By Dean Eversole
Ms. Ohio Basketball is Ms. Champion
Bill Foster's Ohio State Buckeyes were the victim of a first round upset in the NCAA tournament, but the coach must still be smiling.
The reason is Cleveland Central Catholic's Jantel Lavender. The 6-4 senior center spent the weekend in Columbus leading her team to the Division III girls state title, where she will be playing her collegiate ball next winter.
On Wednesday night, Lavender was named Ms. Ohio Basketball, but that was just the beginning of a memorable week for Lavender.
"It felt great to play at my home college this weekend and I was very excited about the entire experience," Lavender said.
With Foster and his team watching, Lavender tangled with Justine Raterman and her Versailles Tigers. Despite being held to 14 points, eight below her season average, Lavender won the war as Catholic tallied a 51-39 victory.
In the championship game Saturday, Lavender dropped in 24 points as the Ironmen won the school's first ever state title with a 51-45 win over a second Midwest Athletic Conference foe Delphos St. Johns.
Division IV Championship
Columbus Africentric joined Cleveland Central Catholic as first-time state champions with a 44-27 over New Knoxville. The Nubians survived a scare Friday in the semifinals, holding off Ottoville 42-39.
"I think today we were a little more successful with our press," Africentric coach Will McKinney told the Lima News. "New Knoxville didn't get an opportunity to knock down as many shots as Ottoville did."
Repeats in Division I and II
Two squads that are very familiar with championships rounded out the weekend.
Warsaw River Valley won its second-consecutive state title in D-II, while Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame captured the schools third basketball title. It was also the second state title in less than five months for Notre Dame, coming on the heels of a volleyball title in October.
River Valley had too many Daugherty's and a defense that was overwhelming. Kristina and Kari Daugherty combined for 35 of the Bears' 45 points. The defense took it from there, holding Hathaway Brown to 26 points, in the 45-26 victory as the Bears completed the repeat.
Mount Notre Dame's tandem of Kendall Hackney and Tina McBride dominated Stow en route to an easy 63-43 victory. Hackney tallied 21 points and 14 rebounds and McBride added 19 points and 9 rebounds.
"I never doubted we'd be back here, because that's what we do," Hackney told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Every year it is our goal to get here."
Boys Take the Big Stage
With the girl's tournament settled and in the books, the boys will take the big stage in Columbus this weekend.
Lakewood St. Edward, Georgetown, Harvest Preparatory and Liberty Benton come to Columbus looking to complete perfect seasons.
On the individual side of things Kostas Koufus (Canton GlenOaks) and Jon Diebler (Upper Sandusky) will provide Ohio State fans a sneak peak. Both have signed with Thad Matta's program and will be playing for the Buckeyes next season.
One player that won't be playing college ball in Columbus is St. Edward's Delvon Roe. Roe is rated as one of the top juniors in the nation and is reported to be leaning toward Michigan State or North Carolina.
The tournament begins Thursday afternoon and four champions will be crowned Saturday to complete the 2006-07 season.