Year 1 of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Competitive Balance initiative yielded favorable results for public schools in girls basketball. Fourteen of the 16 teams in this week’s 43rd annual state tournament field do not require tuition fees for attendance.
Dayton sent three of the biggest throngs Thursday and Friday.
Bellbrook, which set a Division II record for most presale tickets in its last trip to state (2012), sold more presale tickets (1,226) this season for its D-II semifinal. The Eagles brought four busses of students.
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Minster and Versailles provided their usual mobs.
“Just so proud of our community and the support we receive,” Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher said. “It means the world to us to have such a great backing.
“It was a tough challenge with Gilmour. They have such great talent. Watching them on tape we saw a lot of weapons.”
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Both parochial schools that made the state played area schools. Versailles beat Elyria Catholic, 63-47, in a D-III semifinal Thursday, while Bellbrook fell, 47-40, to Gilmour Academy on Friday. Minster beat Waterford, 46-31, in a D-IV semifinal Thursday.
Of the local tests, Bellbrook’s was the stiffest.
Playing in its third state tournament, the Eagles (20-9) couldn’t conquer the Lancers (25-3), who are ranked No. 1 in the state according to the MaxPreps commuter rankings. Glimour senior post Naz Hillmon, the co-D-III Ohio player of the year, had 11 points and tied an OHSAA all-divisions record with 19 rebounds. She’s headed to Michigan.
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Bellbrook held a 32-30 fourth quarter lead before Gilmour closed with a 17-8 run.
Senior Bekkah Vine led Bellbrook with 11 points, while senior Cassidy Hofacker chipped in 10 (and five assists). Sophomore Kayla Paul had seven points and 11 rebounds.
The Eagles, 8-7 at one point this season, lost for just the second time in their last 14 games.
All three of Bellbrook’s trips to state have ended with a loss to private schools - Columbus Hartley (1976), Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (2012) and Gilmour.
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“This team has come together better than any team I’ve coached,” Tincher said. “We will talk about this team for a long time.”
Versailles 63, Elyria Catholic 47: Playing in its ninth state tournament, Versailles (28-1) advanced to its fourth Division III state final in five years with a methodical win over Elyria Catholic (22-6).
State runner-up in 2014 and 2017 and state champ in 2015, the Tigers will face Columbus Africentric (26-3) in the state final at 2 p.m. Saturday. Versailles, ranked No. 1 in both the MaxPreps D-III computer rankings and AP poll, was also state champion in 2008.
Versailles out-rebounded EC 39-24. Both teams featured three girls 6-foot-1 or taller.
“Fabulous,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We beat them on the boards by 15. That number is the reason we won the game.”
“We knew we were in for a tough ride,” EC head coach Eric Rothgery said. “Versailles is a very good and well seasoned team. Their experience carried them to a good extent. We allowed too many second chance points, and in the end that’s going to coast you against a really good team.”
Despite holding an 8-7 lead after the first quarter, the Panthers trailed 25-16 at half. Twice in the fourth quarter EC pulled to within seven points, but climbed no closer.
The Tigers had four players reach double figures, led by senior Kami McEldwoney’s 17 points. while sophomore Lindsey Winner and junior Elizabeth Ording scored 13 and 10, respectively. Senior Danielle Winner had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds).
Versailles committed just six turnovers, including two in the second half.
“You have to play perfect to beat that team,” EC sophomore Ally Winner said. “Them being here (four times in five years), does give them that factor we didn’t have.”
Said McEldowney: “We were stronger, even though they were thicker.”
Versailles missed it’s first seven free throws of the game, then hit 19-of-20 to close.
The Tigers will go for their second state title of the school year Saturday. Six Versailles players also starred on the D-III state champion volleyball team in the fall.
“We want to go out state champs,” Danielle Winner said. “There’s only 32 minutes standing in our way.”
Minster 46, Waterford 31: Ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps state computer rankings, Minster held Waterford, ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll, to its lowest output of the season. It was the first time Waterford, which had a 26-game win streak snapped and was averaging 57 points, failed to reach 45.
Minster (25-3) faces Ottoville (27-2) in Saturday’s D-IV state final at 10:45 a.m. Minster beat Ottoville 55-54 in the regular season. Waterford finishes 26-2.
“That was quite a ballgame by us defensively,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said. “We went 10 deep. Waterford’s coach said that we might lose a little on offense when we go 10 deep, but we don’t lose anything on defense. That’s a credit to the girls wearing black today.”
“We knew what we were getting into,” Waterford coach Jerry Close said. “They subbed 3-4 kids in at a time and there was no drop-off. It showed in the end.”
In the third quarter, Waterford cut the deficit to six points (29-23) before Wiss called a timeout to “regroup, focus and find the right match-ups.”
The Wildcats closed the quarter on a 7-0 run. Waterford managed one field goal the rest of the game.
“This was definitely the best defensive team we’ve played,” Waterford senior and Ohio Domincan recruit Ali Kern said. “They brought a lot of pressure and beat us up and down the floor.”
Minster out rebounded Waterford 32-17.
Xavier commit and junior Courtney Prenger led Minster with 13 points. Ohio Dominican recruit and senior Taylor Kogge added 10. Freshman point guard Ivy Wolf had eight points and five assists.
The Wildcats will go for the school’s 33rd state title overall and the program’s third (first since 2004) on Saturday. Minster has already won state titles this school year in football and girls cross country.