Public vs Private: Bellbrook completes unlikely trifecta; Golden Eagles reach state semifinals

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Bellbrook advanced to its first girls basketball state tournament since 1976 with a 50-43 win over Carroll.

I remember laughing at the notion. Now I laugh at myself. “Maybe some day you’ll write about her,” Mark Sigman said of his daughter on one of our business trips 10 years ago. Sarcastically, I snapped back: “Why?” Now I know. And so does Carroll…and Chaminade Julienne…and Alter.


I remember laughing at the notion. Now I laugh at myself.

“Maybe some day you’ll write about her,” Mark Sigman said of his daughter on one of our business trips 10 years ago.

Sarcastically, I snapped back: “Why?”

Now I know.

And so does Carroll…and Chaminade Julienne…and Alter.

Some in Southwest Ohio call them Dayton’s Holy Trinity. I call them believers – in Bellbrook.

In an age when the “Public vs Private” debate has stoked so many fires that the OHSAA has put one “competitive balance” proposal up for vote and has a committee working on another, Bellbrook voted where it matters most Friday night – in the field of play.

With its 50-43 win over Carroll in the Division II girls basketball regional final at Springfield, Bellbrook not only punched its first ticket to state since 1976, it also completed something just as shocking and memorable: The “Public School” Eagles beat “Parochial Juggernauts” Carroll, Chaminade Julienne and Alter to get there.

Wow is right.

“It’s incredible to beat the Big 3,” senior Shelby Sigman – Mark’s daughter – said. “No one ever does it. It’s always a private school going to state and finally a public school gets to go. We’re representing all the public schools. Beating (those three) is incredible.”

Yes…yes it is.

During the course of the year Carroll, Chaminade-Julienne and Alter all appeared in the Ohio Girls Basketball Report/JJHuddle D-II Power Poll Top 10. Bellbrook never did. The Eagles debuted in the preseason as one of our “5 on the Bubble” and remained there all year. CJ finished No. 2 in the final poll. Carroll was No. 3.

“Those schools have been our rivals forever,” junior Erin Dorn said. “It’s amazing to be able to play them in the tournament in this kind of environment and to be able to come out with the win. We had a lot to prove.”

Since they were third graders, the Bellbrook senior class – Sigman, Leisha Crawford, Kaitlin Gibson and Liz Dimbath – had set a goal of reaching state. It’s a story told countless times at public schools across Ohio. Hometown kids having a dream. Seldom do they realize it. Especially when faced with an Empire like this one.

Chaminade Julienne is one of the most well known programs in the country. The Eagles own three state titles and have played in six state finals.

Alter is a four-time state semifinalist and has made the Final Four three times in the last five years. The Knights were state champions in 2008 and runner-up in 2010.

Last year all three – CJ, Alter and Carroll – were in the Springfield Regional. Carroll survived and finished state runner-up.

“We’ve always known that it goes through them,” Bellbrook head coach Jason Tincher said. “You always know that they’re out there waiting.”

How imposing is Carroll, Alter and CJ?

The only thing comparable to what the Bellbrook girls have done would be for a Division I football team from Dayton to beat Cincinnati Moeller, Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Elder in succession to claim the Regional title.

For the last 11 years, no D-II girls Springfield Regional (formerly Vandalia) has been held without at least one of those three involved. In fact, Friday included, the Holy Trinity owns six regional titles in 11 years. In the last five years, only two teams other than Carroll, Alter and CJ have even played in the regional final. Those two? Bellbrook and Tippecanoe – each once.

“We went one game at a time and concentrated on everything they did, every single player,” Sigman said. “Once one game was over we just went on to the next.”

The Eagles beat Alter 48-27 in the sectional final and then survived fellow “5 on the Bubble” team Kenton Ridge 62-53 in overtime in the Mason District final.

In the regional semifinals, Bellbrook snapped CJ’s 14-game win streak and survived again, this time 38-37.

Against Carroll the outcome was never really in doubt – except for a few nervous minutes in the fourth quarter. Despite holding a 12-point lead with four minutes left, the Eagles saw Carroll cut it to 43-39 with 90 seconds to go. Clutch free throws down the stretch, however, delivered the win.

Dorn led all scorers with 18 points, Crawford chipped in 15 and sophomore Chea Taylor added nine.

So…what’s Bellbrook’s reward for surviving its regional gauntlet? How about a hurdle Hollywood couldn’t script.

Friday, in the D-II state semifinals, the Eagles face defending state champion and No. 1 ranked Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown. The Blazers are looking to make their sixth straight D-II state final and win their fourth straight championship. And yeah, they’re a private school.

“We’re ready to go,” Crawford said. “Bring it on.”

At this point…why not.

 

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