Brock Netter, Staff Writer
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.
We’ve sat through one regular season game after another for the past four months, and now, the fun really begins.
It’s officially tournament time.
The girls tourney season kicked off on Sunday — which is still strange, but hey, we don’t make the rules.
I think I can speak for everyone as SOSA when I say there’s nothing truly like tournament basketball. The thought of buzzer-beating moments and possible Cinderella runs in do-or-die moments get the juices flowing.
I just hope my car forgives me for the amount of wear and tear, plus the high mileage, it’s about to endure over the next month.
Here are just a few things to watch for as our coverage area’s teams hit the hardwood in hopes of hoisting hardware on their way to Columbus for state action.
NOTE: This is NOT a prediction story. This is all in good fun.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bri Claxon, South Webster
Over the past seven games, Claxon has been an absolute scoring machine, netting 30-plus points on a handful of those occasions.
That’s the type of player she can be if she gets just an inch of space to put the ball up.
The Jeeps are surrounded by talented players like Faith Maloney, Baylee Cox and others, but Claxon is the straw that stirs the drink.
If the Jeeps manage to make some noise in the tournament, expect Claxon to be the one with the megaphone in her hand.
Cree Stulley, Unioto
Much of the attention surrounding the Shermans goes towards their backcourt of Amber Cottrill and Emily Coleman … who are both deserving of that credit for what they do for their team.
However, if Unioto is to make a potential run at a district final inside of Division II, it’s Stulley who could play the X-factor.
She’s a four-year starter, performed well in big spots and has the ability to get to the free throw line using her size advantage in the post. The experience, as a whole, is there as Unioto has six battle-tested seniors and a solid amount of depth as well.
So for the Shermans, it’s now or never.
Payton Pryor, McClain
It’s nearly impossible to find any team more defensively-minded than McClain. The Tigers make you play to their style of basketball and keep the score as low as possible.
That’s certainly one of the team’s greatest strengths.
But when McClain gets offensive, Payton Pryor provides quite the punch.
Just a freshman, Pryor has performed consistently all season and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time for a rebound. That knack could be the difference in McClain advancing to a date with Circleville.
And, if that happens, who knows what will take place. Beating Circleville is certainly easier said than done, but as a wise man once said, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Marah Call, North Adams
If you want to know the impact Call can have, look no further than what she did to Eastern Brown in a 39-31 win last week. That’s Exhibit A.
She’s a sniper from the perimeter, and if teams close out on her, that allows her dump the ball inside to Delaney Harper, Wylie Shipley and others for a bucket or a chance at the charity stripe.
Confidence is something that can be very hit and miss in high school basketball. But right now, the Green Devils’ confidence level must be very high, and Call is a big reason why.
As previously mentioned, the Jeeps have a ton of talent and the ability to hang with any team inside of Division IV.
But that’s only if they play to their capabilities.
They earned a No. 8 seed, which is very dangerous assuming they get past Manchester in its opening tilt. That would set up a showdown with top-seeded Notre Dame.
The Titans and the Jeeps have already met once this season, in the second game of the year, and the Jeeps had a lead in the fourth quarter. However, Notre Dame proved to be too much that night.
If the rematch happens, and the Titans have an off night, it could lead to a massive upset. And from there, who knows. It is the tournament after all.
Much like South Webster, Oak Hill has had its fair share of struggles with consistency this season. But when the Oaks’ mindset is right, they can be dangerous.
Additionally, the lineup got a nice boost with Peyton Miller returning after missing some time with injury.
The Oaks are labeled a No. 12 seed and will face Eastern Meigs before a potential showdown against No. 5 seed Northwest. The Mohawks won both regular season matchups between the two, both single-digit victories.
But revenge could be imminent.
If Oak Hill puts everything together and maintains its composure, Miller, Caitlyn Brisker, Olivia Clarkson and company can make a run at a district semifinal, and maybe a final in Division III.
The Panthers have a very tough draw inside of Division II as a No. 7 seed, and while the matchups down the road don’t exactly favor them, they’re filled with grit.
Shay McDonald has the ability to take over a game when needed — see wins over Chillicothe and McClain for examples — while Margarah Bloom is tough-nosed and can hit the mid-range shot to stretch the floor.
Not to mention, in the post, Libby Aleshire, Gracey Ferguson, Hillery Jacobs and Delaney Eakins possess height, length and the ability to rebound.
The Panthers could meet No. 3 Sheridan in a district semifinal, and while that’s a very tall task, they seem to like a challenge.
NOTE: Look for a boys preview, similar to this one, next week.