Ottawa-Glandorf’s fourth consecutive trip to the girls state basketball tournament looks similar to the first three when it comes to degree of difficulty in the match-up it will face.
The last two years, when the Titans played in Division II, they faced Kettering Alter. They went against the Knights in a semifinal last season and in the championship game in 2016. In 2015, they were beaten by Versailles 49-46 in the Division III state championship game.
This year, O-G’s assignment is to take on five-time state champion Columbus Africentric in a Division III semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday. Africentric’s first state championship was 11 years ago in 2007.
“They’re one of the most accomplished programs down there,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Troy Yant said on Monday.
Africentric is young with a freshman, three sophomores and a junior in its starting lineup. It also is tall, with starters who are 6-2, 6-1 and 6-0.
Jordan Horston, a 6-1 junior, leads Africentric (25-3) in scoring (17.2) and rebounding (5.8). Alexia Smith, a 5-9 sophomore, scores 13.6 points a game. Mailyah Johnson, a 6-foot freshman, averages 8.6 points a game.
“We’re not quite as experienced as we’ve been in the past but it is a hungry group of young ladies,” Africentric coach William McKinney said.
Ottawa-Glandorf (25-2) starts 5-9 senior Kadie Hempfling (14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds), 5-5 Ashley Schroeder (9.1), 5-5 Erin Kaufman (8.1), 5-11 Paige Sutter (4.7) and 5-8 Carri Johnson (3.8). Brianne Schimmoeller (5.3), Kelsey Erford (3.0) and Kasey Ellerbrock (5.0) are the first players off the bench.
“We’ve played a lot of teams that have had a lot of height. We have one girl who is 5-11, and our next-tallest is 5-9 and our third-tallest is 5-8. We’ve got to work around that,” Yant said. “We do some unique things to try to neutralize the height advantage some teams have. But there are some things, when you get to this level, like height and athleticism that are hard to take away.
“The message to the girls in the next three days is that we’re just going to have to work extremely hard to neutralize the height advantage they do have inside,” he said.
Yant pointed to a 51-36 win over Miami Trace as an important moment in O-G reaching its fourth consecutive state tournament. At the time, Miami Trace was ranked No. 7 in Division II and had a 13-1 record.
“We lost quite a bit – two starters and a contributor off last year’s team, and they were not just one-year starters, they were three-year starters. Coming into the season we didn’t put any burden on the girls. We just said try to win the Western Buckeye League. If we could win the league we thought that would put us in a nice position to get to the district and get into a regional match-up against somebody.”
Asked what his pre-game talk might be to a team in its fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament, Yant said, “I don’t really know what that pre-game talk will look like.
“I guess the conversation will be, ‘We’ve been down here for four years and we’ve always played, I think, our best basketball at state. We’ve run into some buzzsaws with Kettering Alter. The first time we were there against Versailles maybe we weren’t ready for it. Now the message is you have to take advantage of the opportunities,” he said.