and in some cases surpass Reynoldsburg talent wise or at least four on four with big time recruit Symone Denham (jr) who has transformed her game arguably more than any player in the state, Tatiana Chapple (sr East Carolina) who is as athletic a “rim-runner” as there is in this regional and YaYa Colvin (sr Chipola). The Lady Vikings have to find that “X” factor that 5th player to step up in order to derail Reynoldsburg’s ride back to The Schott…could it be Taren Mahone? Brandi Curd-Watson? Jasmine Weatherspoon?

Like Twinsburg over McKinley would not be a surprise nor considered an upset; like Midpark over Toledo Start would not be a surprise nor considered an upset; should Northland prevail over Reynoldsburg it, as well, would not be surprise nor considered an upset. Note should be taken that Northland has a history of being spoilers as they defeated the AP #1 Dresden Tri-Valley year before last…should the Vikings from Northland conquer this region, it will mark their first state Final Four appearance since 1982.

It would be foolish in any year in this region to count out a Dave Butcher coached team…especially when he has the nucleus he has this year at Pickerington North…Kavuna Edwards (sr Villanova), Shelby Olszewski (sr Austin Peay), Jordan Householder (sr), Jaila Kee Bryant (jr) and Christy Macioce (soph)…remember no Ohio high school Division I head coach active or retired has made more trips to the state Final Four than Coach Dave Butcher…I think after 11 trips down to Lane Avenue he can drive there blindfolded !!!

I knew Nikki Kremer-Drew (Lakota East) and Steve Hannaford (Fairborn) were smart coaches…I just did not know they were MENSA level…they ran so fast out of the southwest but made it look like they were merely leading a parade !!! (don’t blame you…I would have run from the Princeton Vikings too !!!).

Coach Drew at Lakota East has a lot of fire power in scorer’s and shooters, Whitney Wyckoff (jr), Alyssa Grevankamp (jr), Imani Gordon (soph), solid inside out play with Tazzie Shaw (jr) and a physical banger in Molly Blomer (jr)…the Achilles heal?…suspect point guard play… ‘run Forest run’ (just kidding)

Coach Hannaford has the 3 major pieces you got to have to advance…a dynamic point guard in combo guard Brooklyn Pumroy (jr), an athletic wing player with exceptional ball skills in Alexis Gassion (soph) and solid post play in Jaymee Veney (sr St. Francis NY)…his Achilles heal?…needs too many “X” factors to step up for too many games to get all the way to the state Final Four…’run Forest run’ (also, just kidding).

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