Alyssa Rice doesn't take the situation she walked into in 2010-11 for granted.
Alyssa Rice doesn't take the situation she walked into in 2010-11 for granted.
The Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball program that she was about to join had a pair of returning starters and two other key returnees after advancing to a Division I state semifinal for the first time the season before. Over the next four years, the 6-foot-3 post player did her part to help the Raiders build on that success.
The individual accolades have followed, including her being selected to the McDonald's All-American Game on April 2 in Chicago. The senior also has been named ThisWeek Super 12 captain, becoming the first girl from Reynoldsburg to earn that honor.
"The year before I came into my freshman year, Reynoldsburg made it to the final four, so I was coming in on an upward slope," Rice said. "I was able to learn from a lot of key players, which helped with the learning process. As I've gotten older, I've taken on more of a leadership role."
Her offensive numbers have continued to increase as well. Rice was named OCC-Ohio Division and district Player of the Year this season and finished her career with 1,433 points and 904 rebounds, which are program records.
She averaged 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a freshman, helping the Raiders win their first of four consecutive league championships and a second consecutive district title. Rice increased those averages to 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds as a sophomore as Reynoldsburg reached a state semifinal for the second time. A year ago, she averaged 15.1 points and 8.0 rebounds as the Raiders went 23-3 and advanced to a regional semifinal.
Rice averaged 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds and shot 60 percent from the floor this season in leading the Raiders to a regional final and 23-5 record.
"This year I definitely knew I had to score more than in previous years," she said. "This year I knew I had to work on my individual skills for the next level."
The University of Kentucky signee also made the Super 12 the past two seasons.
"She's a tireless worker and continues to get better," coach Jack Purtell said. "She's a good representative of the program."First Team JILL BLACKSTEN
Since this 6-2 junior forward joined the Newark Catholic program, the Green Wave has enjoyed one of its best three-year runs.
Newark Catholic has gone 73-7 during that time, reaching a Division IV regional semifinal in 2012 and earning regional runner-up finishes the last two seasons.
The Green Wave went 25-3 this winter as Blacksten was district Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. She averaged 22.7 points and 12 rebounds and has more than 1,300 points and 900 rebounds for her career.
"She's had an unbelievable year," coach Rob Smith said of Blacksten, who has scholarship offers from Canisius and Duquesne. "She had the most points in central Ohio this year, it's pretty safe to say."NATALIE CARPENTER
Carpenter, a 5-5 senior guard who is Johnstown's all-time leading scorer with 1,515 points, helped the Johnnies go 23-3 this season. They reached a Division II district final and finished second (16-2) in the LCL behind Newark Catholic (17-1).
Carpenter was first-team all-state, district Player of the Year and first-team all-league. A Mount Vernon Nazarene recruit, she averaged 19.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals.
"Natalie always has had the ability to put the ball in the basket, but she also always worked to improve in areas that often are overlooked," coach Carl Dufford said. "As she drew more attention from opposing defenses, she was creative in getting the ball to teammates for assists."ALYSSA DEAN
This first-team all-district and all-City-North sophomore guard developed into an all-around player this season, averaging 17.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.5 steals.
Centennial benefited from Dean's improved play, as she led the Stars to a record-tying 18 wins and their first Division II district title.
"She knows how to get to the basket and score, and she's improved her 3-point and free-throw shooting," coach Darrin Green said. "Alyssa got everyone involved and she could have averaged four or five assists if her teammates would have done a better job of catching the ball and finishing. She's improving defensively, too, and I expect her to keep getting better in all aspects of her game."ALEXA HART
After losing Division III state co-Player of the Year Marley Hill to graduation from its 2013 state runner-up team, Africentric was led by this 6-3 senior center, who received the same state honor as Hill.
Hart, an Ohio State signee, averages 15 points and nine rebounds. She was named district Player of the Year and first-team all-City-South.
After playing for North Ridgeville Lake Ridge for two seasons before sitting out her junior year after transferring, Hart has helped the Nubians reach the state tournament for the sixth time.
Africentric was 24-3 before playing Smithville in a state semifinal March 14.
"She's had a great season," coach Will McKinney said. "She's a good protector to the rim."MORGAN HORVATH
Despite losing a seven-member 2013 graduating class, Olentangy made it a step further in the postseason while earning a second consecutive OCC-Capital runner-up finish with this 5-9 junior guard leading the way.
After averaging 6.5 points a year ago, Horvath averaged 17.5 points and nine rebounds and made second-team all-district as the Braves went 17-9. She also was OCC-Capital Player of the Year.
The Braves, who were Division I district semifinalists a year ago, upset fifth-seeded Pickerington Central 57-51 in a district semifinal Feb. 27 and earned a district runner-up finish as a 13th seed.
"She's good," coach John Feasel said. "She does about everything for our team we needed to be successful."MEREDITH MILLER
Miller, a 5-11 junior guard/forward, averaged 14.8 and 8.1 rebounds to help lead Hilliard Bradley to a Division I district final, where it lost to top-seeded Reynoldsburg 46-44 on a buzzer-beater to finish 19-7.
Miller, who scored 20 points in that game, was first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and honorable mention all-district. She shot 39.7 percent from 3-point range (25-for-63) and 70.7 percent from the free-throw line (82-for-116).
"Her strength is her ability to score in a variety of ways," said coach Kathy Lindsey, whose team was 11-3 in the league to finish second behind Westerville North (13-1). "She can score inside, on the perimeter, from the 3-point line and from the free-throw line. She's a threat any time she has the ball."ANDI NORMAN
Norman, a 6-0 senior forward, averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals to lead Upper Arlington to the OCC-Central championship at 13-1 and its first Division I district title since 1989.
A Dartmouth recruit, Norman was a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner. She was first-team all-league and all-district and third-team all-state this season.
Her 970 career points are second in school history to 2004 graduate Michele DeVault's 1,129. UA went 24-2, losing to league rival Dublin Coffman 55-40 in a regional semifinal.
"Her work ethic in the classroom, on the court and in her community is unrivaled," coach Chris Savage said. "Andi has left an indelible mark on our program."SADE OLATOYE
Olatoye, a 6-1 junior post player, averages 15.6 points and 17.3 rebounds for Dublin Coffman, which was 22-6 before playing North Canton Hoover in a Division I state semifinal March 14 at Ohio State.
She was third-team all-state, first-team all-district and OCC-Central Player of the Year.
"Sade is a rare blend of a talented kid who has a great work ethic, great demeanor and a great competitive spirit," said coach Bryan Patton, whose team finished second (12-2) in the OCC-Central behind Upper Arlington (13-1). "She has improved greatly over the past couple of years and is a great kid and a great teammate."
Olatoye also is an all-state performer in the shot put and discus.BROOKLYNN PETERSON
The sister of two-time Super 12 captain and 2013 Northland graduate Alexis Peterson made a name for herself this season.
A 5-6 senior guard who was first-team all-City-North and third-team all-district, Peterson helped Northland win its third Division I district title in four seasons and earn a league runner-up finish.
She averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds, four assists and two steals as the Vikings went 22-3. She also helped Northland win the City title as a sophomore and averaged 10.5 points as a junior when it was league runner-up.
"She gave 100 percent in practice every day and bought into what we were doing," coach Bill Spencer said. "She wanted to learn and wanted to get better. She rarely came out of a game."KYM ROYSTER
With this 6-2 junior post player leading the way, Newark made it to a Division I district final for the first time since 2001.
Royster averaged 20.1 points for the second consecutive season and surpassed 1,000 points for her career. She also averaged 9.7 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the floor as Newark earned a share of second place in the OCC-Ohio and finished 20-6.
Coach J.R. Shumate said Royster has scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and several Ohio schools.
"She's just improved tremendously over the years and has developed her overall basketball skills," Shumate said. "This year she added a little finesse to her game and her passing was much better. Just all around, her game has gotten better."SYMONE SIMMONS
Simmons, a 5-9 junior guard/forward, averaged 16.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.5 steals and was named special mention all-state and first-team all-district in Division I.
She also was OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, leading Westerville North to its second league title in a row. The Warriors went 13-1 in the league.
"Symone has become a better all-around player on both ends of the court," said coach Jim Kloepfer, whose team finished 19-6 overall and reached a district semifinal. "She sees the court better and has become a better passer this season. Defensively, she still plays with a lot of intensity and she is a great teammate. She's very unselfish."Honorable Mention
Marissa Brown (Hartley, Jr., C), Amani Burke (Eastmoor, So., G), Nazarae Butler (Brookhaven, Jr., G), Paige Cannon (Johnstown, Jr., F), Meche'la Cobb (New Albany, So., F), Sierra Harley (Africentric, Sr., G), Taylor Johnson (Pickerington Central, Jr., G), Taylor Kilgore-Barr (Walnut Ridge, Sr., F), Maggie Mitchell (Newark, Sr., G), Chenelle Moore (Westerville South, Jr., F), Kayla Pack (Worthington Kilbourne, Sr., G), Ashleigh Parkinson (Newark Catholic, Jr., F), Lauren Ruth (Ready, Jr., F), Darianne Seward (Africentric, Sr., G) and Ali Spayde (Worthington Christian, Sr., G).Past Captains
Northland's Alexis Peterson (2012, 2013), Africentric's Raven Ferguson (2011), New Albany's Hannah Robertson (2010), Pickerington Central's Emilee Harmon (2009), Eastmoor's Ayana Dunning (2008), Dublin Scioto's Crystal Murdaugh (2007), Pickerington Central's Stephanie Stevens (2006), Mifflin's Marshae Dotson (2005), Pickerington North's Marscilla Packer (2002, 2004), Brookhaven's Brittany Hunter (2003), Grove City's Charisse Crews (2000, 2001), Pickerington's LaToya Turner (1998, 1999), Pickerington's Tamara Stocks (1997), Brook-haven's Helen Darling (1996) and Pickerington's Beth Ostendorf (1994, 1995).