WEST CHESTER, Ohio—One of the toughest paths to a state tournament is the uphill battle facing the programs in the state of Ohio. Generally regarded as one of the top five talent producing states year in and year out, there are no shortcuts to Columbus and those who ultimately hang a banner in the Buckeye State can do so with tremendous pride. Preparation for the “Journey to the Tourney” begins early in the season and Ohio Girls Basketball Report has added a new scholastic challenge that’s helping gauge just where they stand and what potholes are in the road in front of them.
The inaugural edition of the aptly named Journey to the Tourney featured 20 teams with Ohio addresses and also had the additional company of Columbus North and Lawrence North from over in Indiana as well as Forest Trial from down in North Carolina. Seven teams played both days while the remaining programs took the floor either on Saturday or Sunday for a single. The landscape was littered with evaluators, media and recruiters from all levels providing credence to the caliber of play taking place at Lakota West High School.
Rather than going through the evaluations of the standout performers this time we’re going to take a quick statistical snapshot of each game from the weekend in West Chester.
Game one on Saturday saw the Centerville Elks edge Ursuline Academy in a two point nail biter. Centerville trailed 31 – 21 entering the fourth period and erupted for 18 over the final quarter to claim the win. The game featured five lead changes as well as four ties over the course of 32 minutes. The elks didn’t help their cause shooting just 10 for 20 from the line in the game and allowing themselves to be outrebounded by 17. Their saving grace was the 57.9 percent shooting percentage that helped them overcome the deficit and claim the win. Sophomore Sam Chable had 15 in the win while classmate Alexis Hutchison chipped in 14 of her own. Ursuline got a double – double from Harvard bound senior Maddie Stuhlreyer who posted 10 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Miami Trace overcame a two point deficit after the first quarter against Benjamin Logan to outscore them in the three remaining stanzas to claim a solid 22 point win 49 – 27. The two point margin went their way to 4 at the half, 13 after three before extending it to the final margin at the buzzer. Miami Trace won all the key battles out rebounding Logan by three, forcing them into six more turnovers and outshooting them from the floor 46.5 percent to just 30.0 percent. Tanner Bryant, a junior, shot 5 for 8 from the floor, 1 of 1 from deep and 2 for 2 at the line on her way to 13 points in the win. Teammate and fellow junior Victoria Fliehman added 10 more plus six rebounds on the night. Logan failed to get anyone into double figures but 2018 guard Nikki Current had eight on just 4 for 20 shooting in the losing cause.
In game three Waterford trailed after every quarter except the one that counts as they posted a 38 – 33 come from behind win over Bellbrook. Waterford trailed 13 – 9 after one and then 23 – 16 at the break. They cut the margin by just one point in the third before a 14 – 3 final period helped them snag the five point win in the end. Waterford won the battle on the boards but did everything to give the game away by coughing the ball up 31 times in just 32 minutes of play. Their saving grace was the 45.2 percent they shot as a team while holding Bellbrook to just 29.3 percent for the game including just 4 for 22 shooting in the second half. Junior Megan Ball was 5 for 7 from both the floor and the line to lead the way with 15. Ball had the dubious double – double that also included 11 turnovers. Classmate Alli Kern added 12 of her own in the win. Bellbrook got eight apiece from senior Stephanie Dorn and juniors Cassidy Bereda and Bekah Vine.
Lawrence North crossed the state lines to grab a hotly contested 58 – 52 win over highly touted Solon. Things were all tied up at 10 after one before North stretched it to three at the half and 10 after the third period. Solon chipped four off the margin in the final period but it wasn’t enough. Things on the stat sheet shake out pretty evenly in this one. Solon held the rebounding edge while North forced more turnovers. Solon shot 40.4 percent as a team but North was equal to the task going 21 of 51 for 41.2 percent themselves. Senior Akron signee Destiny Perkins had 18 in the win. She was joined in double digits by sophomore Trinity Brady who contributed 15 more. Depaul bound Dee Bekelja had 17 in the loss while fellow senior Alexis Stover added 10 more. Bekelja also got a double – double by grabbing 11 rebounds.
Toledo Notre Dame Academy jumped out on Canton McKinley by 13 after one period and never looked back coasting to a 70 – 48 victory. It was hard for McKinley to compete when they were turning the ball over to a tune of 31 times and also provided Notre Dame with 21 offensive boards before all was said and done. It’s hard to overcome 52 extra opportunities. Notre Dame won the glass 40 – 36 and the turnover battle 31 – 19. Both teams shot in the high 30’s but the giveaways sent McKinley home unhappy at the end of the night. Bre Hampton-Bey had 23 points that included a 3 for 3 effort from behind the arch. The diminutive senior point guard also chipped in 9 rebounds from the perimeter. Fellow senior and Toledo signee Mariah Copeland had15 of her own. Sophomore Kierstan Bell had 25 in the loss. She shot 10 for 23 from the floor and posted the double – double by grabbing 13 boards for McKinley.
In an evenly matched game, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame claimed a hard fought 56 – 48 win over Gilmour Academy. The loss was tough for Gilmour who shot a blistering 54.5 percent from the floor and rebounded even on the night but turned the ball over a whopping 28 times for the game. Add in the caveat that MND went to the line 22 times with Gilmour getting just nine looks at free throws. The Cougars had three in double figures while posting the win. Sophomore forward Julia Hoefling had 15, sophomore Gabbie Marshall add 14 while freshman point Makira Cook contributed 11 more. Gilmour had three in double digits as well led by senior Winthrop signee Emily Kelley’s 14. Juniors Naz Hillmon and Emma Gurley both finished with 10.
Host Lakota West took on Columbus North and were less than hospitable to their visitors from the Hoosier State sending them home with a 58 – 43 loss in their bag. Both teams battled across the first two periods to a 20 all tie at the break. The Firebirds erupted for 25 points in the third while holding North to just 17. They added seven more to the lead in the fourth to complete the 15 point win. Lakota West was plus nine in rebounds and plus eight in turnovers while outshooting their opposition by just a single percentage point from the floor. Junior Sarah Jones led the way with 17 points but it was Abby Prohaska with the double – double of 12 points and 12 boards. Prohaska also notched seven assists and four steals. Ball State signee Maliah Howard-Bass had 29 in the loss part of which came on her 4 of 8 three point shooting. The 5-9 guard also had 11 turnovers.
Day one ended with a barn burner as Forest Trail from North Carolina edged Huber Heights Wayne 64 – 62. Wayne led by four points after the first quarter but Forest Trail came back to hold the 29 – 28 halftime lead. The third period saw no advantage gained as both teams added 14 more points to their totals. Forest Trail got the fourth period 21 – 20 and the two point win to wrap things up for the evening. Wayne controlled the board handily 39 – 23 but turned it over 21 times while Forest Trail had just 18. Forest Trail shot an impressive 56.1 percent from the floor while Wayne could manage just 41.4 for the game as a team. Sophomore Kirsten Deans had 22 in the win while Bairesha Gill-Miles and Saniah Simpson both finished with 11. Wayne got 16 from sophomore Destiny Bohanon, 13 from Nyla Hampton, 11 from Shai McGruder and 10 more from Maya Dunson.
Hathaway Brown and Glen Este got things started on Sunday with HB taking a 44 – 31 win. There were no lead changes in the game and at one point Glen Este was looking at the long end of an 18 point deficit. Hathaway Brown led on the boards and in the turnover column by three each. They also outshot Glen Este by 14 percentage points from the floor holding them to just 22.7 percent shooting as a team. Purdue signee Dani Lawson had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the way. Junior Hanna Harlor added 10 and 7 of her own. Nobody hit double figures in the loss for Glen Este. Sophomore jasmine Hale did have some moments and finished with eight in the loss.
Mason and Forest Hill were up next in a well fought battle. Mason went up by 12 after one period and still held a 10 point edge at the half. Forest Hill erased that margin in the third putting things all tied up entering the final quarter. Mason laid out a 20 – 9 effort to claim the win at the buzzer 55 – 44. Forest Hill won the glass 30 – 27 but Mason forced them into two more turnovers at 19. For the game Forest Hill shot 35.6 as a team only to be topped by Mason’s 41 percent effort for the game. Mason also offered up a 10 of 20 three point performance in the win. Miami of Ohio bound Samari Mowbray had 21 in the win while highly regarded sophomore Sammie Puisis added 19 more. The two combined for 8 of 13 three point shooting as well. Bairesha Gill-Miles led Forest Hill with 13 while North Carolina commit Leah Church had 12.
The battle of Notre Dames was up next with bragging rights staying in Cincinnati as Mount Notre Dame claimed a 57 -39 win over Notre Dame Academy. The Toledo folks jumped out to a three point edge after one but it was all downhill from there. MND was up two at the half and led by 14 after three and an 18 – 14 fourth quarter led to the final margin. MND won the board and turnover battles plus outshot Notre Dame Academy by over 20 percentage points for the game. Julia Hoefling again led MND with a double – double of 15 points and 11 boards. Bre Hampton-Bey and Mariah Copeland each had 10 in the loss.
A steady effort got Gilmour Academy the win over Whitmer by a score of 48 – 36 in the day’s fourth game. Gilmour was up by four after one, nine at the half and eight after the third. Gilmour led in the rebounding and also took care of the ball committing just 12 turnovers to 17 by Whitmer. In the win Gilmour was 16 of 39 shooting while Whitmer hit just 11 of their 29 attempts. Junior Sarah Bohn had 13 to lead the way followed by Annika Corcoran with 11 and Emma Gurley’s 10. Maddie Brown led Whitmer posting 10 points in the losing effort.
Ursuline Academy led from start to finish in their matchup with Toledo Rogers. Their first half effort gave them leads after both the first and second periods going into the locker room up 29 – 16. Rogers came roaring back getting the gap down to seven entering the fourth period. Ursuline held ultimately posting a 51 – 31 win when the buzzer sounded. The winners completely dominated the boards 46 – 22 including 12 ORB’s. They did commit 15 turnovers while Rogers only had eight but in the end it was enough. Rogers actually attempted 10 more shots from the floor going 15 of 49 but Ursuline responded by connecting on 17 of 43 for the game. Again Maddie Stuhlreyer led the way with 19 while sophomore Emma Shaffer added a double – double of 12 points and 10 boards. Sophomore Zia Cooke was ice cold shooting just 6 for 25 from the floor but still managed to post 17 points in the loss.
Wayne had little trouble with Pickerington Central outscoring them every quarter on their way to a surprisingly easy 22 point win. A 10 point lead at the half blossomed into a final score of 68 – 46 when all was said and done. On paper Pickerington looked to have a shot leading the rebound war by three but also pulling 21 offensive rebounds in the process. Unfortunately 28.8 percent shooting (15 for 52) for the game will derail even the best of efforts on other parts of the floor. Wayne got four players in double figures led by Shai McGruder’s double – double of 20 and 10. Nyla Hampton, Olivia Trice and Maya Dunson all chipped in 11 more each for the win. Sophomore point guard Madison Greene had 15 to lead Pickerington Central while Jade Tate added12 more plus nine rebounds.
The event’s final game saw Lakota West roll past a young but promising Kettering Fairmont team 56 – 35. The margin was 10 after one period, 14 at half and 17 following three periods of play. Fairmont out rebounded Lakota West but 32 turnovers ultimately did them in. The largest lead was 31 for the Firebirds and they never trailed in the contest. Junior Madisyn Oxley led the way 12 while classmate Abby Prohaska added 10 more on 5 of 8 shooting. The young Fairmont squad was led by freshman Madison Bartley’s 11 points in a game that saw both benches get plenty of playing time.