Braxtin Miller, a prized centerpiece of Alter’s girls basketball success the last four seasons, was clueless as to what the Knights accomplished Saturday afternoon. That’s for record keepers.
“I really don’t know much about the history of all of this, so this might be big,” Miller shrugged while accepting congratulations following a 58-41 defeat of Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown that secured Alter’s third straight Division II girls high school basketball state championship. “I don’t know. It’s cool that we might have an opportunity to really have an impact on history.”
It was fitting that Alter’s talented six-player senior class made its finest – and last – effort on the grandest stage at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. That enabled Alter (28-2) to wrap up an unprecedented four-year program run of 115 wins and just five losses. Besides the three-peat D-II state championships, Alter also was a D-II state runner-up in 2014 when these seniors were freshmen.
According to Ohio High School Athletic Association records, no other boys or girls teams have won that many games in four seasons. Alter joins Fairmont (2010-13) as the only area girls program to play in four straight final fours. No other area girls team has played in four straight state title games.
Hathaway Brown (18-11) had no answer for Alter’s talented backcourt duo of Miller and Libby Bazelak. Miller, an Oklahoma State signee, bottomed three 3-pointers for a game-high 23 points, and added eight rebounds and three assists. Bazelak (Duquesne) was just as good, going for 21 points (two 3-pointers), eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Brown’s Kaydan Lawson had 11 points and her 6-foot-2 sister Dani Lawson (Purdue) 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Alter led by nine after the first quarter and Hathaway Brown closed to within five at the break, but Alter reasserted itself in the second half.
“We wanted it our senior year,” Bazelak said. “We have such a great senior class and we’ve had great leadership every year, which is really important. Going along with talent you also need to really love the game of basketball and we had that all four years.”
Emily Long, a senior move-in from Michigan, added six points and Lauren Lush and Nicole Hoeflinger four apiece to complete Alter’s scoring. All are seniors, as is Olivia Gillis, who added five rebounds.
Co-coach Kendel Peck sensed the Knights had something going following a 7 a.m. Saturday shoot-around at the high school.
“We were laughing and joking when we got off the bus,” he said. “We play better when we’re having fun and not so serious. It’s hard for a coach to let go of that but I had a good feeling (Saturday).”
Chris Hart, Alter’s other head coach, blinked back tears when addressing what this team and four-season run means to her.
“I don’t know how you adequately put into words what those six kids mean to us, to our program and to Alter High School,” she said. “What they’ve done is simply amazing. We’re very blessed to have had them go through our school for the last four years.”