COLUMBUS, Ohio—The final curtain has come down on the 2013 Ohio State Tournament and some things are status quo and others have changed. The Division I final featured the two time defending champs from Twinsburg and Kettering Fairmont for the third straight year but it was the Firebirds taking home the championship hardware this time around. Hathaway Brown took down Millersburg West Holmes for the second consecutive year in the D-II final while setting a new Ohio standard in all classes of five straight titles. Division III was a repeat of last year’s overtime classic won by Columbus Africentric over Ana but with the Rockets getting bragging rights this time around and cutting down the nets. Unfortunately for Berlin Hiland they enjoyed a repeat appearance in the D-IV championship game, but they came up short once again falling this season to relentless Fort Loramie team.
Whether the OHSAA State Tournament is an original screenplay or a sequel, each season it offers some impressive team and individual performances. Those knowledgeable in scholastic talent nationwide will always tell you the Buckeye State annually ranks among the biggest producers of top tier colligate prospects. While not all of them make it to the “Big Stage” with their teams for the finale in Columbus, quite a few were on hand once again showing off their talent and potential. Since Blue Star Media was on hand from tip to final buzzer we thought we’d profile just a few of the many standouts that wrapped up their seasons in style.
While Twinsburg came up short in their effort to “three-peat” Purdue bound Ashley Morrissette had everyone’s attention and left even opposing fans holding her effort in high regard and appreciation. The dynamic 5-9 guard has had her skill set and athleticism detailed and critiqued time and again but it may well be her focus and will that set her apart from the crowd. Sure, she produced 20 points in the semifinal and added 27 more in the loss to Fairmont but its more “how” she attacked and the confidence with which she played that put the exclamation point on her high school career. Nothing epitomizes that better than her fourth quarter effort that had Westbeld, Waterman, Welch and company going from the edge of celebration to a one possession game via a Morrissette juggernaut that produced 15 points and almost had the Tigers coming out on top. The basketball and athletic skills speak for themselves but the intangibles are even a step above that and promise to make her an impact player anytime she steps on the floor.
A 23 – 9 regular season record and a trip to the WNIT aren’t the only things Coach Jodi Kest and her Akron program have to be happy about these days. Joining the Zips next year will be 5-9 guard Hannah Plybon who led her own Orrville team to a semifinal berth in D-III and a 26 and 3 final record. Her ability to create her own looks off the dribble or within halfcourt sets makes her a versatile asset in any offense. Add to that her capacity to be a factor handling the ball in transition or getting out and running the lanes and you got a well-rounded prospect that may have slipped under the “big dog” radar. Plybon finished with 28 points in her last game with the Red Riders on 10 of 25 shooting and also contributed 11 rebounds to the cause from the backcourt. There’s an assertiveness to her game that makes her a great fit for the Zips and the college game.
Cornell bound Nia Marshall has been an integral part of the Hathaway Brown express from day one and she finished up her scholastic career with an impact game on both ends of the floor that led to the Blazer’s fifth straight title. Her double-double in the finals of 17 points and 18 boards combined with an almost criminal lockdown defensive effort on West Holmes standout Laina Snyder for one of the event’s top performances in any class. Her size and agility offer up plenty of defensive flexibility and though not yet fully refined on the perimeter, the tools are there to keep defenders honest. Her two game totals of 31 points and 27 rebounds were instrumental in the HB record setting championship and provided a final look at the depth and consistency to her game that should translate well to the next level.
Senior laded Olentangy Orange may have been a somewhat unexpected party crasher in Value City Arena but their efforts down the stretch and even in the semifinal loss to Twinsburg brought them some overdue and much deserved respect. Leading the way for the Pioneers was future Indiana Hoosier Taylor Agler who saved some of her best basketball for her last games on the high school level. Well known for her ability to connect long range, Agler’s attack, penetration and finish in both the win over North Canton Hoover to get to State and against a stingy Twinsburg defense provided a look at a an evolving element of her game that will be instrumental once she gets to Bloomington. The understanding of the game is there as well as the instincts to read and make decisions in transition and the halfcourt making her an ideal fit for Curt Miller’s system.
UNDERCLASS SIZE WITH SKILLS
Also a future Hoosier and another coach’s daughter (Agler is daughter of Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler) is 6-1 junior Amanda Cahill. She and her teammates from Clyde were undefeated coming into the Division II semifinal before running into the eventual champions from Hathaway Brown. Despite the loss, Cahill provided another glimpse of the combination of size and skills that make her a formidable presence on the scholastic level and a promising prospect at the next. Playing for her father John Cahill at Clyde she’s advanced her game consistently over her career and with another season promises to sharpen, refine and add to an already sound fundamental base. The ability is there to score around the rim, from midrange and out beyond the three point line. She can put it on the floor to improve both shots and passes. In the Fliers only loss of the year she was 7 of 13 from the floor, including 2 threes, pulled down 9 rebounds and added 4 blocks and a steal. However, the 8 turnovers most likely led to some extended conversations at home.
West Holmes standout junior forward Laina Snyder’s struggles in the Division II championship game were really the first time we’ve seen her truly frustrated on the floor. On the receiving end of a championship defensive effort by Hathaway Brown’s Nia Marshall, Snyder was challenged to be involved offensively and had her opportunities limited. That’s in stark contrast to past performances including a 26 point 19 rebound effort in the semis against Chaminade Julienne. By the way, in that win over CJ she also had four steals and three blocks in the 69 – 44 win. The 6-1 Holmes is a physical and aggressive presence both on the block or working from the high post. There’s not much flash to her game, just methodical, textbook basketball with a solid consistent work ethic. That combination makes her game very appealing to plenty of recruiters who would love to see her in their line-up.
Tierra Floyd is hardly a new name or face on the recruiting roadmap. In fact, she had a national profile and awareness among recruiters before she ever suited up for a single high school contest. However, multiple injuries and an extended period sidelined by those physical ailments had folks ready to do a “where are they now” segment on the 6-1 forward. Back on the floor, leaner and pain free, Floyd is again reminding anybody watching that the tools and potential are there to be an impact player at the highest level. So much so that several evaluators courtside spent a whole lot of time talking about a prospect that actually went scoreless in the Notre Dame semifinal loss to Kettering Fairmont. Despite not setting the stat sheet on fire the sophomore displayed physical size, athletic agility and some pretty sharp perimeter skills that should ultimately translate to a long list of high end recruiters at her door. There’s an important spring and summer in front of her.
A couple of years back Makayla Waterman exploded on the high school scene with fellow forward Kathryn Westbeld and helped lead Kettering Fairmont to the OHSAA championship game which they lost to Twinsburg. Last year, as sophomores, the duo reached the same pinnacle but still came home with the same disappointing results. In between those two title games Waterman had gone down the dreaded ACL detour that befalls so many athletes yet made the long climb back to help the Firebirds reach their second championship game in a row. This year they finally got past their nemesis from the northern part of the state with a 52 -48 win and claimed their first championship. While her numbers have not been eye popping over the course of the season her effort in the final Saturday night might a sign that her long rehab is completely behind her and she’s advancing her game once again. Shooting 7 of 11 from the floor and 10 for 11 from the line, she finished with 24 points on the night while cutting and moving with plenty of authority. It could be a sign of even better things to come down the line.
UNDERCLASS IN THE BACKCOURT
One thing about a Dave Schlabach coached team is you can bet they’re going to be prepared, skilled and balanced. On occasion however someone is going to step up and post some numbers that might raise some eye brows. Junior Regina Hochstetler has had her share of moments in the past and provided a couple of more in Columbus. The 5-9 guard has her nights lighting it up from downtown but both in the Division IV semis and the final she offered up a more diverse attack and led the way even though the Hawks came up one game short. Active with and without the ball, she was able to create her own looks as well as put herself in a position to improve the opportunities of her teammates. Hochstetler finished with 24 in the win over Reedsville Eastern and gave a strong effort in posting 23 in the championship loss to Fort Loramie.
Anna’s Division III title may have come in the most dominant fashion posting a 21 point win over Orrville in the semifinals and then taking the crown by way of an 18 point victory over Columbus Africentric. Impressive sophomore Cayla Bensman (One three Bensman sisters on the team) provided a couple of good looks at a promising future for the 5-7 guard. Showing no nerves in Thursday’s semifinal she connected on 12 of 16 shots from the floor and added 8 rebounds from the backcourt. Bensman followed that up in Saturday’s championship game with a 21 point performance courtesy of 7 of 16 shooting from the floor and a 7 for 7 effort at the line. Her scoring comes from spotting up, off the drive and a very reliable use of the glass on a midrange bank. She will have to tone down the turnovers however having endured 7 and 8 miscues respectively in the two wins.
Fort Loramie may have taken the toughest road to their Division IV title winning in overtime in the semifinals and needing a big fourth quarter to seal the championship on Saturday. Leading the way for the Redskins was junior combo Darian Rose. Physically strong and scrappy at 5-8, she’s constantly on the attack. There’s no hesitation about attacking the rim and she does a good job of navigating traffic once she’s deep in the paint. As a result she finds her way to the line time and again with solid results. There’s some midrange to her game and the ability to spot up deep is there as well. In the overtime win against previously unbeaten Ottoville she was 5 of 13 from the floor and went 10 for 13 at the line. In the final with Berlin Hiland she was 5 of 13 again from the field while a perfect 8 for 8 in the free throw department. Rose had five assists in both games but also eight turnovers in game one and seven in game two.
Dayton has already gotten a verbal commitment from junior guard Jenna Burdette of Reedsville Eastern who led her teammates to an impressive 23 and 5 record on the season. At 5-8 Burdette has a very lean build and a solid set of skills that allow her to work both from the point or two guard spot. The ability is there to attack and create off the dribble and the form from the perimeter is sound. She uses a hesitation move to draw defenders out of their stance with effectiveness but could use a deeper arsenal of counter moves to facilitate her attack. The future Flyer has shown plenty of game in the past but had “one of those nights” in the Division IV semifinal with Berlin Hiland. Technically it was a triple double but turnovers usually aren’t included in the calculation. Shooting 8 of 22 from the floor including 1 for 9 from three made for a long afternoon and a difficult way to end a successful season.