Berlin Hiland is looking for its fourth state tite in five years. (Photo by Gary Housteau)
Berlin Hiland, Columbus Africentric, Convoy Crestview and New Riegel are all loaded and ready for another run at the state championship. Question is can anyone stop Hiland from winning its fourth title in five years?
They could rename the Division IV girls basketball state title the Hiland Trophy and no one would have a problem. At least they wouldn’t have a real argument.
The Hawks from Berlin have won three of the last four D-IV titles and last season became just the fourth school in history – regardless of division – to claim four or more state titles in girls basketball.
Only Pickerington, Delphos St. John’s and South Euclid Regina have more state hardware in girls basketball than Hiland.
While the Hawks have some reloading to do, D-IV looks as stacked as it’s ever been. Columbus Africentric is aiming for its third straight state tournament and second title in three years, but they’ll be pushed – along with Hiland – by a deep field.
TOP PLAYERS: WHO YOU WANT TO SEE * Sina King, 6-0, Jr. F, Waterford – Named first-team All-Ohio last year after averaging 19.9 ppg. Is a two-time district co-player of the year and was special mention All-Ohio as a freshman. * Kayla Cook, 5-9, Jr., G, South Webster – Named first-team All-Ohio after averaging 18.5 ppg. Was also district co-player of the year. * Shardi Morrison-Fountain, 5-5, Sr. G, Columbus Africentric – Standout point guard was second-team All-Ohio after averaging 14.2 ppg. * Kendra Votaw, 5-10, Jr., F, Mt. Gilead Christian – Post averaged 19.9 ppg last year en route to third-team All-Ohio honors. * Kayla Wiley, 5-6, Sr., G, New Boston – Guard earned third-team All-Ohio honors last year after averaging 17 ppg. * Katie Bubna, 5-11, Sr., F, Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Akron recruit averaged 10 ppg last season en route to second-team all-district honors. * Ashar Harris, 5-10, Sr., F, Columbus Africentric – Standout post player was 2007 state tournament MVP and averaged 10. 5 ppg last season. She’s tabbed the No. 51 post player in the country in the senior class by the prestigious College Girls Basketball Report. * Raven Fergusan, 5-10, So., F, Columbus Africentric – One of the country and state’s top players in the Class of 2011 according to CGBR, which has her ranked as the No. 5 small forward in America. Fergusan is the cousin of former Mr. Basketball O.J. Mayo. * Latisha Walker, 6-1, Jr. C, Lutheran East – Ranked the No. 39 center nationally in the junior class by CBGR. Averaged 11 ppg last year. * Noelle Yoder, 5-6, Jr., G, Berlin Hiland – Talented transfer from West Holmes was honorable mention All-Ohio last season in D-II. She’s ranked the No. 53 point guard in the country in the Class of 2010 by CBGR. * Hilary Weaver, 5-6, Jr., G, Berlin Hiland – Standout guard is already being heavily courted by Lehigh, Furman, Stateson and Marshall. * Karli Mast, 5-7, Sr. W, Berlin Hiland – Tiffin recruit turned down several D-I college offers to state in state.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Here are some of the key contenders in Division IV:
Berlin Hiland The Hawks lost four starters off last year’s state champion, but this is Hiland we’re talking about. Any discussion of a state title starts here. The Hawks have won three of the last four state championships and don’t be shocked if they make it four out of five. Junior forward Katelyn Stuckey is the lone returning strater (6.7 ppg), but she’ll receive ample assistance. According to Tom Jenkins of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, the Hawks have the state’s top four-guard rotation and most lethal 3-point arsenal – regardless of division – in 5-7 senior wing Karli Mast, 5-6 junior guard Hillary Weaver, 5-6 junior guard Noelle Yoder and 5-7 junior guard Mykeila Mast. Incoming freshman Missy Mast (6-0) will solidify post play.
Columbus Africentric The Nubians fell short of defending their 2007 state title last year, losing in the final, but don’t count out a return trip to the Schott. Africentric brings back a talented trio in 5-5 senior guard Shardi Morrison-Fountain, 5-10 senior forward Ashar Harris and 5-10 sophomore forward Raven Fergusan.
New Riegel The Blue Jackets stung a lot of people last season en route to 22 wins and a berth in the state tournament. Things look even brighter this year. New Riegel lost just one senior from last year’s team and returns four starters, including: Jami Wagner (5-4, Jr., G, 6 ppg), Rachelle Lucius (6-0, Sr., C, 10.4 ppg), Lauren Hutton (5-10, Sr., F, 12.1 ppg) and Paula Kelbley (5-7, Jr., F, 6.3 ppg). In addition, senior Kaiti Hughes (5-8, F) started the state semifinal against Hiland. Overall, the Blue Jackets return 11 players who logged minutes in the state tournament.
Convoy Crestview The Knights, who made the state tournament for the third time and first since 1985 last year, are a favorite to get back. Crestview returns four starters including leading scorer Melissa Eickholt (5-5, Sr., G, 10.4 ppg). Also back are Kelsey Nedderman (5-9, Sr., F, 8.6 ppg), Carly Lichtensteiger (5-8, Sr., C, 7.9 ppg) and Jo Thompson (5-8, Jr., G, 7.6 ppg). A deep senior class (nine) bodes well for the Knights, who allowed just 28.1 ppg last year.
Bedford St. Peter Chanel The Firebirds were regional finalists last season after making the state semis in 2007. Senior forward Katie Bubna, a three-year starter, leads what is expected to be another lengthy postseason jaunt.
Cincinnati Seven Hills The Stingers made the district final last season and appear ready to take the next step. Seven Hills returns a solid tandem in senior Alyssa Dunn (5-10, F) and junior Sarah Evans (5-10, F). Dunn (17 ppg) was first-team all-district, while Evans (11.3 ppg) was a second-team pick. Dunn is getting college interest from every Ivy League school.
Strasburg-Franklin The Tigers, who lost to Hiland in the district final last season, might be a year away from something special, but they should be plenty good this season. Junior Carly Clark (5-11, F) returns after earning first-team all-district honors, while classmate Santana Bonifant (5-9, G) is back after earning third-team honors. Clark averaged 12 ppg, while Bonifant chipped in 10.
South Charleston Southeastern Head coach Jim Lightle was named district coach of the year last season. Now he’d like to make amends for his team’s surprising district semifinal loss to Fayetteville-Perry. All-district performers Amber Hayslip (5-11, Sr., F, 12.1 ppg) and Amanda Harvey (6-0, Sr., P, 12.6 ppg) give the Trojans a solid nucleus to build around.
South Webster The Jeeps were bumped in the regional semifinals by Africentric last year, but things look good for another deep postseason run. Junior guard Kayla Cook (5-9, 18.5 ppg) returns as does senior guard Erin Sherman (6-2, 8 ppg). Both earned all-district laurels.
Cleveland Heights Lutheran East The Falcons had four players make all-district from last year’s team that lost to Chanel in the district final. The good news for East is three of those individuals return. Senior Annjelina Robinson (5-7) and junior Latisha Walker (6-1) each averaged 11 ppg last year, while sophomore Amber Bogard (6-0) averaged 9 ppg.
Waterford The Wildcats could be a sleeper pick for the state title. Waterford returns a ton of talent in junior forward Sina King and seniors Jessi Drayer and Britany Brown. King, a 6-0 forward, Drayer, a 5-6 guard, and Brown, a 5-8 forward, were all all-district last year. The Wildcats lost to Africentric in the regional final.
Also Keep An Eye On
Fostoria St. Wendelin, Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, Mt. Gilead Christian, Caldwell, New Boston and East Canton.