A Region-by-Region breakdown of Ohio’s top games, teams, players, coaches and more…Everything you need to know about the upcoming high school girls basketball season by the best experts in the business.
OGBR JJHuddle Girls Basketball Previews
Division I Pre-Season Final 4 Predictions:
Kettering Fairmont, Reynoldsburg, Twinsburg & Wadsworth
Division I Pre-Season Top 10 Team In-State Match-Ups:
@ Classic in the Country X January 19-21, 2013
Gahanna Lincoln vs Canton McKinley
Cincinnati Princeton vs Twinsburg
Twinsburg vs Reynoldsburg
Pickerington North vs Solon
Other Notable In-State D-I Games between Top 10 Teams (all divisions):
Dec 8 Canton McKinley @ Hathaway Brown (D-II)
Dec 15 Mason @ Princeton
Dec 22 Kettering Fairmont @ Centerville
Cincinnati Princeton vs. Hathaway Brown (D-II) (Fight or Flight)
Jan 12 Solon @ Hathaway Brown (D-II)
Jan 23 Centerville @ Kettering Fairmont
Jan 26 Columbus Africentric (D-III) @ Kettering Fairmont
Jan 30 Twinsburg @ Hathaway Brown (D-II)
Feb 2 Hathaway Brown (D-II) @ Kettering Fairmont
Princeton @ Mason
Notable In-State D-I Games vs. Out-of-State Teams10 Teams:
@ Classic in the Country X January 19-21, 2013
Cincinnati Princeton vs. Memphis Central (TN)
Kettering Fairmont vs. Regis Jesuit (CO)
Reynoldsburg vs. Memphis Central (TN)
Canton McKinley vs. Regis Jesuit (CO)
@ Braggin’ Rights December 28-29, 2012
Kettering Fairmont vs. Potter’s House (FL)
Kettering Fairmont vs. Bolingbrook (IL)
There are 4 pre-season Top 10 teams in the Southwest Region, 4 pre-season Top 10 teams in the Central Region, 2 pre-season Top 10 teams in the Northeast Region and 0 pre-season Top 10 teams in the Northwest Region.
Whoa…don’t sharpen your claws yet Lady Grizz fans from Wadsworth…you will get your chance to call me an idiot, a moron or that which can’t be printed on January 20, 2013 at 8:45 PM when the Lady Grizz tip it against the Firebirds of Fairmont in The Reese Center at Classic in the Country X.
Division I Southwest Region Overview:
No team in the state of Ohio can boost 2 Top 25 players in America on their roster as Fairmont can with 6’2 juniors Kathryn Westbeld and Makayla Waterman. Add 2 senior 3-year starters in Duquesne signee pg Chelsea Welch and deep 3 threat Alona Skipper, the Firebirds are the favorite to make their 4th consecutive trip to the Final Four. Depth has been their problem in the past in getting over the hump at The Schott. However the emergence of sophomore forward Shea Morgan as a legit threat and junior move-in/transfer guard Dani Schafer will minimize this issue. D-I pre-season picks Fairmont and Reynoldsburg will have the most difficult road to play on the floor in Value City Arena. By adding 3 national powers (Bolingbrook (IL), Potter’s House (FL) and Regis Jesuit (CO)) to its schedule, though, Fairmont should be tested come tournament.
You can never count out a team that has interplanetary All Universe guard Kelsey Mitchell. But there is much more to the Princeton Lady Vikings than the #1 player in America’s Class of 2014. Senior 4 year starter Emily Roper is a strong power forward who can step out and shoot the 3, Kelsey’s twin, Junior Chelsea Mitchell is extremely underrated as she carried the Lady Vikes in a couple of games last year when Kelsey got into foul trouble. Princeton adds additional quickness in the backcourt with the talented sophomore guard Jada Bellew. Remember…last year Princeton was an ill-advised time-out against Fairmont in the regional from being the SW Regional representative in Columbus.
Centerville has overtaken Fairborn as the second best D-I team in the Dayton area. The Elks have all the pieces – quickness in the backcourt, shooters and a dominant inside presence. In the backcourt Centerville features, Bucknell signee senior guard Alex Henning (who can score from anywhere on the floor), Iona signee senior point guard Spencer Gray (who has shown the ability to be an exceptional floor general) and top tier prospect junior guard Naddiyah Cross (as quick with the ball and without as any guard in the state). The frontcourt is anchored by 6’5 super sophomore Shannon Coffee along with a pair of seniors, 6’0 stalwart Maddison Rittinger and extremely athletic 5’10 Basha Ramsey. Get your tickets early for Dayton’s version of The Backyard Brawl between Centerville and Fairmont.
With the nucleus of 5 upperclassmen having played multiple years in the structured system at Mason, the Comets have been operating in a precision like manner in the pre-season. Led by Missouri signee 6’2 senior Kayla McDowell, top tier college prospect 6’0 junior Jenna Gunn, Eckerd College signee guard Sarah Ammons, sharp shooter senior Ally Herren and senior Sidney Neal who has emerged as a quality point guard, Mason has the tools in the toolbox to beat any team in the state on any given day.
Note 1: Beware Dayton teams…don’t go to sleep on Fairborn with Indiana signee Alexis Gassion and junior move-in from Texas 6’2 Kayla Patterson.
Note 2: Beware Cincinnati teams…don’t go to sleep on the Imani Partlow led Winton Woods Warriors.
Division I Central Region Overview:
Anyone will be hard pressed to find not just in Ohio but across the country a more talented, more experienced, more balanced attack and more battle tested starting five than the five for the Reynoldsburg Raiders. Don’t get me wrong, there are teams that have a better player or two here or there but not 5 players as a unit. The fantastic five includes three seniors (the cerebral Ohio U signee point guard, Yamonie Jenkins; the physicality of Ohio U signee power forward, Destini Cooper; and the versatile Morehead State signee at small forward, Shiloh Murphy) and two juniors (6’3 multi talented Alyssa Rice, a Top 10 in America prospect and top tier off-guard prospect 5’9 Nicole Orr, a move-in transfer). With lightning quick junior DeShay Thomas playing the role of players 6 thru 9 in the rotation, most would think depth is an issue…not the case because of the versatility of the starting five all being able to play more than one position. All this said, like Fairmont, Reynoldsburg will have to get by 3 other Top 10 teams to get to the Final 4.
On paper Gahanna Lincoln should match up personnel-wise with Reynoldsburg’s starting 5. The Golden Lions have as much experience and talent and return 5 senior starters. They just haven’t been as battle tested in the past. Lincoln counters Reynoldsburg with the physical presence of 6’2 Illinois State signee Zenobia Bess; 6’1 multi skilled Xavier signee Madison Blackwell; Ohio U signee guard Quierra Lampkins who has a combination of great size, athleticism and quickness; Cleveland State signee guard Chrishna Butler and D-I college guard prospect Reyna Montgomery. Having 3 Top 10 D-I teams on their schedule this year should enhance being battle tested come tournament time. Add the bitter taste of being upset in the regional semis last year by Columbus Northland and Lincoln could be the most formidable challenger to Reynoldsburg.
Last year’s D-I tournament realignment which is still in play this year probably has its harshest effect on Canton McKinley. It took the Lady Pups from virtually a 2 to 3 team regional to arguably the toughest regional in the state regardless of division. McKinley does have the quickest collection of guards with the best defensive pressure scheme in the state. Highly-recruited, highly-skilled junior prospect Marquia Turner is joined in the backcourt by juniors Ronn’ Yell Hogan (a move in/transfer top prospect) and Korrin Taylor (very underrated) and sophomore sensation Tyler Newkirk. Even with Tazhia Petiti, a 6’0 sophomore forward who can rebound with the best of ’em, size or rather the lack of it is going to be the issue against other top tier programs for the Lady Pups…this is presuming McKinley gets by Kaylee Stroemple (6’1 jr) and the Lady Vikings of North Canton Hoover in the Canton District.
Always lurking…always looking to pounce are the Panthers of Pickerington North. Dayton signee Christy Macioce (sr) leads a unit of sound, skilled players all of whom are legit college prospects in their own right. That group includes a trio of juniors in 5’11 Jordan Toohey, 5’11 Brittany Johnson and 6’2 Morgan Smith and sophomore sensation Emily Thomas. Like Mason in the SW Region, Pick North has the talent and schemes to beat any team in the state on any given day.
Note 1: Above teams should not underestimate the will of All-World point guard & Syracuse signee Alexis Peterson and her Columbus Northland mates.
Note 2: Above teams should not forget about the Taylor Agler (Indiana signee) led Pioneers from Olentangy Orange…do and you will get your trail blazed.
Division I Northeast Region Overview:
Toss-Up…Twinsburg or Solon…Solon or Twinsburg…with the departure of the Federal League (Canton District) to the Central Region and the Suburban League (Medina District) to the Northwest Region due to the state tournament realignment the Northeast Region has become a 2-team region…Twinsburg and Solon.
This year’s returning roster for Twinsburg has enough experience, has been in enough big game battles on big stages and has enough talent to get it done. The key for Twinsburg this year is whether or not as a team the Tigers can make the transition from the Malina Howard era to an Ashley Morrissette-led team. The silky smooth senior guard, who is a Purdue signee and ranked in the Top 10 guards in America’s 2013 class, has enough quality pieces around her to make another run at Columbus. Key contributors are guards Baleigh Reid (top tier junior prospect) and Brooke Thompson-Smith (Cleveland State signee) and a 3 player rotation in the frontcourt led by 6’2 George Mason signee Chardell Dunnigan. Dunnigan will be joined up front by 6’0 senior Mercedes Hobbs and 5’10 junior Marissa Howard.
Solon arguably has the best two-guard combination in the state in Xavier signee Martha Thompson (sr) and the highly recruited multi dimensional junior Kristen Confroy. Both are ranked in the Top 25 guards in the country in their respective classes. Skilled sophomore Jordan Bekelja rounds out the Solon backcourt giving the Comets an equally balanced trio of guards as Twinsburg. The extremely athletic 6’2 multi sport junior Alexis Gray is a talented rim runner and gives the Comets an inside presence who can step outside and as well, out run all the frontcourt players in this region. The question mark with Solon is, are they battle tested enough in big games to make that next step? We should get a feel for the answer to that question when the Comets face off against the Pick North Panthers at 5:00 PM January 21 at The Reese Center in Classic in the Country X.
Division I Northwest Region Overview:
Recent history indicates there has been one dominant team from this region with an occasional overlapping as dominance shifted from one school to another. (i.e.) Toledo Central Catholic to Toledo Waite to Toledo Start to Toledo Notre Dame. This year there are 3 teams in this region that are on the bubble of being a Top 10 team but would not be the clear cut favorite in a head-to-head match-up over any of the teams in our Top 10 Poll.
The biggest benefactor of the state tournament re-alignment is Wadsworth (Suburban League /Medina District). The lady Grizz came over from the Northeast Region that once was a power region with the likes of Federal League perennial powers Canton McKinley and North Canton Hoover (plus Youngstown Boardman during the Ron Moschella era) along with Twinsburg. The Lady Grizz led by talented D-I recruited senior guard Rachel Goddard and junior D-I college guard prospect Peyton Booth are the favorites to get to Columbus out of this region.
Sylvania Northview has an extremely talented frontcourt that includes a trio of 6’1 sophomores in Kendall McCoy (versatile inside outside), Maddie Cole and Kendall Jessing. There are just too many questions right now for the Wildcats to be considered a regional favorite…enough experience?…battle tested in big games on big stages?… backcourt play?
Toledo Notre Dame’s fate lies solely with the injury status of their 2 best returning players, highly ranked outside/inside sophomore sensation 6’2 Tierra Floyd (back) and highly sought after junior guard Jayda Worthy (knee). There are no other returning starters from last year’s State Final 4 run. The Sun is peeking thru a bit for the Eagles as 6’2 sophomore specimen Kaayla McIntyre is emerging as a physical force in the paint with ball skills developing causing her stock with college coaches to rise. If healthy, Notre Dame becomes the biggest challenger to Wadsworth in this region.
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