- Marc Pendleton Staff Writer
Greater Western Ohio Conference girls basketball has undergone a major shakeup since last season.
Shaiquel McGruder, an All-Ohioan at Wayne High School, transferred to Trotwood-Madison for her senior season, as did two other new Rams. And McGruder wasn’t the only former Warriors starter to land elsewhere. Mali Morgan-Elliott also left Huber Heights and is now entrenched in Fairmont’s lineup.
Those were preseason surprises. What was highly anticipated was the immediate impact of freshman Mickayla Perdue at Springfield, which hasn’t had a winning season since North and South merged in 2008.
Those are difference-making reasons why Trotwood (3-0) has joined Tippecanoe (5-0), Springboro (6-0) and Lebanon (5-0) as the only remaining unbeaten GWOC teams. Springfield (4-1) has already won more games than last season.
“I’m a man of faith, of God,” Trotwood coach Henry Benton said, “and these (three) young ladies dropped in my lap. I was definitely surprised. I was floored.”
McGruder, an outstanding 6-foot-1 leaper who’s best in transition, is signed with New Mexico State University. As expected, she leads the Rams in scoring (24.3) and rebounds (5.7). A three-year starter at Wayne, she has been key in three blowout wins and hit West Carrollton up for a career-high 32 points.
“She is definitely a difference-maker,” said Benton, in his fifth season coaching the Rams. “She’s a remarkable athlete. To go along with that she’s a great leader and teammate. We haven’t had an athlete like that since I’ve been here.”
Another Rams transfer, 5-10 junior guard Sha’Mya Leigh of Miamisburg, averages 13.7 points. Yet another transfer to Trotwood, 5-11 junior Korryn Millerton (Stivers), is recovering from a leg injury and likely won’t return until the end of the regular season.
They are all welcome additions to a Division II program that won 19 games last season and returned four starters, including senior Mercedes Woodward (15.7 points, 9.0 rebounds). Rams senior returnee Kellah Flucas leads the GWOC in assists (6.3).
Perdue has been an instant hit at Springfield. A 5-8 guard, she leads the GWOC in scoring (25.6) and went for what is believed to be a school-record 40 points in the season opener against Yellow Springs. She was a middle school phenom at Springfield and previously played up in age groups on high-level AAU teams.
“She’s playing lights out,” Springfield coach Darris Gattis said. “There’s nothing like being a star in a city school and she’s a star in Springfield.”
Only Beavercreek (4-3) defeated Springfield, 55-33. Perdue had 26 points that game, including four 3-pointers. Beavercreek also snapped Wayne’s 23-game GWOC win streak over the last three seasons, 47-33.
With Alter (0-5) in rebuild mode after winning three straight state titles, Trotwood and Tipp appear to have separated themselves among area D-II teams. Trotwood will host Tipp on Jan. 20.
Morgan-Elliott, a 6-0 junior, complements Fairmont’s formidable front line that also features 6-3 sophomore Madeline Westbeld (12.0 points, 12.3 rebounds) and 6-3 sophomore Madison Bartley (11.2, 8.0).
All that adds up to a shift in GWOC balance from Wayne (2-2) in the GWOC National East, which includes Fairmont, Beavercreek, Fairmont and Centerville.
“We thought we were going to have a good season without the transfers,” Benton said. “There’s no doubt this is my best team and I attribute that to the transfers who have come in and we also have a great senior class who’s been in this program for four years. They understand our system and philosophy. It’s been a work in process.”