Reynoldsburg falls shy of state tournament goal
During a 46-44 upset of the Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team in a 2011 Division I regional semifinal, Liberty Township Lakota East made sure to win the rebounding battle and slow the tempo.
North Canton Hoover used a different approach to keep a higher-ranked Raiders team in check during a 51-48 regional semifinal win March 6 at Otterbein University.
In ending Reynoldsburg's season two rounds shy of what the Raiders hoped would be their third state tournament appearance in four seasons, the Vikings cut off driving lanes with their defense and created easy baskets on offense.
The Raiders, who finished 24-3 overall, were ranked fifth in the final state poll while Hoover tied for 10th.
"They stopped us from getting a lot of fast breaks and played good help defense," senior guard Yamonie Jenkins said. "They played harder than us and did what they had to do."
Hoover finished 22-5 with a 61-55 loss to Olentangy Orange on March 8 in a regional final. Orange will play in a state semifinal Friday, March 15, against Twinsburg, which beat Reynoldsburg 45-38 on Jan. 20 in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland.
Last season, Twinsburg beat the Raiders 49-41 in a state semifinal and went on to win its second consecutive title. Reynoldsburg also was a state semifinalist in 2010.
Senior forward Destini Cooper and Jenkins both helped the Raiders win four consecutive district titles. Both have signed to play for Ohio University.
The other senior was forward Shiloh Murphy, a Morehead State signee who joined the program as a sophomore.
Hoover had just one senior in guard Kelsey Peare and a first-year coach in Abbey Allerding. Junior forward Julie Worley finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
"The kids are taking it hard," coach Jack Purtell said. "It's hard for the players and hard for the coaches. We just got beat by a really good team. I was hoping this would be our year. (Hoover is) going to be good next year."
The Raiders won their first eight games before having a 46-game regular-season winning streak snapped by Brooklyn (N.Y.) Ford 48-41 on Dec. 29 in the Diamond State Classic in Wilmington, Del.
They won their next seven, including 62-58 on Jan. 14 at Orange, before falling to Twinsburg.
Reynoldsburg won its final five of the regular season, including 62-26 over Newark on Feb. 8 to wrap up its third consecutive perfect run through the OCC-Ohio Division. The Raiders have won 45 consecutive league games.
Reynoldsburg went 14-0 in the league, followed by Gahanna (11-3), Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (9-5), Newark (6-8), Lancaster (5-9), Grove City (2-12) and Groveport (0-14).
The top-seeded Raiders beat Franklin Heights (105-11 on Feb. 16), Columbus West (109-16 on Feb. 20), Olentangy Liberty (62-22 on Feb. 28 at Bloom-Carroll) and Upper Arlington (62-19 on March 2 at Bloom-Carroll) in the district tournament.
Starters expected to return are junior post player Alyssa Rice and junior forward Nicole Orr. Junior guards Deshay Thomas and Natalie Orr and junior forward Shanice Johnson also were key players.
Rice had 21 points and 12 rebounds against Hoover and averaged 15.1 points and eight rebounds. She made first-team all-state and all-district, was named the OCC-Ohio Player of the Year and has scholarship offers from a list of Division I colleges that includes Ohio State and Michigan.
Jenkins made second-team all-district and first-team all-league after averaging 9.6 points, six assists and three steals.
Cooper averaged 9.9 points and eight rebounds and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Murphy averaged nine points, 4.5 rebounds and three steals and made second-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Nicole Orr averaged 9.3 points. She made honorable mention all-league and honorable mention all-district in her first season with the program after transferring with her twin, Natalie, from Whitehall.
Thomas averaged 4.4 points.
"(The seniors) were just tremendous kids who just committed themselves to basketball," Purtell said. "We've just got to get back to work. We lose a lot of good players."