Hartley Roundup: Hawks girls basketball team falls in regional semifinal

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Sophomore post player Ella Brandewie should be one of the top returnees for Hartley, which won its first district title since 2017. The Hawks lost to Hamilton Badin 50-49 in a regional semifinal March 2.

The last time the Hartley girls basketball team won a postseason game at the regional level came in 2001, when it reached a Division II state semifinal a year after winning its third state title.  

The Hawks came up just short of their first regional victory in 20 years, losing 50-49 to Hamilton Badin on March 2 in a regional semifinal at Springfield to finish 15-6. 

With her team trailing by one, sophomore post player Ella Brandewie nearly intercepted an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds to go on the Hawks’ end of the floor and the clock ran out. 

Hartley had the ball with 7.5 seconds left but couldn’t get off a shot. 

“We just ran out of time,” coach Donald Dennis said. “They got up 7-0 on us and we didn’t adjust to their physicality. We fought back in and it was a four-point game at halftime and nip and tuck most of the second half. 

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to give them credit. We missed some layups and foul shots, but I’m proud of the kids.” 

The Hawks, who were the second seed for the district tournament, won their first district title since 2017 by beating fifth-seeded Heath 59-49 on Feb. 27 at home.

The senior class was led by forward Kami Kortokrax, an Ohio State softball commit who averaged 19 points. She had 13 points against Badin. 

Another key senior was guard Milayna Williams, who averaged 6.5 points and will play at Muskingum. 

“The thing about this team that’s so amazing is that we’re all just here together as one,” Kortokrax said. “I’ve never been part of a team that’s all together 110 percent. Everyone wants to be at practice every single day. Everyone wants to stay late and shoot and be here on game day. 

“It’s so much easier to play for each other when everyone wants to be a part of it. We’ve only been playing with the sophomores for two years but it feels like it’s been so much longer because everyone is just a team player.” 

Against Badin, sophomore guard Kiarra McElrath had 14 points and Brandewie added 13. 

“We’re all motivated,” McElrath said. “We all (wanted) to go far in the tournament. Our practices have been really good and I think that’s turned into our games. We’re all selfless. We’ve bonded really well together, at practices and at school.” 

Other expected returning starters are junior point guard Bella Parker and junior wing player Lexi Cashwell, and sophomore guard Morgan Donnelly also is expected back. 

Parker had 20 points, Kortokrax scored 18 and Cashwell added 16 in a 73-41 victory over seventh-seeded Licking Valley in a district semifinal Feb. 24. 

Then against Heath, Brandewie scored 10 points in the opening quarter and finished with 20 to go along with 12 rebounds. 

Hartley had been in Division I the last three postseasons. 

“The kids come to practice and work hard and they like each other,” Dennis said. “We’ve got a post inside that can catch and finish. We’ve got guards that can handle pressure. We’ve got shooters. This is probably one of the more balanced teams we’ve had.” 

Will Miller (right) averaged 10.5 points to help lead Hartley's five-player senior class. The Hawks went 13-7 after winning eight games last season.

Boys basketball team 

takes step forward 

After winning eight games last winter, the boys basketball team overcame injuries and quarantine issues to improve to 13-7. 

Hartley was seeded eighth for the Division II district tournament and opened with a 49-43 win over 19th-seeded Sparta Highland on Feb. 23 before losing 43-29 at sixth-seeded Bloom-Carroll on Feb. 26. 

“You try to get your team peaking and we were playing our best in the end,” coach Randy Kortokrax said. “We went and played hard and I’m not disappointed. We were inconsistent all year and when you play good teams, you can’t be inconsistent. (Bloom-Carroll has) a lot more shooters than we do and they’ve got a good, physical defense with a lot of kids back from last season. 

“We played hard. I told our kids after the game I was happy that we got 20 games in. That was never guaranteed. Both teams played hard and they just hit more shots than we did.” 

A five-player senior class was led by guard Dejon Donnell (12.5 points) and forward Will Miller (10.5 points). 

Seniors Braden Blanchard (guard) and Nico Thomas (forward/center) also were key contributors. 

Junior guard Alex Blain and junior wing player Amari Gaston, both of whom averaged seven points, should be among the top returnees. Gaston averaged 11 points last season but missed six games this winter.

Sophomore guard Jacob Thomas was another contributor, and junior Daniel Mattox (center) and sophomore Anthony Murphy (forward/center) also should return. 

“We were competitive last year, but we had trouble scoring last year,” Kortokrax said. “This year, if it was more of an up-and-down game, we did better. Our defense was very good. We beat some teams that are good teams and our defense really keyed that.  

“We were unfortunate in that we had a small (senior) class last year, we had a big class this year and we go back to a small class next year. We’ve been really focusing the last couple years on getting bigger classes. I think we’ve got a really good freshman class and a really good eighth-grade class, so we’ve got to keep stacking some numbers.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

BOYS BASKETBALL 

Record: 13-7 overall  

CCL standings: St. Charles (6-2), DeSales (5-3), Hartley and Ready (4-4), Watterson (1-7) 

Seniors lost: Braden Blanchard, Dejon Donnell, Jay Henson, Will Miller and Nico Thomas 

Key returnees: Alex Blain, Amari Gaston and Jacob Thomas 

Postseason: Defeated Sparta Highland 49-43; lost to Bloom-Carroll 43-29 in second round of Division II district tournament 

GIRLS BASKETBALL 

Record: 15-6 overall  

CCL standings: Watterson (5-0), Hartley (3-2), DeSales (1-4), Ready (0-3) 

Seniors lost: Shania Davis, Kami Kortokrax and Milayna Williams 

Key returnees: Ella Brandewie, Lexi Cashwell, Morgan Donnelly, Kiarra McElrath and Bella Parker 

Postseason: Def. Utica 86-26; def. Licking Valley 73-41; def. Heath 59-49; lost to Hamilton Badin 50-49 in Division II regional semifinal